Upgrading vs Expanding: Which is Better for Your Food Facility?

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green vegetablesThe food industry continues to be vital in Australia, representing 36 per cent of the country’s manufacturing turnover. According to the 2018 State of the Industry Report by the Australian Food & Grocery Council, the food and beverage manufacturing sector contributes to 40 per cent of the country’s manufacturing jobs and 25 per cent of overseas exports.

Food and beverage manufacturers are growing increasingly competitive to ensure success. Businesses are striving to improve the efficiency of their operations so that they produce quality products at a low cost. One business decision to meet these goals is whether or not to retrofit a facility, whether it is by upgrading infrastructure or expanding the facility.

Deciding on the Retrofit

Thorough planning helps determine whether to upgrade or expand the food plant. Assess your existing facility for issues that are vital to your plant’s operations or assess the processes that provide the biggest return on your expenses. Browse maintenance records to find where the recurring costs are the highest. Don’t forget to talk to employees to identify issues they encounter during production and what processes can be streamlined.

Option 1: Upgrading

Technology continues to develop, and it is likely that there are more efficient machines that reduce energy consumption that may not have been available when your plant was constructed.

  • New insulation

Install new insulation that meets or exceeds the energy efficiency requirements of the Australia Building Codes Board. Use this improvement to provide proper pipe labelling to indicate what is flowing in the pipe and the direction of the flow.

  • Minimise cross-contamination

Install ventilation systems that pressurise rooms for finished products. If allergens are a concern, provide an exhaust system to areas where dry ingredients are stored to capture airborne particles.

  • Upgrade motors

Motor technologies improve every year, whether the application is for compressors, conveyors or pumps. Check with your current supplier to see if they offer motors that are more efficient and reduce your utility rates.

  • Upgrade lighting

There are many options in the market that provide more efficient lighting at a low cost. Make sure to also add lighting in critical areas to improve safety in the facility.

  • Invest in a wastewater treatment system

A wastewater recycling system removes contaminants from wastewater and discharges it back to the environment. It gives you a new supply of potable water, allowing you to conserve your water bills.

Option 2: Expanding

Expanding your facility is an option to take if you’ve outgrown your existing production line.

As you plan to repurpose your facility, here are some options to consider:

  • Improve the plant layout

The layout of the plant should be optimised so that the processes flow continuously. Discuss with designers and process engineers which area should be for receiving raw materials, processing, storage, production, packaging and delivery.

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  • Automate processes

Look for aspects of your process which you can mechanise, wherever possible. This will speed production, increase capacity, provide product consistency and reduce waste.

  • Maximise vertical space

If there is little to no open space left to expand the plant, consider maximising the building’s interior height. There might be an opportunity to add a couple of levels to increase the production area.

Retrofitting your facility is one of the decisions you’ll make to achieve business goals and get ahead of the competition.