Whether it’s adding new lines of products or expanding your capabilities to deliver higher quantities of products, a focus on growth is ubiquitous across all industries. What happens, then, when the infrastructure of the building reaches capacity and prevents additional growth? The options include moving to a larger facility, building a new and larger building from the ground up, or expanding your current structure.
Making the Right Decision
In almost every case, the cost of building a new facility will cost more than improving an existing building. The opportunity to have a facility that is custom-tailored to your current and future needs is certainly the big draw for new construction. Still, the expense is often prohibitive for many ventures.
Renovating an existing building is usually less costly and can typically be completed more quickly than new construction. The exception, of course, is if the building’s original structure is outdated or failing, and significant investment will be necessary to bring it up to date. If you’re considering a renovation of an existing building, the first stop should be a structural engineering firm to assess the structure.
Some other considerations before reaching a decision between building new and renovating include:
- Design Issues. Standards and requirements for industries change over time. In addition to space requirements, new equipment may also have height requirements that would mean raising the roof of an existing building or just a portion of a building, such as a dog house.
- Energy Efficiency. Most manufacturers always have an eye on energy efficiency to keep costs in check. Still, the efficiency of the building itself can also provide substantial savings in terms of tax deductions or other government financial benefits. Implementing green technology into an aging infrastructure can be challenging, sometimes impossible.
- Utility Capacity. Increasing production capabilities often comes with heavier utility demands, even if new equipment is energy efficient. The ability to increase a facility’s utility capacity will depend greatly on the existing infrastructure of not only the building, but also the surrounding area.
- Access. While a renovation might sound like a straightforward approach, providing access to construction teams and equipment teams without disrupting your current production can often mean considerable challenges. From employee parking to loading docks and neighborhood traffic, access must be considered before proceeding with a renovation.
Proceeding With Renovation & Expansion
Designing and implementing an expansion and renovation requires a great deal of analyzing and planning. A thorough evaluation of the needs of the company is the first step of the process. First, how soon will the expansion be needed? How quickly is the company growing, and how much expansion is necessary?
Other items for inspection should include things like labor requirements and processes. Will you need fewer employees if updating to automated systems? Will new equipment change your processes or methods? If so, how will this impact your business cycle and capacity? How much will your storage requirements change with a production increase?
Phasing is another important consideration as it spreads out the overall cost of renovations and allows you to change your plans based on actual growth rather than projections.
Lastly, along with an evaluation of your current structures, an in-depth review of existing equipment should be conducted. This will help during the planning process when it’s time to determine what stays, what needs work, and what needs to be replaced. Plus, this will help with understanding how all the pieces will fit together when the expansion project is complete.
Designing An Expansion
Once needs and goals are understood, and the existing facility examined, the next step is the design process. There are a number of factors that could contribute to the failure of a VFD, and not all are catastrophic. Before ordering a replacement drive, see if repairing the drive is the better option. The design process for a renovation and expansion includes two segments, process design, and the infrastructure design.
Equipment vendors will usually provide design services or assistance, working with your teams to create a new equipment plan that will meet your goals. This process will also give a better understanding of how the new system will be assembled, how much space will be required, and what specific improvements to the infrastructure will be necessary.
When the layouts and footprints are finalized, a clear plan for building additions and modifications can be made. The size and functionality of new spaces can be determined, utility connections evaluated, and a realistic timeline and cost analysis can be completed. Before moving on from this step, a feasibility analysis should be conducted to determine if the project will be sustainable, affordable, and provide an adequate return on investment.
Building & Implementation
Coordinating the construction of a facility expansion and the installation and startup of new equipment is a project unto itself and requires more attention than a few lines of summary. However, all involved should be aware of the timelines and outcome expectations and have enough resources to adequately monitor and review progress for both accuracy and efficiency. The main goal is to complete the job on time and on budget while maintaining all standards, building codes, and facility requirements.
Avoiding Costly Errors
While most projects inevitably run into problems that must be addressed, careful and realistic planning will help avoid mistakes that are the most costly or detrimental for your long-term operations. Some of the most expensive mistakes arise due to an unrealistic growth projection, misjudgment of storage capacity to facilitate growth, and underestimating the means needed to achieve fulfillment.
With realistic projections, careful planning, and the right team of design, construction, and equipment experts, an expansion may be just what your facility needs to continue meeting the needs of your customers for years to come.