How to design a food manufacturing building

Andrew Walters, architect and factory design specialist at Harrison Pitt Architects, shares some top tips for food and drink manufacturers embarking on new-build factory projects.

When starting any new project, we take our lead from our clients because they know their industry and their role inside out. It’s what they do daily. Our job is to work with them to deliver the right building, so we view the design process as a collaboration with our clients.

There are, of course, some fundamentals for getting it right and some of the wisdom we have acquired over the years in designing manufacturing buildings is as follows.

Get everything in the right place: This may seem simple, but it is amazing how many times we visit processing areas where the placement of various spaces is out of synch with the process itself. This is particularly the case in older units where the building has been added to in various phases over a long period of time. Organising the layout of the building so the process flows and production happens in the correct order can save time and improve efficiency.

Don’t hide away: Consumers are keen to know where their food comes from and how it arrives on their plate. Putting the production process ‘on show’ and creating points where prospective customers can view the process taking place in a clean and organised manner, will prove that you have nothing to hide and can win you customers.

Understand the product and the process: This comes from listening to our client and understanding how they operate. If they operate an existing facility, then spending time in the factory and observing the process is a good way to understand how it all comes together. Speaking to a cross section of the client’s staff is also a good way of learning how the process works. Finally, don’t forget how the external areas of the building work, and make sure there’s space for deliveries.

Analyse your own building to see if it complements your process: Before you embark upon commissioning a new building, take a step back and see whether your existing building can be rationalised to improve the production process. If so, can this be done in such a way which minimises disruption to the manufacturing process? A Chartered Architect with experience in the food manufacturing sector will be able to assess your existing facility and see whether it can be improved cost effectively, without the need for a brand new building.

Create a great place to work: Simple things like providing natural light, and good ventilation make a huge difference to the working environment. Having a good staff room and providing good ancillary facilities may seem straightforward, but they make a huge difference to people’s everyday working environment.

Futureproof the building: Try and make sure that there is space for the operation to evolve and grow. For instance, how can the building be extended in the future?

Design the building in such a way that it’s easy to clean and maintain: This is a fundamental part of designing a food manufacturing facility. Make sure that the internal space is easy to clean and maintain during the normal working day. Specify materials which are easy to clean and replace if needed. Provide enough space for cleaning and maintenance to take place without disrupting the manufacturing process. Make sure you can get to the equipment easily if it needs attention.

First impressions do matter: It’s important that the outside reflects what’s going on inside. The external appearance of the building is the public face of the building, and quite often in the food world it is the only part of building that the eventual consumers will see. Making a positive impression is important. Good thoughtful design can make a real difference without adding to the cost.

Our team of manufacturing architects specialise in designing buildings for a wide range of sectors, including food manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, warehousing, logistics and commercial offices.

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