When you’re not an experienced food manufacturer, making the leap to a central kitchen production facility can be overwhelming. Production estimates, building costs, labor, equipment, space—it’s a tough mix to coordinate without the help of a skilled consultant.
“An experienced foodservice equipment outfitter keeps the project focused on food quality, which is not a typical skillset for design and construction professionals,” says Horizon Equipment Specialist Tom Hartmon. “From years of experience in just about every foodservice environment there is, we can help you save you time, headaches and money every step of the way.” Here are five of Tom’s ideas to get you started on the right foot.
Tapping the expertise of production staff who live, breathe and produce on the equipment day after day is the smart way to go. Even seemingly identical equipment brands can have subtle production differences, that, when compounded shift-after-shift, can add up to either major efficiencies or major frustrations.
While it can be a difficult process, getting an accurate production estimate will impact everything from space considerations to equipment, staffing and utilities. Will you run one shift, two shifts or three? How will you meet current needs while allowing for expansion? “I help my customers make those critical decisions,” Hartmon says. “It’s all about having experience with the equipment and what it takes to operate it safely and productively.”
You might think it’s all about location, location, location for your new facility, but you’d be wrong. Creating a realistic labor plan based on experience is one way your equipment consultant can help you save money and improve efficiency. “We draw up a comprehensive production floor plan that includes labor estimates per machine,” Hartmon says. “This allows our clients to accurately estimate staffing during the feasibility phase—far in advance of any construction commitments.”
Willingness to settle for a less-than-ideal space up front often means you’ll sacrifice an efficient production flow from that point forward. A savvy production floor plan is the way to go—even when the space is less than ideal. You need to accommodate raw good delivery and storage, to production line, cooling, packaging and shipping. “The flow is everything, says Hartmon. “Without a smart plan up front, you’ll be continuously fighting the space.”
Building a food facility requires technical insight into how highly specialized—and expensive—food equipment works together to form an efficient production line. During the construction phase, a skilled equipment consultant can help ensure trade contractors are on site when needed to make it happen—especially critical in smaller communities where local contractors may not work with production-level food equipment very often. “For our customers, I’ll work out a scheduling plan that optimizes the time and talents of local, skilled tradespeople,” Hartmon says.
If you’re blending a mixture of new and existing equipment in your new facility, a skilled equipment outfitter can help you plan a savvy migration strategy. “First, get the new equipment installed, then migrate non-essential equipment, then finally, any essential equipment you want to use in the new production facility,” Hartmon says. “And, if the facility and equipment are all new, having an experienced food pro on site during the construction phase can make everything run more smoothly and ensure that the food comes first in every decision. Quality is what endures long after the construction dust has settled.”