Facilities planning: expanding into your already too-small facility

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Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

Pat yourself on the back. You’ve grown your business 5 to 10 percent for the past several years. Your business is going great and the future outlook is bright. You’ve been so focused on working to grow your business that one day you wake up and realize that you’ve outgrown your facility. Now none of us have ever run into that issue, right? Unfortunately, many of us have and it isn’t an easy problem to fix. So what do you do? Do you have the capital or time to knock it down and start from scratch? What are your options and what is the best way to attack this problem? This article will focus on three solutions; however, not every option works for everyone.

  1. Bite the bullet and design and build a brand new facility and abandon or sell the existing one—This is a costly way out.
  2. Do nothing and modify your operations to fit what you have and deal with it until further notice—This is the most cost-effective alternative as far as capital is concerned, but maybe not operationally. This may be a short-term fix, but in the long run, operating inefficiently is going to cost more than correcting the issues and expanding your existing facility.
  3. Evaluate what you have and your operations, and determine the feasibility to expand and/or modify your existing facility—This option is, in most cases a good fit, from both a capital and operational point of view. You can apply this problem solving process to hauling companies, landfill shops, offices, transfer stations and MRFs along with many other facilities.

There is no cookie cutter response, or one answer fits all, but given the right design and construction team you can typically solve your problems in a way that won’t strap you financially. For purposes of this article, let’s focus on option #3 and make the assumption that your site has sufficient free space to allow for any necessary building and site expansion that would be required, plus future growth. Let’s walk through a brief overview of the steps.

Step 1: Who Are You Going to Work With?
It’s time to choose your partner for this project. You need to choose a team to work with and whether it is an architectural firm or a design/build construction company is up to you. A piece of advice on choosing the right firm: before you choose, you need to prequalify your architect or design/build firm. It is crucial to ask for references—not just of any projects, but of projects similar in scope to what you are dealing with. Your project is completely different than building a bank or a restaurant and you want to make sure they understand the waste industry, your operations and, most importantly, renovation projects. When you select your team and talk to past clients, find out how the project went for those who had to “live” through the remodeling. Was it well planned out and executed so that their employees could work and stay focused on their tasks and daily duties?

Ok, you have done your homework and chosen the right firm. Once this step is complete, bring them to your facility and walk them through so they can get familiar with it. We’re done right? You say to yourself, “All we have to do is wait for the design firm to come back with all the right answers!” Nope … sorry, there is more.

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