The New Way to Look at Construction: Continuous Flow

Industrial Freeway Aerial
Aerial Helicopter photo of an industrial area of Downtown Los Angeles. Warehouse roofs and trucks on the streets as the 10 Freeway cuts diagonal through the frame.

Many industry insiders will quietly tell you that the U.S. lags behind European countries on construction innovation and quality. They point to poor procurement, siloed and sub-optimized collaboration, and disjointed work as the reason for this inefficiency. But a principle popular in Europe coming to America is that of Continuous Flow, which eliminates waste and adds value to the design and build of food processing plants and distribution centers. The result is a project finished on time, of the highest possible quality, and at the lowest possible overall total cost. The following are key indicators that your design/build partner is implementing the principle of Continuous Flow from start to finish.

Internal collaboration

Designing and constructing food facilities requires collaboration. Unfortunately, many design/build departments – sales, pre-construction, estimating, design, field construction – operate as individual silos. Continuous Flow optimizes these functions, so they collaborate and share information throughout the design and build process to deliver value to the customer.

“When we collaborate, we can see and prevent problems that will affect the customer’s project,” says Brad Barke, President of ESI Group USA, which is implementing Continuous Flow. “That is the value proposition we can offer.”

Early planning with external partners

One would not ask a baker for the recipe after a cake is made. Similarly, a design/build company should bring in vendors and trade partners before a plan is executed to reduce re-work and ensure a faster, lower cost project.

“If these experts are not brought in early, it can become too late for owners to make key decisions about their food processing plant or distribution center,” says Barke.

Rhythmic scheduling and procurement

Certain work should occur at a specific place and time. The sequence of work will enable Continuous Flow. A planning system, such as Takt, can be used by a design/build company to map this work, identify bottlenecks, build in buffers for the unexpected, and ultimately develop a robust and achievable schedule. This is especially critical operating in today’s supply chain.

“Rhythmically scheduling building materials to be where and when we need them, at the exact right moment, enables us to plan and prepare proactively versus becoming reactionary victims,” says Jason Schroeder, owner and lead consultant, Elevate Construction IST, a project management consulting company. “We can use Continuous Flow to connect the dots from beginning to end to mitigate and identify risk and take back control of the design/build process.”

Incomplete Project Means Lost Sales

Continuous Flow is a new way to look at construction in the U.S. As a food processor and/or distributor, choose a design/build partner that has these processes in place to deliver your project on time and under budget.

“Every day a project is not complete is a day of lost sales for owners,” says Barke. “At the end of the day, that building is only valuable to an owner if it gets built on time, on or under budget, and is the best quality – and they can start reaping revenue benefits.”

Quick Facts

  • $650/sq. ft. = average cost to build a meat processing facility
  • 2021 Beef and Poultry Production = 205 million Mt
  • Worldwide value of meat industry = $1.16 trillion

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