News / 1.4.19

Design and Engineering Solutions for Food Plants

Epstein provides custom solutions for food plants across the nation

For over 70 years, a dry mixing and packaging plant has excelled at purveying customized dry seasoning blends for retail, industrial and major food service companies, such as Taco Bell and TGI Fridays.

The manufacturer, based in Bolingbrook, Illinois, aims to develop client partnerships based on trust through market measured performance, flexibility, and the use of their innovative flavor systems.

“We are the industry’s blending leader,” the company claims. “You can count on us to be your valued and trusted supplier, offering nothing but the highest level of food safety and quality.”

Committed to serving their nationwide customers to the best of their ability, the manufacturer decided to build and operate a new mixing and packing plant in Eastvale, California; a decision that required them to lease a developer-designed and built “spec” building of roughly 62,000 square feet.

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In order to facilitate the complicated industrial process design and engineering requirements for the plant, the company selected Epstein to provide design, engineering and construction administration services to support their desire to expand within this new manufacturing facility. This particular expansion was driven both by economics and logistics benefits, as well as the strategic value of having two facilities and being able to maintain supply to customers in the event one of the facilities experiences extended downtime.

Specifically, this project involved designing hygienic food manufacturing space within a generic spec building, which was being constructed while the process portion was in design. Epstein provided architecture and engineering services – structural, MEP/FP and industrial process – for new enclosed rooms in the center of the building, which provided space for the plant's blending and packaging equipment, as well as rooms for electrical equipment and the ever important dust collectors and mitigation systems.

The company's specific manufacturing process makes use of state-of-the-art technology for product transportation and product blending, both of which make substantial use of vertical space in the building. In order to support these technologies, Epstein was tasked with designing custom multi-leveled platform structures, which served as structural support for equipment, access platforms for operation and maintenance, and safety measures for elevated operations.

“The platforms were designed to satisfy both hygienic and food safety standards, as well as the strict seismic requirements required by the state of California,” said Jon Scales, PMP, Epstein’s Project Engineer.

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Throughout this project, several challenges presented themselves, such as designing a custom processing line within the confines of a speculative industrial building. Additionally, accommodating all programmed functions while minimizing buildout space proved to be difficult. Epstein was able to overcome this primarily by arranging the process vertically using the multiple platform levels as opposed to arranging process steps horizontally.

In addition to the cost benefits – reducing buildout space, which required less material and labor – the remainder of the manufacturer's spec building space was programmed as racked storage. Therefore, each additional foot reduced for production space resulted in the addition of critical storage positions for them.

“Racked storage is typically measured in quantity of pallet positions available. If the process areas were not designed as efficiently, they would have taken up space that the company intended, and needed, to use as racked storage,” Jon said. “By efficiently designing the spaces we worked to maximize the space available for storage.”

Furthermore, in many cases, the structural components of the building – namely, the floor slab – were not adequate to support the structures or equipment being installed. This required Epstein to design application-specific foundations and coordinate with the spec building general contractor to avoid any potential conflicts with the building shell construction, which was already underway.

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Additionally, this project also required constant design coordination in three-dimensions between process equipment, platform structure, building utilities and the shell building itself – much more than a traditional 2D floor plan.

“This project would have been extremely challenging without the use of BIM [Building Information Modeling] software such as Revit,” Jon said. “BIM is the three-dimensional environment Epstein used to create the building digitally and generate the drawings from. Because of the vertical setup of the process equipment, it would have been very challenging to design for it using only 2D views – the 3D nature of BIM really helped in this respect.”

In addition to the company's proprietary process, there were several unique elements about the project that made Epstein’s work exciting, according to Senior Project Manager Alex Chu. Some examples include:

  • - An advanced internal (building side) dust collection system that includes energy saving recirculating air back through the plant and fire suppression system. Epstein housed this in two efficient locations, providing options for future expansion, which was critical to growth.
  • - A process waste water collection system was required given that this particular site did not have the required public infrastructure to handle the industrial process waste water as it exited the building.
  • - Ductilcrete’s slab was also used on this project, eliminating the need for control joints in the slab.

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“For a food plant, anytime you can reduce or eliminate joints, which translates to less maintenance for the owner, it’s a very good thing,” Alex said.

In a project such as this, the same time-honored considerations of hygiene and efficiency are all crucial to the success. This plant serves as a prime example of Epstein’s 97-year history of delivering custom design and engineering solutions for food plants across the nation.