Capital upgrades are a fact of potato packing life. Be it because existing equipment is aging, a critical piece breaks down, business outgrows packing capacity, or one’s product or packaging changes, every packing business eventually needs to overhaul equipment and/or build new packing lines. With great communication and proactive planning, an equipment upgrade can happen efficiently, cost effectively, and with little stress. Communicate inadequately or scrimp on planning, however, and expect problems, delays, and unnecessary costs.
Capital projects typically take longer than most customers first anticipate. Nailing down one’s short and longer term needs, priorities and limitations, then pricing out options, ordering equipment and preparing a site takes significant time and effort. Manufacturing alone can take another four to five months. Once equipment finally arrives, further site prep, installation, testing and staff training eat up many more hours. Since rushing any of these necessary steps can have major consequences, start the project planning process early.
The single biggest stumbling block for many major equipment projects / upgrades is uncertainty about goals, requirements and/or budget. Many companies jump into project planning with only a general idea of what they want, only to realize too late that the equipment they ordered doesn’t fit their space, the ‘solutions’ they chose cause new problems, the options they selected are too big for today’s needs or too small for tomorrow’s. Measuring, documenting and analyzing all current and future needs, all expectations and parameters, and all resources and timelines, and then continuously reassessing all of these elements throughout the project’s planning and execution is the most critical step in the entire process.
Consider both functionality and budget from the beginning of the design process. Though it takes trust to openly share one’s budget with vendors upfront, clearly outlining financial parameters clarifies expectations and allows everyone to move in the same direction. To help your budget stay on track, split design criteria into three categories: absolute requirements (the things your business can’t operate without), desirables (the features that aren’t required but which would make your business better), and delighters (the features that would exceed your expectations).
Packers who choose to handle their project’s management entirely in-house quickly learn that controlling budget and timelines, handling countless minor glitches and changes, communicating with vendors and subcontractors, monitoring installation, and tracking milestones is a time-consuming challenge. Hiring an experienced, external project manager is usually well worth the investment. Most importantly, an expert project manager can minimize errors and identify issues early in the process, before the project progresses and the cost of fixes jumps exponentially.