Reshoring of goods continues to gain traction as a way to address the need for greater self-sufficiency and less reliance on foreign materials. While encouraging news for American manufacturers, many are faced with capacity constraints as a result.
Output continues to rise and capacity utilization exceeded 80% in 2022, prompting many manufacturers to begin construction plans. While residential construction starts have fallen due to rising interest rates, on-shoring has boosted non-residential manufacturing starts.
A major consideration for manufacturers is ensuring their expansion plans align with their long-range goals and are right-sized to address future growth. Building enough square footage is just one element; how that space is designed is of equal importance.
The following strategies are being implemented to help future-proof manufacturing facility capacity constraints.
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Acquire Enough Acreage When Building
It happens often: a company purchases a plot of commercial real estate in anticipation of future growth only to find themselves cramped for space in 10 or 20 years. Underestimating the amount of land required down the road can be a costly proposition. Manufacturers need to consider more than just the facility size. Loading docks, drainage ponds, parking, neighboring construction, unsuitable soils, updated building codes, future community infrastructure, and a host of other factors could quickly shrink available expansion space.
An experienced construction manager can help project owners anticipate various scenarios and provide guidance as part of the company’s long-range plan. They’ll assess current and future needs to best determine land acquisition requirements.
Consider Phased Construction
Constructing in phases can serve multiple purposes for manufacturing facilities. It can help minimize disruption when renovating so that a company can maintain operations and can help spread costs out over a period of time.
For rapidly growing industries, phasing and sequencing can also play a crucial role in planning for future expansion. Phase one of a construction plan can address immediate needs while phase two or three can begin when certain capacity thresholds are reached. Once again, such an approach will require assistance from a manufacturing construction team to design and deploy a phased plan.
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Design Flexible Floor Plans
Manufacturers need to consider how the plant floor will be configured today and into the future. Future advances in technology could require facilities to acquire new manufacturing equipment in addition to or in place of existing machines. Production facilities will need to remain agile when determining where new equipment will go and how work will flow through the facility to ensure maximum efficiency and output. Without enough space or the ability to reconfigure, options may be limited.
Labor shortages and shifts in labor markets continue to plague the manufacturing sector, also requiring flexibility. Administrative offices that sit idle as a result of an increase in remote and hybrid workers may need to be repurposed. While offices may not be suitable for production, they can easily be retrofitted to accommodate storage, inspection equipment, or testing facilities.
Use Prefabricated Modular Offices
Another way to introduce flexibility, maximize existing space, and expand capacity while planning or building is to leverage the use of modular offices. These prefabricated units can serve as workspaces, conference rooms, technical facilities, or other functional uses anywhere space is available.
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An advantage of modular office structures is their versatility and quick on-site assembly with minimal disruption, allowing a facility to maintain operations during construction. They have an easier permitting process and can be customized with the necessary electrical, HVAC, technology, furnishings, and cabinetry. They also can be moved and relocated to a new facility once built.
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Plan for Ample Warehouse and Material Handling Space
Supply chain disruption has plagued the manufacturing sector and tarnished the popular just-in-time inventory methodology. What once might have taken a week or two to show up on the loading dock may now take months.
As a result, some facilities are stocking up on materials when they become available, placing a burden on inventory management personnel due to lack of warehouse space. Construction of additional warehouse space to accommodate foreseeable supply chain demands aligns with a flexible floor plan. Assuming supply chain disruption eases in coming years, warehouse space can be repurposed to accommodate more production.
Enlist the Right Construction Firm
Proper planning doesn’t happen by chance. By working closely with an experienced construction manager, manufacturing leadership teams can help future-proof their capacity needs.
If you are considering a facility expansion, renovation, or new manufacturing building in Wisconsin or Iowa, contact the experts at Samuels Group. Also be sure to download our helpful Commercial Building Construction Checklist containing additional items to discuss with your planning team.
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