In addition to difficulties finding workers, manufacturers are scrambling to find enough space to comfortably accommodate them and the products they make. Driven in part by a call to reshore operations, construction spending for U.S. manufacturing facilities is at its highest point in more than 20 years.
Site selection for a manufacturing facility is a long-range decision. Whether you plan to expand an existing facility or start from the ground up, you need to take the following manufacturing site considerations and strategic steps into account.
1. Conduct a Current Facility Assessment
Whether you’re constructing an addition or an entirely new building, it’s good to gather insights into what works in your current facility and what will need improvements moving forward. A construction management team can conduct a facility assessment based on your intentions to expand or move locations. A team will interview decision makers and other employees, conduct a site walkthrough, and prepare a property condition report. The compiled findings help business leaders determine how their building plans align with their long-range plan, and know with certainty that they’re making decisions about expanding or building based on accurate data.
A facility assessment can also inform how to maximize existing space until the expansion or building project is completed. Look at repurposing space that is underutilized, such as administrative offices for remote workers. A smaller remodeling project might include removing walls to ease capacity constraints, or adding modular offices. These flexible, prefabricated offices could be moved to a new facility once completed, making them an economical choice. Sprucing up your current facility also increases its resale value and appeal to potential buyers.
3. Evaluate Property Location and Size
Enlisting a construction management team to evaluate your current and long-term goals can help ensure you don’t underestimate the amount of land needed now and in the future. When considering an expansion, it’s important to evaluate whether the remaining acreage will be adequate to accommodate the building and additional parking for more workers. Other considerations include space for retention ponds, loading docks, and freight vehicles.
In northern climates like Wisconsin and Iowa, don’t forget about where to place snow removal piles. Consider building codes that might restrict how close a facility can be built next to neighboring buildings. Additional firewalls or minimum clearances may be required. Many of these manufacturing site location considerations also apply when purchasing land for a new facility. Ensure it can accommodate future growth 20 or 30 years down the road. Also consider the new property’s distance from the current location. Adding an additional five or 10 miles to your employees’ commute could either help or hurt your recruiting and retention efforts.
Even on flat land, the condition of the soil needs to be determined. Unsuitable soils are a major sticking point for some projects. Is the land in a flood zone? What about protected animal species or historical sites? Contaminants are another concern and may require costly remediation prior to moving forward. A thorough environmental assessment should be conducted to ensure compliance with EPA standards and any other regulations.
5. Determine Infrastructure and Utility Needs
Existing roadways and utilities may not be adequate for a new manufacturing facility. A rural road, for example, may not accommodate the added traffic volume from employees and freight vehicles, and bridges and roads leading to a property may have weight restrictions. Various governing authorities will need to be consulted depending on whether access roads are state highways, county trunks, or town roads. The addition of service roads, traffic lights, turning lanes, or other costly improvements may be required as part of a new facility project.
Consider the utility grid and whether it’s sufficient to power your operations. Will your facility be able to tap into municipal sewer, water, and natural gas lines, or will you need to pay to extend those necessities to your property? Also explore which telecom and technology providers are in the area and the cost to get phone lines and high-speed internet installed.
The number of requirements and compliance considerations affecting the property alone can be overwhelming, let alone planning the actual facility construction. This is where the experience and knowledge of a trusted construction manager is invaluable. They can guide you through the process and work with local officials to ensure nothing is missed and that costly mistakes are avoided.