Today we want to take a look at some applied learning, and share our experience in the form of a quick checklist to help plan your mid-to-large-scale industrial processing facility. No, we won't be talking about core equipment today, and that's part of the point.
Organizations creating new processing ventures are sometimes concerned with technology first, and may overlook critical choices and facility engineering concepts that are going to hold them back... a lot sooner than they think.
So, let's jump right in -It's time to develop the industrial mindset.
Bring On The Right Team
Creating an industrial scale facility is an effort that requires the right combination of physical components, a good location, and of course, a great team. We've found that business owners might push forward full steam ahead without putting a crew on the train. Before you get your equipment in the room (along with the amazing technicians from SciPhy) we recommend bringing on these critical team members, some of whom will have roles that solely interact with facility development.
As automated as a processing facility can get, you still need a genius on your team that knows how to run it. This operator is there to have ownership over the configuration of, and full operational knowledge/training on the utilization of your new equipment. The Operator will be in charge of developing and implementing your in-house Standard Operating Procedures, SOP's, and so must understand the process you are implementing in great detail. If you want to get up and running quickly, having a great operator hire is a must.
Fire Safety Engineer
Fire safety is a serious matter when looking at creating a scaled facility. From blast radius to code specs, you aren't going to be placing your equipment with confidence without them.
A large scale facility brings large scale risks to workers. Bringing in an industrial hygienist will make sure your operation runs safely.
Architect for Facility Layout
Ideally, a team or dedicated professional should be included early on in the planning phases to make sure your facility layout is realistic and functional. A bad match of layout and your building is a no go, which brings us to the next section.
Building The Right Facility
This could also be called proper planning before procurement. We see people getting into the industry speccing out their buildings without full consideration for what they need. Here is a quick look at how to do it right, the first time.
The dimensions of the facility are something that need explicit, early consideration. Don't buy your building without having an idea of the kinds of footprint and safety areas that your eventual equipment will necessitate. And always mind your ceiling height!
Solvent holding capacity and classification is one of those things that can be taken care of with proper planning fairly simply, but will provide a show-stopping problem if it isn't addressed. Your building must match code designation for solvent holding capacity, or you will find yourself on the losing side of an argument with your local code authorities having jurisdiction.
Scaling Power Designation
Industrial scale projects need industrial scale electricity and utilities. These things can take a surprising amount of time and may cost far more than anticipated. Get out in front of this planning and build it into your startup costs, don't save electricity buildout for the 11th hour.
Many people assume they can use standard boilers and cooling solutions at industrial scale, basing their assumptions on operations conducted in laboratories. But at an industrial scale, the cost inflates at an increasing rate. Instead, plan for low pressure steam, cooling towers, and high level facilities upgrades. These are installed by mechanical contractors in your facility.
Moving Beyond the Build
With the team and facility in place, your next step will be to finalize purchasing the perfect system from an equipment partner like us. By now, you and your vendor (contact us here) are working deeply together. Here are a few final things to think about for post installation and continued operations.
This one can surprise organizations that are entering the market. Waste management solutions should be integrated into your operational flow to minimize time and inconvenience. Spent solvent is considered Hazardous Waste, you can't simply pour it down the drain, so build a relationship with your local waste management company early to be sure you have a handle on cost and availability of appropriate waste disposal.
If you have a tight schedule for getting your operation running, the last thing you want is to invest in a facility, build it out, and then discover that your biomass source isn't going to work out, or that you don't have the capital to acquire it. Supply problems like these are classic and common blunders for any business, and one most early owners and operators go through in every industry.
An Evolving Market
This one is more amorphous, but pay attention to the timeline that developing an industrial scale facility can take. If you are planning a facility buildout for 18 months down the line based on a go-to-market strategy for the current state of the industry, you may find yourself in a whole new world by the time you're up and running. Plan for the future, and work with future focused partners.
Final Check: The Industrial Mindset
Our bottom line advice is to start planning your facility more like an oil refinery rather than a big laboratory. Even if you are only creating a pilot plant, this absolutely holds true. You and your team need to operate from a systems planning perspective, need to integrate a process-design ethos for your new processing plant. If you accomplish that industrial mindset, and if you get everything on the list above down, your chances for success will increase dramatically.