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At SciPhy Systems we’ve seen many new processing companies with a variety of team arrangements and ideas about who to talk to in order to accomplish the complex needs of starting up a facility. Knowing who to have on your team is critical for your success, both in terms of employees and contractors, as well as external authorities and providers of supplies. In this article we are looking at who needs to be on or talking with your team, when to interact with them, and whether we consider them required or somewhat aspirational.

 

Let’s begin with the internal team members you want on board for your start up:

 

Tech Representatives and Operators
When: From Beginning of Planning
These are your chemists and process engineers. They should have extensive experience in a manufacturing environment and a well rounded understanding of the processes you are targeting and the field at large. This position is the lifeblood of your operations, and will be in communication with key stakeholders and contractors throughout the cycle of your start or scaleup.

Financing, Admin, and Company Management
When: From Beginning of Planning
In this industry we see companies come and go fast, and of those that stick around we see some capture the opportunity to scale in a way that is financially sustainable. What sets those companies apart? We aren’t going to necessarily comment on the financing arrangements you should be engaged with. But one thing is certain, management plays into those chances for success in a huge way. More than market dynamics, a bad season, or any other of the external factors that can hurt your business, the internal factors of financing, administration and management can hurt it worse. Build a strong business team that is experienced and knows how to plan for the future.

Compliance Officer
[Aspirational - Can be covered by Operations or Admin, though dedicated team member is highly advised in GMP environment]

When: During Planning
If it's on the table for your company, a dedicated compliance officer is a huge added benefit for your processing business. Compliance officers fulfill their primary role of making sure an organization is complying with local code and regulations. In setting up your facility, code and regulations compliance is going to be more of a determining factor in multiple areas of your buildout than you might think. From the kind of building you’re using, to your processes, workforce safety, to your GMP documentation and much more, compliance will have an impact. If you can’t hire a dedicated compliance officer, be sure to have your core team invest time and effort into understanding what you need to reach full compliance.

Maintenance Lead
[
Aspirational - Can be supplemented by SciPhy Systems]
When: Optimally from the beginning.
Maintenance is critical, both preventative and post-incident. Your maintenance lead knows everything it takes to keep your uptime at a maximum. They will be intimately familiar with every aspect of your equipment and have extensive hands-on experience with processing equipment, either in the Hemp field or other industry. SciPhy Systems can supplement this role with regular maintenance visits and an airtight plan for emergencies.

 

Now, let’s look at the important external team members you want to be working with:

 

Equipment Partner (such as SciPhy Systems)
When: During planning
Your equipment provider(s) is one of your most important allies, able to respond intelligently to your questions, take facility design considerations and local laws into design and planning, has a great installation procedure with a confident project management system, and is giving you equipment specified to your needs. There is only one provider we feel comfortable recommending at scale - SciPhy Systems. Trust us, they’ve got your best interests in mind.

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Licensed Professional Engineer (MEP PE)
When: Beginning of planning
A mechanical engineer is a great addition to your planning and implementation team, understanding the dynamics of your entire facility. Your mechanical engineer is capable of complex problem solving, tying your facility layout and operations together in a way that makes sense, is positioned for upgrades, and is easily serviceable. They understand exactly what's needed for realistic, ongoing operation of your facility and are able to translate that into accurate planning and implementation. They often also serve as your advocate to the Authority Having Jurisdiction, such as your local Building or Planning Department, and the Fire Marshal's office. An MEP with a PE stamp will be required to stamp drawings for permit applications for any project needing modification to the building, electrical, HVAC, or major utilities such as steam piping. They are also responsible for approving the design of classified areas, such as Class 1 Div 1 rooms. Some jurisdictions require that a PE stamp permit applications for the Certificate of Occupancy as the “Designer of Record” for not only the modifications to the building, but also for the assembly, arrangement, and installation plan of the equipment. Be sure to discuss this potential at the very start of your project, and include your MEP in your Property Development Review meetings with your local jurisdiction.

Architect
[Aspirational - May not be realistic for every company]

When: Beginning of planning
While not necessary for every project, working with an architect can save you the sort of blunders that will create years of headaches or worse. Bad building choices can limit your equipment options and affect what processes you are able to execute, while a great building will give you the room and flexibility to succeed for the long term. An architect is ready to make strong recommendations based on your needs, and will steer you towards the right properties for your unique business. An architect will be a must for any project including built-to-suit buildings, or expansion of an existing building to add square footage.

Fire Safety Engineer
[Aspirational - May not be realistic for every company]
When: Beginning of planning
Fire safety engineers ensure a level of safety that is in compliance with all local, state, and national fire code. Fire safety concerns can undermine long laid plans if not fully explored for many processors utilizing hazardous solvents. The local Fire Marshall can be an ally for your success, or a barrier to entry, and a fire safety engineer is going to be able to ensure that relationship goes as smoothly as possible. The Fire Safety Engineer specifically reviews and plans fire suppression systems, fire alarm systems, maps of egress, and emergency shutdown protocol to confirm your facility is safe and compliant. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that your employees are the absolute safest they can be, and a Fire Safety Engineer can make that happen for you. Most Fire Marshals are quicker to sign off on a project with a Fire Safety Engineer on board, so if you are the first project in a jurisdiction to handle flammable or hazardous materials it is a good idea to have on onboard your project to accelerate the approval process, and educate the Fire Marshal's office when needed.

Riggers
When: Once equipment is selected.
This is the team that’s going to oversee the erection of your system, and a strong working relationship that begins once your equipment is selected will help the successful completion of your facility tremendously. You are looking for a team that is highly competent at both following directions and problem solving on the spot. Riggers will operate the heavy machinery necessary to safely and precisely position your industrial equipment for installation, tie those pieces together in the correct manner, and assure mechanical utilities are tied in to the equipment appropriately. Oftentimes Riggers also serve as the pipefitters for your project, connecting utilities such as water, steam, and pneumatic air from their point of origin to point of use. Depending on the scale of your project, the right riggers can be the determining factor in months of setup time.

Mechanical/Electrical and General Contractors
When: After facility design
These are the contractors that will make your dreams realities, working with your riggers and equipment providers to supply the utilities infrastructure you need to run your business. This working relationship can run deep, as your contractors will be on the front line of the actualization of your project and may need to problem solve or make recommendations at a fairly high level to accomplish evolving needs. Be sure to hire contractors who are experienced in industrial projects, and have a reputation for efficiency. Everyone that has developed a true industrial scale plant knows that variables change during setup, and strong communication and faith in your contractors will help quick progress on the nitty gritty.

Industrial Hygienist
[Aspirational - May not be realistic for every company]

When: During facility planning
An industrial hygienist’s work will increase the safety of your team and ensure compliance with safety regulations. During your facility planning, bringing an industrial hygienist on will ensure that the proper precautions, placements, and procedures are encoded into the layout and operational structure of your facility. While OSHA regulations may seem a distant abstraction to many teams at the beginning of a project, experienced industry professionals have most likely experienced at least one work stoppage in their career due to an OSHA investigation following an injury in the workplace. The Industrial Hygienist steps in at the beginning of your project to make or review your workplace safety plans and Standard Operating Procedures to assure your workers will stay safe from construction through operation, and minimize the potential for OSHA violations and the cost of time and fines that come with them.

AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction): Fire Marshalls, Planning Dept (zoning, building etc) from the Municipality or County in which the Facility is Being Erected
When: Beginning of planning
The authorities having jurisdiction are not your enemies, nor should they be strangers. From Fire Marshals to the local planning department, multiple actors have an asymmetric role in determining whether your facility, and thus your business, will be able to operate at all. Our strongest recommendation is to begin the conversation early, making sure you catch major issues and red flags right away. A smooth relationship with these actors and the regulatory bodies behind them could save you months of downtime. Starting your project with a Property Development Review, sitting down with all AHJs in one spot with your project leads at the table can save weeks or even months of hassle and unrealistic timelines.

GMP consultants*
[Aspirational - May not be realistic for every company]

When: During facility planning
To produce a viable product in the contemporary market, a realistic and foundational approach to Good Manufacturing Practices is critical. While your team can certainly take this task on in concert with your equipment providers, a GMP consultant is definitely optimal. This consultant will ensure you are fully in line with all FDA requirements and regulations, and can provide expert advice on safe operational flow for your facility. It typically costs less to have a consultant on your project from day one, preparing their GMP audit for the end of the project, than it does to try and fail to get through the formal FDA certification process on your own.

Waste Management Provider (hazmat in some instances)
[Aspirational - May not be realistic for every company]

When: During facility planning
Waste management is something that many businesses may not be fully considering when developing their facility. Depending on your scale, waste management might provide a large logistical challenge and impede smooth operation of your facility unless planned properly. A waste management provider can solve this problem for you in a way that will impact your planning and make your life easier in the long run. Especially for facilities that will produce hazardous waste streams, such as spent solvent, it is recommended that a Waste Management Provider be consulted when the project is still in planning. Details such as how a truck will need to pull in to your facility to pick up and haul away waste, and how far they have to drive to get there, can have a huge impact on your facility’s workflow and waste management costs.

Solvent Provider
When: During facility planning
Your solvent provider has an impact on your facility for obvious reasons. Part of what businesses should watch out for is the selection of this important vendor. Depending on where your solvent providers are located and the cost of transporting the solvent, entire counties may be off the table for you, and this of course impacts all elements of your planning. So don’t wait, know your solvent options when you are making your building and equipment decisions.

Conclusion
We hope this dive into both the necessary and aspirational team members for your scaleup or facility startup is valuable. If we had to boil this list down to an essence, it would be to begin your conversations with these team members and entities early. Developing an industrial processing facility takes time, and you want to get ahead of the curve by making sure your internal team has the robust capabilities you need to accomplish your goals, and that your external team can provide you with the critical information needed to succeed on your timelines and to your budget. Look out for more content on how to successfully start or scale a processing facility in further entries.

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