KANSAS CITY — How do you design, build and open a new plant on time? That’s a question bakery engineers struggle with due to the inordinate complexity of some projects and the level of coordination needed to make things goes smoothly. And then, inevitably, something unexpected happens like COVID-19 or the supply chain issues of the past few years.

“It begins with very disciplined, realistic schedules,” said Dave Watson, food, bakery and snack engineering subject matter expert at The Austin Co., who has designed and managed numerous startups over nearly 40 years in the snack industry. “During the height of COVID, everyone’s schedule went out the window. You were lucky to get your equipment within six months of when it was originally promised. Even now, we’ve come to the conclusion that lead times are longer. It’s tough to get technical support.”

Mr. Watson added that the biggest pitfalls are schedules that do not build enough time for the commissioning and startup, as well as project managers who fail to involve key maintenance and operations people early enough in the design startup of the facility.

“It’s important to get maintenance and operations involved during factory acceptance tests and during installation,” he said. “If you can afford it, have the maintenance people involved during installation so their engagement is already elevated before the startup occurs. Don’t run too lean with your startup team.”

Mr. Watson will speak during IBIE 2022 on Designed for Success — Making the Right Choices for Your Bakery and will provide answers to everything from unrealistic corporate expectations to building a new plant while keeping the old one running.