Monthly Archives: October 2014

Capacity Expansion in Developing Regions

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Michael Verdier, P.E. and market leader of the Integrated Industrial Design segment at BHDP, discusses several critical strategies for capacity expansion in developing regions. Relying on personal experience as the program manager for the expansion of a greenfield manufacturing production facility in Nigeria, Verdier outlines many potential pitfalls and recommends solutions when working in areas like the Middle East, Africa, India and Southwest Asia.

capacity-expansion-nigeriaBuilding a new green?eld manufacturing facility or expanding an existing operation in a developing region like the Middle East, Africa, India or Southwest Asia presents unique challenges requiring robust execution strategies and long- term planning to ensure project success. Elements of achieving success include business and capacity master planning, site and facility master planning, pre-qualifying construction contractors and fostering collaborative relationships with local residents, community leaders and others during the project’s execution.

Unfortunately, these critical elements often are not documented and aligned in sufficient detail or are overlooked altogether, which can have a significant negative impact on the cost, schedule and quality of a manufacturing facility expansion project.

Robust Property and Infrastructure Search Criteria

Establishing the criteria for a property and infrastructure search is an essential pre-requisite to any greenfield project. This is even more vital when planning an investment to localize production or distribution in a developing region, due to the increased investment in travel (airfare, visas, vaccinations, etc.), professional resources (attorneys, surveyors, real estate brokers, etc.), interpreters and sometimes even security.

Elements of a successful property search and acquisition include:

  • Development of a documented and aligned business and capacity plan outlining your year-on-year strategic growth plan. The business and capacity plan should include near-, mid- and long-term incremental production volumes, production capacities, corresponding making/converting and packing line counts to support the stated volume growth across all product categories planned at your site through full build-out.
  • Creation of a documented full- build site and facility master plan based on the site’s business and capacity master plan. Ideally, the site and facility master plan defines the land area, optimal property geometry, property access requirements and placement and transportation needs including rail, highway and deep seaport.In 2009, I was appointed West Africa Program Manager to lead a greenfield manufacturing production expansion in Nigeria. The initial land search criteria called for 20 hectares of land but lacked critical supporting data such as an aligned full-build business plan, capacity master plan, site and facility master plan and utility requirements to deliver the business into the future. We briefly suspended the land search until these critical elements were properly defined, reviewed and aligned within the business unit. Because we did not compromise on the critical front-end planning effort, new land search criteria were defined, including the need to secure 40 instead of 20 hectares of land to meet the long-term business growth strategy.
  • Development of the (full-build) utility requirements necessary to deliver the capacity master plan. This step allows the land search team to quickly reject properties that don’t have existing reliable municipal utility supply or to aid in developing the delivery strategy and feasibility estimates when self-generation becomes necessary. Utility demand data is critical for confirming availability of utility services and validating reliability of supply, such as water yield, power, steam or natural gas.At this early stage, investigate and begin the contract negotiation process on municipal supply infrastructure and delivery rates. In addition, define expected lead times to delivery and the needed infrastructure improvements (domestic water, wastewater treatment or natural gas supply) to syncronize these with your planned start of production. Many of the sites we examined for the Nigeria facility had no municipal water supply. To even consider these sites further, we drilled wells and tested the water yield to determine if we could obtain a reliable yield for the volume of water needed for the facility.
  • In many areas of Nigeria power supply is unreliable, necessitating the need to self-generate power, or at a minimum, install back-up power generation to avoid unscheduled and costly production interruptions. Our solution was to build an on-site combined heat and gas power generation facility. This decision to self-generate power was made early in the planning phase of our project. The need and quantity of gas supply were known and became critical requirements in our land search criteria.
  • Identification of employee and family amenities and local infrastructure necessary to ensure the company can attract and retain talent to operate the facility. To accomplish this goal, having access to housing, schools, medical care, public transportation, recreation and shopping should be an essential part of a property search and selection criteria. Define these requirements in collaboration with a qualified country or regional human resources manager who knows what the personnel needs and issues will be and how to accommodate them.

Even when these needs are met, recruiting can be challenging in many developing countries. Providing safety, security and incentives for families who will live in a developing country also are key considerations as qualified personnel weigh risks versus career growth opportunities. If all of the details have not been carefully planned and integrated into your project recruiting strategy, the ability to attract and retain high-quality talent will be reduced.

Investing the time early in the planning stages of your project to define these critical elements and document them as part of your land search criteria will streamline the process. In addition, it will eliminate the possibility of investing valuable time and resources visiting, investigating and potentially investing in properties that will not meet your long-term business needs.

Construction Contractor Pre-Qualification Process

Regardless of project size or planned execution strategy, a rigorous construction contractor pre-qualification process is of paramount importance to ensure your project is delivered with quality, on time, on budget and with no safety incidents. In-person on the ground inspection and validation of a prospective construction company’s capabilities and capacity, including auditing active construction projects, are necessary to manage project risk.

Here are a few key points for pre- qualifying contractors:

  • Never rely solely on previous client endorsements. Your definition of success or expectations for safety and quality performance may far exceed those of others. ?
  • Create an up-front agreement with your purchasing department to invite only technically pre-qualified construction companies to submit bids and proposals. This approach eliminates the cost and productivity loss associated with evaluating bids from non-qualified companies and subsequent internal discussions to eliminate prospective companies whose only qualifications were that they submitted the lowest bids.
  • Establish detailed construction contractor selection criteria as part of your technical pre-qualification process. Each selection criterion should be weighted based on the importance it has on the success of your project. No two categories will be the same because every project is unique.
  • Use the construction pre-qualification meetings and interviews as opportunities to gain advance knowledge of possible construction execution strategies most suitable for your project location based on locally available skills and experience. Don’t assume that because your last successful project adopted an engineering, procurement and construction management or design-build delivery method that the same delivery method can be adopted in a developing region. Become knowledgeable about the local capabilities and define your delivery method accordingly.Your pre-qualification meetings provide an early indication of how successful a company may be at delivering your project. In developing regions or remote locations, a company’s ability to articulate something as fundamental as its strategy for ensuring all skilled craft personnel arrive to the site each day offers tremendous insight into its level of project and construction management capabilities.

These execution strategies can influence the cost of your project in other ways. There may be a need to establish a life camp for expatriate managers, superintendents and supervisors for the duration of the project given the remote location, commuting challenges or lack of local temporary housing. An on-site concrete batch plant may need to be built to ensure reliable quality concrete supply for the duration of your project. There may be a need to establish and maintain an on-site heavy construction equipment mechanical workshop for repairs.

Although the site selected to execute our manufacturing expansion was only 35 kilometers from Lagos, the second most populous city in Africa, the lack of modern infrastructure and deteriorating transportation services and roadways combined with stagnating traffic congestion frequently resulted in a three- to four-hour commute each way to the project site. Unless your construction contractor has a plan to ensure all construction and craft personnel arrive on site on time each day, your project schedule will be at risk and the probability of cost overruns increases.

Of equal importance is the ability of prospective construction companies to define their strategies for reliably supplying construction building materials and equipment. Here again, poor infrastructure in developing regions can pose unexpected supply chain challenges. Many of the companies I met with could not articulate how they would supply materials to the site. Often they could not state where or how heavy construction equipment would be sourced or their strategies for repair. These companies were immediately disqualified.

Visiting Active Construction Project

Visiting active construction project sites of prospective contractors is an essential step in the pre-qualification process. This offers tremendous insight into each company’s project and construction management capabilities and commitment to quality and safety. A key indicator of how well a construction project is managed is the overall housekeeping appearance on site. Poor housekeeping on a construction site often indicates lacking or non-existent safety and quality standards. It also suggests the supervisors and personnel have a lack of pride in the work they are performing. A deeper investigation into the overall project performance metrics may indicate that the project is over budget and behind schedule.

As part of our due diligence and pre-qualification process we penetrated the execution strategy details of these and other aspects of each prospective construction company. The company to which we ultimately awarded the project articulated in extensive detail its material supply chain, procurement, logistics and staffing execution strategies. It demonstrated its commitment to quality and safety on active projects visited. To address challenges specific to our project, this company constructed a life camp near the project site consisting of containerized housing, a cafeteria, diesel power generation and dining, recreation and laundry services. It also understood that many of the skilled craft and labor personnel would be contracted from local villages where water was scarce. The company constructed a shower facility so construction personnel could shower prior to returning to their families each evening.

Becoming knowledgeable about local construction practices, capabilities and limitations is an essential element of due diligence for any project executed in a developing region. Taking that knowledge and formulating it into a robust construction execution strategy combined with the skilled resources and infrastructure necessary to bring it to life may come at a premium versus projects executed in developed regions. It is imperative to define the right strategy and associated costs early and be willing to invest in the success of your project.

Appoint a Project Spokesperson

One of the most important steps at the project conception is to appoint a highly qualified external relations or public relations manager to your project team. Ideally, this person is a country national who understands the local culture and possesses the ability to speak the local language. Interaction with the local residents during a large capital project is inevitable, and it is crucial to be aware of and sensitive to how your project is perceived and how it may affect their lives and livelihoods. Demonstrating a sincere interest, sense of concern and respect for them contributes to the success of the project and the community while potentially avoiding unwanted conflicts, disruptions or delays during construction execution and start-up.

It is crucial for the project leader and external/public relations manager to define a community communication plan and to arrange time to meet with local leaders. This meeting allows for a discussion of non-confidential aspects of your planned project and in return provides a venue for local leaders to express their concerns. This conversation also offers insight in how to prepare for any public comment period that may be required as part of a construction, environmental, operational or occupancy permit application.

Sometimes, you may learn that local leaders view your project as an opportunity for training, skill development and job creation for young men and women in their community even during the construction phase. Including legitimate skill development and job opportunities for local community members as part of your construction execution strategy should be discussed and negotiated in advance with your appointed construction company leadership. Gaining their agreement to purchase consumable construction office supplies such as printer paper, restroom tissue and towels locally may be viewed as another legitimate win-win by the local community.

The importance of building collaborative relationships with people whose lives may be affected by your project cannot be understated. Another way to demonstrate trust, show sincerity and foster collaboration and cooperation during your project is to invite local leaders to planned formal ceremonies, such as the ground breaking, and recognize them at those events to show respect.

The significance and value of investing in relationship building with local leaders became very clear during the bulk earthwork phase of the Nigeria project. Early one morning the construction entrance to our site had been blocked by local residents using primitive means. Rather than using force or involving security and police which may have escalated an already tense situation, we elected to adopt a more gentle and diplomatic approach. We met directly with local leaders to understand their grievances and align on a mutually agreeable solution. The events of that morning easily could have turned into a significant conflict resulting in construction delays, increased costs, productivity losses and potentially lingering safety concerns. Instead, the issue was resolved in a few short hours due to the early investment in relationship building and maintaining open communication with local community leaders.

Strategic Planning, Due Diligence and Collaboration

Constructing a manufacturing facility in a developed region presents challenges and requires a significant investment in capital, time and resources. These challenges and investments are even greater when expanding your operations into developing regions. Establishing an aligned long-term business and capacity plan that forms the basis of your site and facility master plan and land search criteria minimizes these risks. When these critical steps are rushed, it can result in unnecessary and avoidable rework later in the project.

Of equal importance is gaining firsthand knowledge of local construction practices and capabilities through extensive due diligence and leveraging the knowledge gained to define your execution strategy and contractor selection criteria. Finally, investing the time early in your project to foster collaborative relationships with local leaders and community members enables you to swiftly address and resolve issues that arise during your project.

These are a few critical elements to consider when expanding in a developing region. When incorporated within your overall project execution strategy, they contribute significantly to your ability to deliver against defined cost, schedule, quality and safety goals as you bring your project to life.

Michael D. Verdier, P.E. is vice president and integrated industrial design market leader for BHDP. Established in 1937, BHDP designs environments that affect the key behaviors necessary to achieve strategic results for clients by thinking creatively, staying curious, fostering collaboration and delivering excellence. For more information, visit

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2014 issues of Facilities Management Journal; republished with permission.

Photo Credit: Flickr user airpanther.

Manufacturing Plant Standardization

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Faced with fierce market competition, the success or failure of any manufacturing business is often dependent on strategy and follow-through to achieve breakthroughs in productivity improvement, costs reductions and beating the competition to the marketplace. In this article by Michael Verdier, market leader of Integrated Industrial Design at BHDP, outlines how an investment in Manufacturing Plant Standardization (MPS) provides a unique and effective methodology that can advance your business and achieve near and long term strategic goals.


manufacturing-plant-standardizationOne critical area often overlooked when increasing and expanding manufacturing capacity is in the approach to facility design and construction execution. To remain competitive, leaders of manufacturing operations, particularly companies that are growing, must make a shift from the traditional one-off project-to-project execution approach to a more thoughtful and strategic facility design and expansion approach. Appointing a team to study and define facility design requirements such as, equipment general arrangements, location control plans, column spacing, roof slopes, building clear heights or even room lighting levels on one project, only to have these design requirements studied again on a subsequent project is neither time- nor cost- effective.

In addition, this is a significant productivity loss for talented members of an organization. But what if there was an alternative that allowed a business to grow while simultaneously increasing organizational productivity, reducing the cost of capacity expansion and accelerating schedule without compromising quality or safety? Manufacturing plant standardization (MPS) provides a proven and effective solution.

What is Manufacturing Plant Standardization?

MPS is a design methodology that, guided by a company’s short- and long-term business and capacity growth strategy, combined with future innovation and automation plans, seeks to define and document a best-in-class global manufacturing facility design. Once achieved, the result is a design that is repeatable, scalable and capable of being executed globally.

Commitment to MPS becomes a key enabler and strategic advantage to rapid global expansion and growth where resources are limited, facility expansion costs are high and material and equipment lead times are lengthy. When properly implemented, an MPS strategy consciously drives repeatability and predictability in design, building material and equipment sourcing plans, capital spending, construction execution plans and execution schedules not possible with a traditional oneoff manufacturing plant design approach.

Overall, the adoption of an MPS strategy significantly helps in delivering productivity, cost and speed-to-market objectives.

Increased productivity

By avoiding the need to staff every capacity project with internal subject- matter experts, MPS increases productivity. A one-time investment of assigning the most talented, knowledgeable and experienced resources within an organization on a lead project to define and document the operational, process, logistics and design requirements in a global manufacturing plant standard (GMPS) releases those resources to focus on other corporate priorities in the future. Once documented, the GMPS becomes the basis for all future capacity expansion projects, whether expanding an existing facility or a new Greenfield site.

Absent a GMPS, every project and project team is burdened with studying, defining and gaining concurrence to operational, process, logistic and design requirements, essentially repeatedly starting from the conceptual phase. This outdated approach inevitably leads to different and non-standard global solutions on each project, resulting in varying degrees of operational and project delivery success.

Cost Reduction

Along with increased productivity, a business’s commitment to an MPS-design strategy creates opportunities to significantly reduce costs throughout all phases of project execution not possible with non-MPS execution approaches. The following tips outline three of the virtually limitless opportunities for cost reduction.

  1. Saves in architectural and engineering (A/E) design consulting fees. When an MPS strategy is employed and best-in-class facility design is captured within a GMPS, subsequent projects and their respective design-consulting professionals are no longer burdened with defining the building, facility and utility design requirements. Also avoided is the task of diverging and converging on design concepts and possible solutions that form part of each project’s concept phase. Rather, project teams and their design consultants are able to take advantage of standardized design requirements and can reapply design drawings and specifications and coordinated multi-discipline 3D Building Information Models (BIM). Creating the possibility to reapply design deliverables project-to-project offers the ability to not only reduce design consulting fees but also compress the schedule of the front end design phases.
  1. Increases a company’s ability to leverage scale and negotiate quantity discounts. Once established, a GMPS opens the door for opportunities to leverage scale on multiple levels not least of which is in the procurement of building materials, central and process utility equipment and even production equipment. Having standardized production facilities empowers businesses to be forward thinking in bundling material and equipment orders to achieve quantity discounts. Armed with the knowledge and confidence that a compressor, chiller or other standardized equipment can be purchased and allocated to any MPS facility, be installed in the same location, on the same centerlines and with a vertical start-up is tremendous. Further, predictability in facility design allows reallocation of valuable equipment assets from one facility to another. Along with the potential saving of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on capital equipment, this approach allows for a swifter response to unexpected capacity increase demands and the ability to replace damaged equipment without long equipment delivery lead times.
  1. Reduces the need for full-time equivalent resources appointed to carry out the feasibility, conceptual and definition phases of each project. With MPS as the global standard and basis for each new project, project teams are smaller. Time commitment to make design decisions and execute projects is also reduced by virtually eliminating the feasibility and concept design phases and enabling an abbreviated definition phase followed swiftly by detailed design. The result is a significantly compressed design execution schedule.

Increased productivity and cost savings, while critical to a business’s success, are no longer sufficient on their own to succeed in a global market economy, where delays in launching a new product or failing to fulfill customer orders can result in long-term loss of sales, profit and market share. When leading a facility expansion to meet challenging start of production dates, a prior investment in MPS not only creates schedule acceleration opportunities during design but also during property search, acquisition initiatives and construction execution. Building, utility and site requirements defined within a GMPS become the property and infrastructure search criteria. This process allows property search activities to begin much earlier and facilitates swift decisions on which properties to discard and which ones should progress into a due diligence phase.

Freedom from dependency on completing detailed site and facility master planning as a prerequisite to property search creates an opportunity to finalize the property acquisition sooner and move the start of site construction activities to the left on the execution schedule. Schedule advantages realized by a global standard repeatable design extend into virtually every aspect of construction execution. Beginning with construction supplier pre-qualification and continuing with long-lead equipment or building material procurement, development of modularization and pre-assembly strategies and continuing through to development of building erection and building handover plans. The unique ability to develop repeatable construction execution, material sourcing and logistic plans that can be implemented on multiple projects versus a single project, aids in compressing construction durations. At the same time, using a plant standard facilitates the ability to capture learning and refine those plans project-to-project to achieve even greater efficiency on a continuous basis.

Commitment to the Plan

With increasing competition in a global market, developing and maintaining a competitive edge are more important and more challenging than ever before. Defining and successfully implementing strategies to maintain that edge requires leaders who are not only forward thinking and who understand the vast long term benefits of investing in strategy, but are also unyielding in their commitment to bringing those strategies to life. For manufacturing businesses that are growing and wish to continue to grow competitively, an investment in MPS provides a unique and effective execution methodology to advance their business and achieve their strategic goals.

Michael Verdier provides leadership for the Integrated Industrial Design (IID) Market within BHDP. The IID Market serves domestic and international clients possessing manufacturing and/or material distribution operations. Through our integrated design process, we offer Capacity Master Planning, Site & Facility Master Planning, Facility Platform Standardization, Logistics Modeling & Simulation and Conceptual through Detailed Design in support of our clients’ capacity expansion programs. Our objectives are to deliver Best-In-Class facilities that allow our clients to achieve breakthrough productivity, cost and speed to market goals.

This article originally ran in the September/October 2014 issue of Manufacturing Today; republished with permission.

Photo Credit: Flicr user nsalt.