At full capacity, the semolina tower at Barilla America, Inc.’s new manufacturing and distribution facility in Avon, NY holds 1.76 million pounds of this grain product. As the central ingredient to the facility’s production of pasta, semolina must be available at all times to satisfy the company’s 24/7 operations. Bearing Barilla’s red and white logo, the tower stands 90 feet tall, and it’s where the facility’s core operation begins.
“We receive the semolina from the tower by rail car and move it into the building,” explains Carmine Simone, plant manager for the Avon facility. “There is 100,000 square feet of processing and packaging space. We have space for four production lines, and we started with two lines running. At the far end of the building is our warehouse facility, which is operated by our partner, Jacobson Companies.”
The 318,700 square foot facility began operations in June 2007, after 23 months of planning and construction. The plant, which is currently producing a little over 350,000 pounds of pasta each day, is the second U.S. facility for the Italian company, which was founded in 1877.
Barilla entered the U.S. market in 1994, with its first production plant in the U.S. built in Ames, IA. Mike Biegger, operations director for Barilla America and plant manager at the Ames plant, explains that a growing market share was the impetus for building the new facility in Avon. “We needed to add capacity by either expanding the Ames plant or building a second facility. Logistics costs being what they were, the decision became clear that we needed a facility in the northeast part of the country; about 40% to 45% of our sales are in that region of the U.S.”
The Fast Track
In order to have the plant up and running as quickly as possible, Barilla executed a design/build approach to the project and began designing the facility even before the company chose Avon for its location. By identifying what space components were desired, the project team could begin to plan out the facility.
Simone, who has been working for Barilla for more than 10 years in Italy and the U.S., moved to Avon in 2007. Describing the plant layout, he says, “It is a long building, with one side dedicated to service areas—two meeting rooms, main offices, quality assurance lab, breakroom, lockers, and maintenance areas.”
Barilla hired Kansas City, MO-based TranSystems to provide architectural and structural engineering services and to work with construction manager Whiting-Turner, based in Baltimore, MD. “We began by assisting Barilla in putting together bridging documents,” says Kevin Boyer, project manager with TranSystems. Bridging documents, made available to potential bidders, are part of many design/build projects and contain information about the requirements for items ranging from the facility size and building systems equipment to surface finishes and carpet.
“These documents helped us to get an understanding of what the systems would be,” explains Boyer. “We talked to the client about its concepts, which were then sent to bidders. The bidders developed the concept further during the bidding process in order to provide a price. It was more detailed than saying to the design/builder, ‘Here’s the building we want to do. Give us your best cost.’ It further defines some of the aspects of the building.”
As part of the process, Boyer explains, TranSystems also created a room matrix document that listed items such as square footage, finishes, ceiling heights, temperature requirements, and electrical requirements for each. “So, if the design/builder wanted information on the carpet he could just go down that list and get an idea of how much carpet was going to be in the facility,” he says.
To a large extent, facility planning revolved around the first two production lines scheduled to open, which were designed by two Italian firms. (All four production lines are set to be running by April 2009.) “We basically created the building around those production lines,” explains Boyer.
“It was challenging at the beginning to get information, because the process equipment was still being developed as we were designing the building.”
Biegger notes, “We were still deciding on the size of the equipment and some other features, so that made for some moving parts that we needed to deal with.”
“We also needed to get a handle on how much product would be stored in the warehouse,” continues Boyer. “So sizing the warehouse presented a challenge as well.”
In building the new plant, the Barilla team seized the opportunity to improve upon past projects. The company operates 24 production plants in Europe, North America, and South America, in addition to the Ames plant, and the team drew upon past construction and operational experience to create an efficient, safe operation in Avon.
Key to the collaborative spirit was input from Barilla’s executive leadership. Says Biegger, “Fabio Pettenati, vice president of supply chain [working in Barilla's offices in Bannockburn, IL], was a driving force. He set the tone for this working relationship, and everyone added to that.”
Simone explains, “We concentrated all of our experiences. You have to think of how you are building the building. Is it easy to clean? Easy to move through? Easy to maintain? On the energy side, we also took advantage of our experience.”
Energy In Mind
With the addition of TranSystems’ expertise, Barilla team members were able to implement several strategies aimed at reducing energy consumption at the new facility. For one, air-to-air heat exchangers were installed at the processing lines, which reduced the need for chilled water to cool the pasta product in the winter months. And the air handling units provide air-to-air heat recovery.
Energy saving measures also included the installation of lighting sensors in the warehouse, so lights only turn on when movement is detected. A low tech strategy was to incorporate long expanses of side windows into the packaging area, which enables natural light to enter the space and reduces the need for artificial lighting.
Says Biegger, “We also asked employees in the Ames plant what kinds of items they would want in the facility that they don’t have. We incorporated many of those items in the Avon plant. We’ve also tried to go back and add things to Ames. We’ve installed lighting sensors there, for instance.”
Cut The Cleaning
With collaboration being key to the entire process, innovation was bound to emerge outside the scope of energy consumption. One area where the team came up with a novel idea had to do with dust control in processing areas. “In a food facility, [dust control] is critical,” says Biegger.
To that end, the TranSystems team worked with engineers at Barilla to create an interior environment that would minimize the gathering of dust. This, in turn, would reduce maintenance demands. The strategy was to specify vertical insulated wall panels to be installed horizontally.
These panels, about 3″ thick, serve as the facility’s external wall and are also visible on the interior. Biegger explains the advantage of installing these panels horizontally rather than the common vertical orientation. “Typically these types of panels are hung vertically, and all the supports are then running horizontally on the interior. This creates a series of ledges where dust collects, which requires frequent cleaning of the ledges. To avoid this situation, we decided to install the panels horizontally, so that the structural supports would be built vertically [rather than the usual horizontal orientation].
“It has made for easier ongoing cleaning for the facility staff,” he continues. “With the ‘usual’ orientation, there would be ledges all the way up and down the interior walls. And with ceiling heights of about 37′, they would need to use lifts to reach those areas.”
Continues Biegger, “It took some time to re-engineer [the assembly], but when it was all worked out, I think it’s as clean a design you can have on the inside.”
Culture Of Safety
As the Barilla facility in Avon completes its first year of operation, the company can say that the plant has not had a lost workday case during that period of time. And there have been no recordable injuries during 2008.
Says Biegger, “This record stems from the fact that we established safety as a top priority from the start. It is a central part of the interview process for employees. If we are not satisfied with their thought process toward safety, then they are not someone we would hire.”
The strategy also involved an extensive orientation, which included safety training, prior to an employee working on the floor. Additionally, the company committed financial incentives to employees as they helped establish required safety programs.
There are currently 79 people employed at the plant, with some of those still in training. Simone, who was directly involved in all aspects of the interview process, says, “We started with 69 employees when we opened, and we are now hiring in advance to train those new employees to be ready when the third and fourth processing lines are up and running.”
The emphasis on safety was part of the planning and construction process as well. Safety issues were a regular part of the weekly team meetings that were held as the plant was being built. Simone also notes that all the contractors visiting from Italy to support the project were required to attend 10 hours of OSHA training before beginning work in Avon to ensure they were aware of relevant U.S. regulations.
Preparation and collaboration were two cornerstones of the new Barilla plant. And, according to the project team, this focus has shown through in the current operations. Simone notes, “Many visitors will tell us that it seems like the plant has been running for 10 years. That is the best compliment we could receive.”
Adding to that sentiment, Biegger says, “When the plant opened, systems were in place, people knew what they were doing, and goals were being exceeded. It was the outcome of getting the right people involved and having the right kind of teamwork and communications systems. It is not something you fall into; you have to work at it. But everyone came to the table wanting to collaborate.”
This article was based on an interview with Biegger, Boyer, and Simone.
Name of Organization: Barilla America, Inc.
Type of Facility: New.
Function of Facility: Manufacturing.
Location: Avon, NY.
Square Footage: 318,700.
Budget: $32 million.
Construction Timetable: June 2006 to March 2007.
Cost Per Square Foot: $100.
Facility Owner: Barilla AMERICA NY Inc.
Plant Manager: Carmine Simone.
Architect/Structural Engineer/Interior Designer/Lighting Designer: TranSystems.
General Contractor/Construction Manager: The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.
Electrical/Mechanical Engineer: M/E Engineering.
Landscape Architect: BME Associates.
Ceilings: Celotex. Insulated
Metal Panels: Metl-Span.
Office Equipment: Hewlett-Packard; Xerox.
Building Management System: Rockwell Automation (Allen-Bradley products).
Security System: HID.
CCTV: Pelco; Digital Century.
Smart Cards: KRONOS.
Security Alarms: HID.
Fire Alarms: Notifier.
Safety Equipment: Philips.
Lighting Controls/Sensors/Fixtures: Cooper Lighting.
HVAC Equipment: Ventrol.
Power Supply Equipment: Eaton (Cutler-Hammer products).
Backup Power: American Power Conversion (APC).
IT Infrastructure: Cisco Systems.
Roofing System: Carlisle SynTec.
Exit Signs: Highlites, Inc., a division of JJI Lighting Group.