Create a free account to continue

6 Ways You’ll Achieve Greater Speed to Market on Your Next Design-Build Food Project by Working With a Fully Integrated Firm

We all know the design-build methodology, by nature, is faster than the traditional design-bid-build approach. But if speed to market is your goal (hint: if you’re in the food and beverage industry, it probably is), then you can’t beat the agility that a fully integrated firm offers.

Mnet 154061 Jason Duff Listing Image
Jason DuffJason Duff

We all know the design-build methodology, by nature, is faster than the traditional design-bid-build approach. But if speed to market is your goal (hint: if you’re in the food and beverage industry, it probably is), then you can’t beat the agility that a fully integrated firm offers.

We’ve previously explored how a fully integrated design-build firm — one that offers process design, building and infrastructure design, and construction services with all in-house resources — can save you money and increase your plant’s food safety. In this post, I’m going to discuss the numerous ways an integrated approach can streamline your next project and get you from concept to commissioning faster than any other method.

1. The project developer is involved in daily design progression

Choosing a fully integrated firm means the project developer is sitting in meetings from day one. During the design phase, the managers from each critical team (process design, building and infrastructure, and construction) gather for regular meetings to discuss the project.

Having the project developer involved in this process from the beginning means he can make constant adjustments to his budgetary estimate, tweak the project schedule and provide constructability recommendations, all as design decisions are made. Translation: You’re getting faster turnaround on budgets and schedules compared to a traditional, non-integrated approach where a general contractor is subcontracting these specialized elements to outside vendors.

Plus, regular involvement of the project developer means potential issues are caught and resolved along the way during the design process. This is much faster compared to the alternative: waiting for the entire design to be complete before any of those issues are noticed and addressed by a separate subcontractor.

2. Collaborating on 3D models is seamless and fast

Nowadays, everyone likes to think they can work remotely with cloud-based software. Sure, saying that makes you sound cutting-edge, but the reality is that modern-day 3D modeling technology requires a great deal of computing power that can be difficult to harness across different locations.

Large-scale 3D models are huge files that take a long time to transmit via the internet. If you’re working with a non-integrated firm that has to repeatedly send these massive files to different vendors in different locations to review, analyze and incorporate, that dramatically slows down your timeline. Not to mention that this might deter them from sending updated models to the construction team as regularly, which would only slows things down even more.

On the other hand, the staff at a fully integrated firm can view 3D models in real time, any time. This allows teams to collaborate easily and get your project moving along, since everyone’s working under the same roof and within the same system. Also, it makes it easier for owners to view the most up-to-date 3D models via a 3D model viewer such as 360 Glue.

3. On-site construction issues get resolved quickly

Once your project has entered the construction phase, even more variables are introduced into the equation. No firm or project is perfect, and occasional mistakes are inevitable — a forklift bumps into something, an anchor bolt gets bent, etc.

In these situations, a non-integrated firm’s process can be a dizzying chain of unnecessary (and sluggish) communication that can look something like this:

  1. Superintendent photographs issue and reports problem to architect
  2. Architect receives report and communicates issue to appropriate specialist (e.g. structural engineer, design manager, etc.)
  3. Specialist sends recommendation to architect
  4. Architect forwards recommendation to superintendent
  5. Superintendent relays to staff and implements resolution

Meanwhile, a fully integrated firm’s approach streamlines the entire process. The superintendent would simply call the structural engineer — his co-worker — directly, and the structural engineer would send him a solution — typically within minutes rather than hours or even days. This prevents minor snags from becoming colossal roadblocks in your project’s timeline.

4. Submittals and Requests for Information (RFIs) are processed efficiently

If a submittal comes through for a piece of mechanical equipment for your project, it can typically go through a variety of people before final approval:

  1. Construction manager (to make sure it answers to the requirements of the spec)
  2. Design manager
  3. Mechanical engineer
  4. Electrical engineer (to power the equipment)
  5. Structural engineer (to support the equipment)
  6. Architecture team (to ensure the equipment aligns with exterior design)

At a fully integrated firm these different staff members simply walk down the hall to discuss submittals, ask questions and get approvals. This eliminates the time-wasting back and forth with multiple vendors you would find with a traditional, non-integrated firm. Sure, email and construction management software have helped make the process more efficient than it used to be, but nothing compares to having the entire team together in one building.

The same goes for Requests for Information (RFIs) from the field. At an integrated firm, if the superintendent submits an RFI to the design team, the design manager can easily round up the right staff for a quick in-person meeting to develop a solution and send it right back to the field (and if a certain engineer is out of the office, they can just go to the next office over to grab another in-house engineer to provide the answer).

One small hiccup doesn’t have to stall an entire project. A truly integrated firm eliminates the need to jump through unnecessary communications hoops.

5. Initial assessment information is housed in one place

The communication efficiencies that come with an integrated firm apply to greenfield projects, but they are especially critical for expansions and renovations. On these projects, team members from the various disciplines visit the facility to gather their initial assessment of the facility, its infrastructure, available capacity, etc.

With a fully integrated firm, all that data comes back and is centrally stored in one place, but with a non-integrated approach, these bits and pieces are broken down and disseminated to all the various companies involved. If you have a question about a certain room — for example, the power source for a particular unit of equipment — a traditional firm would have to get on the phone and track down that information rather than just walk down the hall to another department. That’s lost time that can cost you over the course of your entire project.

6. Any and all meetings are streamlined

Noticing a pattern? The reality is that communication is central to the success of your food plant overall, and it’s where some of the most time is wasted. A number of non-integrated firms use programs like GoToMeeting or Google Hangout to conduct conference calls and project meetings, and while that technology has helped bridge geographic gaps, it comes with its downsides.

In the food and beverage industry, where speed to market is so critical, every additional day spent on a project could potentially cost sales, market share and competitive edge. Think of the ways time is spent on these remote meetings:

  • Setting up and coordinating virtual invites to the meeting
  • Waiting for all members to join the call
  • Audio transmission delays that slow down conversation
  • Technical difficulties with the software or signal connection

It may seem trivial to dissect the minutes wasted on these calls, but multiply the time penalty for each meeting by the countless number of meetings that will take place throughout your months-long project timeline. Suddenly it’s not so insignificant anymore.

Contracting with a fully integrated firm can speed up your next design-build project in more ways than one. They say “time is money” for a reason, so what are you waiting for?

About Stellar

Stellar is a fully integrated firm focused on planning, design, pre-construction, construction, refrigeration, mechanical & utility, building envelope, and total operations & maintenance services worldwide. Visit the company's blog at or learn about its projects at