One thing I found in this year’s Annual Plant Construction Survey is that many food and beverage projects were encumbered with finding an adequate supply of people and materials to complete projects on time. While some food and beverage companies have dedicated capital project managers (CPMs) to see construction and automation projects through even at multiple sites around the world, many companies are left wanting a CPM on staff to handle their projects.
To fill the void, food companies may try to find and make do with third-parties whose primary experience may not be managing food company construction and automation projects. They may come up with someone who understands general construction or knows how to manage automation projects, but finding a person with a wider scope of experience—especially one who understands food and beverage companies’ special needs—can be elusive.
About a year ago, Hixson Architecture & Engineering saw the need for this type of person to represent food companies’ interests in defining project scopes, executing projects, keeping them on track, overseeing contractors and system integrators, dealing with labor and materials shortages and following up with FATs and startups. Thus, Hixson created a new role for itself, and their first hire for this new role was one who understands capital projects—because he came from the food/beverage industry.
|Angel Landeros, Capital Project Manager, Hixson Architecture & Engineering|
Hixson’s Angel Landeros was formerly associate director of engineering at Harvest Hill Beverage Company. He also spent 15 years serving in various leadership positions within Procter & Gamble, and holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Universidad La Salle, in Mexico City, Mexico. I recently spoke with Landeros about the CPM role and how it is helping food and beverage companies adapt to today’s needs.
FE: Angel, could you explain how Hixson saw a need to create this new role for itself, which is typically served by someone on a food company’s staff when a new project is in the works?
Landeros: Several of our clients had been requesting this type of service from us. Developing the CPM role provides a great opportunity to strengthen our relationship with our clients while meeting a clear business need.
FE: So, Angel, can you explain what a Hixson associate would do in the role as a food company’s CPM? When would Hixson get involved with a food/beverage company seeking help with capital project management?
Landeros: The main role of a Hixson CPM is to assume project management responsibilities for the specific projects for which they are hired. We have to represent our client in every interaction. This includes protecting their best interests in design reviews, commercial negotiations, and other interactions needed to deliver the project.
A Hixson CPM can get involved at any stage of a project, from the discovery/feasibility stage through project start up. We obviously prefer to get involved as soon as possible to maximize the benefits and value delivered by Hixson’s experience and expertise.
It is also important to note that the CPM work is meant to manage projects or portfolios for specific deliverables with defined completion dates. This could be handling a single project for one or two months. It could also be something more extensive, such as the implementation and setup of processes for larger capital project portfolios and engineering systems. The range and complexity of projects managed by a Hixson CPM can vary.
FE: Hixson, of course, has loads of experience with food and beverage projects. But, how does Hixson keep the role of CPM, which after all is normally a client’s responsibility/role, separate from the design side of a project. In other words, how do you minimize any potential conflict of interest?
Landeros: The most important thing that Hixson has found to minimize conflicts is to keep transparent and open communication with the client. We document decision-making processes and rationale behind any decision. We also follow the client’s internal accounting, procurement, and engineering procedures for necessary approvals, as if we were one of their own employees.
FE: Before you offered this service, where have most food companies looked for an outside source to represent them at the table for a new construction or automation project?
Landeros: For years, there has been a trend of companies re-hiring retirees and even laid-off employees as consultants to fill necessary needs. These former on-staff employees have been the best source until now to gain the knowledge and experience that may be missing due to existing staffing constraints.
FE: Speaking of experience, Hixson has a lot of experience with food/beverage design projects—all the way from initial scope to project completion. So, wouldn’t it make sense for a food company who has no CPM on staff to enlist your help?
Landeros: Yes, the advantage of the CPM role is having someone focused on the project. The CPM has the experience to know what questions need to be asked, what items could be overlooked, identify opportunities, and overall, lighten the load for client resources that usually need to juggle several other responsibilities.
FE: In your position, it is possible that you would represent a food company where Hixson is not the A&E firm of record? Or to ask it another way, would you take on this role for a food company already under contract with another firm?
Landeros: Yes, that has been the case for several projects for which the Hixson CPM has been the only Hixson resource involved in the project. Our main role is to seamlessly integrate with the client resources and culture and become a steward of their business. We represent the client’s interest in all discussions with vendors and engineering firms.
FE: Have you or would you work with a food company client, which has a project being handled by a system integrator or a construction firm? If so, how would you handle these projects—any differently than where Hixson or another A&E firm is handling the project?
Landeros: We work on all types of capital projects, whether they involve design firms, system integrators, or construction firms. The first thing we do is analyze the project to define the expectations and deliverables to assemble the right team. We have experience handling projects from the client’s side dealing with all types of third parties in a variety of execution strategies and arrangements.
FE: We’ve defined the role(s) you take when a food company hires you as CPM. What do you consider to be outside the CPM role that you would fulfill at a food company—what you wouldn’t do?
Landeros: Things that fall outside of our CPM scope would be day-to-day plant operations, e.g., production operations and routine maintenance.
FE: Do you see this new service increasing in size?
Landeros: We see great growth in this type of service across the food and beverage sector. We’ve all seen how difficult it has been to fill manufacturing jobs. The gap in knowledge and experience between resources that are close to retiring and new hires is growing. This type of service helps bridge that gap. The CPM works shoulder-to-shoulder with client resources and helps them learn.
FE: What else is important that I didn’t ask?
Landeros: It is important to note that the CPM consistently delivers value that exceeds client expectations. We provide savings that make the resource practically pay for itself. We establish project management processes, formats, and documentation that clients can reapply internally. It is an investment to develop increased and sustainable capability in a client’s organization.
FE: How would a potential client get in touch?