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Lee Chapman is a Director of Arctica Ltd. Arctica is a multidisciplinary practice specialising in architecture, process engineering, project, and cost management for the food processing, storage, and distribution sectors. His experience includes pre-and-post contract cost management, and quantity surveying services for new build facilities, refurbishment, and process line extensions.
One business success
- Arctica worked in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University to deliver their National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering. Arctica acted as advisor to Dr Martin Howarth (director of the new facility) as well as Architects supporting BAM construction who delivered the construction of the facility to the strict requirements of BIM Level 2. The Centre is designed to tackle food industry challenges such as productivity, producing more with less, minimising waste and reducing costs. It supports the food and drink industry by providing state-of-the-art food production facilities where new processes and equipment can be developed and tested, as well as creating a knowledgeable workforce with experience in leading engineering systems and processes.
Two challenges for the sector
- In the current economic climate, we have seen over the second and third quarters of 2020 a dramatic fall in the number of design-led opportunities from food manufacturers. This is compounded by some of the larger opportunities being won by larger contractors offering clients a turnkey solution without necessarily having the food expertise and industry knowledge. In the meantime, those SMEs with technical experience are being overlooked.
- Over the last 18 months the increase in premiums for professional indemnity insurance (PII) for businesses that have a design basis, has increased by 400%. For an SME it is now the cost of a senior manager's salary! The driving force behind this is Grenfell and the collapse of Carillion, which has resulted in the PII market not being attractive to insurers and the pool available has shrunk considerably over the last 12 months. This means that in some instances designers are offering limited indemnity to clients, probably without their knowledge.
Three forecasts for the sector
- Covid-19 is making clients consider the future and what the new normal will look like. As a result, some clients are asking us to consider the conceptual arrangements to maintain Covid-19-friendly changing and amenity facilities. The changing facilities of a food factory are a critical success factor in achieving the hygiene standards required in a food production facility and are complex and time-consuming to get right so need to be carefully planned.
- Demands for automation will increase over the next 12 months, as Covid-19 has caused significant disruption to labour availability. Automation utilising robotic picking and packing can bring efficiencies to many processes and also help to drive down costs, However, automation takes up more floor space, so again needs to be carefully planned.
- Working from home has become the new normal for many people and over the Covid-19 period to date, we have seen a number of business benefits without too many operational concerns. The downsides have been the restriction of effective business marketing/networking opportunities, limited contact time for one-to-one mentoring of staff, and maintaining the mental wellbeing of the office as a whole. Revised management processes and technology have helped us to mostly overcome these challenges like everyone else, and whilst we look forward to getting back to as close to normal as quickly as possible, we don’t foresee going back to doing what we did before in the same way, even if that proves to be possible.