Facility Flexibility

What is a Flexible Newspaper Facility and how does the Architectural Design team plan for the future?

The traditional approach to ultimate flexibility in the design of a flexible facility by Newspaper Architects has been to allow for additional space in the facility or the procurement of additional land such that the facility could be easily expanded in the future.  The additional space in the facility is planned into the process flow for equipment that is anticipated for the future and the site is planned to allow the building to expand in a logical direction such that the existing process is not disrupted.   This approach is not necessarily wrong or even misguided, but it can lead to spending capital dollars on infrastructure that may not be realized for 5 to 10 years.

In our capital deficient environment, is it right for any investment to sit idle for the foreseeable future?

As technology changes, is it really possible to accurately foresee the equipment needs of the future?

In designing a newspaper production facility or really any process intensive, light industrial facility the key to flexibility is maintaining options for the future, and evaluating all initial investments against the potential return.

Some key issues open to exploration:

Flexibility in the Process Flow:  The process flow and the associated equipment should be evaluated to allow the flow to be opened up in the future.  As one example the inserters could be oriented and installed in such a way that they are easily relocated or expanded.

Flexibility in Utility Infrastructure:  The utility provisions should be evaluated as to the ability to add capacity in the future as well as serve new or different pieces of equipment.  Utility routes should be arranged to allow relocation and additional service points.  Caution should be employed to avoid installing infrastructure with excess capacity where the initial service costs are higher due to the ultimate capacity.  In this case scalability is the key element.

Material longevity:  One element in expanding or retrofitting any facility is the evaluation of the facilities worth in expanding.  The selection of materials based on durability, clean-ability, and the ability to repair is paramount to this aspect.  In some cases decisions may be made to spend more at the outset to offset future repair or replacement costs.  When it is time to expand, it is important that the facility is worth expanding.

Although this is only a small sampling of the items to consider in Facility Flexibility, the overriding theme is not to have a finite plan for expansion, but to work to never preclude expansion.

– Todd Heirls

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