Food Safety: Power of People, A 3-Part Series

When it comes to war, some decisions need to be made by troops on the ground. In the fast-paced environment of the battle zone, “in the moment” judgement of well-trained men and women is the best decision-making. The same methodology is that of our workers in America’s food factories. These troops on the ground in our food manufacturing atmosphere are acutely aware of the challenges facing the next product orders, plant intricacies, and workforce capabilities.

Industry Changes That Challenge Food Safety

The American food industry has faced consolidation and globalization. Corporate engineers oversee more and more factories, a responsibility that once belonged to the plant engineer or plant manager. America’s food factories are full of technology, innovation, and very profitable. However, as the food factory has increased in technology and complexity, it has also slowly lost its ability to determine its own destiny for food safety. Control of capital expenditures has been usurped to the corporate headquarters. Acquiring funding at the plant level to make necessary improvements or routine maintenance performances which seems like an exercise in red-tape.

A leaner than ever team of corporate engineers and supply chain professionals are tasked with overseeing capital spending for a portfolio of factories that is diverse in terms of geography and products. When food contamination and recalls are announced, the effects are very far reaching because we have a very fast-paced national distribution network. The effects of a breakout in food safety can be catastrophic by making members of the public ill. Particularly vulnerable are children and the elderly. Food producers face product recalls, closed restaurants, extermination of livestock, and damage to the public’s confidence in their brands.

Technology Impacts on Food Factories

The American food manufacturing environment has changed rapidly over the last 30 years. There was a time when the average worker in food manufacturing retired in their current position or as a supervisor overseeing that position. Today’s manufacturing environment faces a much higher challenge related to turnover of employees and talent. Automation is on the rise as machinery becomes more affordable and reliable. Yesterday’s plant workers performed manual jobs, where today machines are controlled by advanced computers. Is it any wonder that most packaging machines bear the name of a task once performed by human hands  (labeler, check-weigher, case erector, etc.)? This is not a bad thing for the food industry; the laborer has been replaced by the technician, the driver by the mechanic.

Knowledge of machines and IT systems is now the most prized skill set in the food factory workforce. Overall this influx of technology has been positive for food safety. The average customer of food and beverages may evaluate the calorie or nutritional content, but seldom do they ask themselves, “If I eat this, will I become ill?” This speaks volumes for the safety of our food producers and manufacturers; ultimately it’s a reflection on the skill of the people who labor to produce the food.

Citizens of developing nations do not enjoy the same confidence in their food supplies.

The “Power of People” Enhances Food Safety

It all starts with empowerment. First, we have to recognize the knowledge and expertise of our local plant employees. Facility plant engineers and operations staff should have a portion of their annual capital allocation in discretionary funds dedicated to enhancing product quality, sustainability, employee safety, and product safety. The plants can then implement the best solutions they can find locally.

Corporate engineers should study and evaluate the use of these discretionary funds from plant to plant and create a network of innovation. The effects then need to be communicated to all of the company’s factories. Creating this feedback loop is how we prevent empowerment from becoming abandonment. One thing we see a lot of food producers do is ask the engineering community, “What are others doing that we should be doing?” It seems that a lot of food producers don’t stop to ask themselves, “What are we doing well somewhere that we should be doing well everywhere?” That is the definition of best practice.

The Economy is Driven by Entrepreneurs and Innovators. Unleash Human Potential in the Food Factory

Our food factories are natural incubators for innovation and entrepreneurialism. The skill level of employees in our food factories is rising. Technology is increasing. The consumer’s knowledge and consciousness about nutrition, freshness, and quality is evolving, which is in turn challenging food producers to create better products. Intrinsic motivators are the most critical when needing the most from our food factory employees.

Leaders of food producing companies and food factories should be purposeful, efficient, creators ,and impactful in their approach to employee management.

Four Factors2



MATTHEW CHANG, PE Market Sector Leader, Food, Beverage & Consumer Products

Market Sector Leader Food, Beverage & Consumer Products

JIM COSTA Managing Director, Solution Engineering and Project Management CO., LTD

Managing Director, Solution Engineering and Project Management CO., LTD



















Weitz Presents at FA&M 2016: Tips & Tricks to Boost Your Project ROI

FA&M E-Blast 2016Understanding your company’s ROI is key to growing your business. Matthew Chang, PE will break down the partnership between engineering and finance, explain the finance basics of ROI and provide the guidelines for large capital projects.  Using his market expertise, Matthew will give his tips and tricks for boosting ROI on your approved projects and will explain how to utilize labor, logistics and savings data to drive efficient site selection.

Join Matthew Chang, PE as he presents Tips & Tricks: Boosting Your Projects ROI” at the Food Automation Conference, Monday, April 11th in the Solutions Theater, Track B at 3:00-3:30pm in Fort Myers, FL.

Matthew Chang, PE Market Sector Leader-Food, Beverage & Consumer Products

Matthew Chang, PE
Market Sector Leader, Food, Beverage & Consumer Products


Visit The Weitz Company at GEAPS Exchange 2016

The Weitz Company is excited to exhibit at the GEAPS Exchange in Austin, TX, Feb. 27-March 1, 2016.



The Weitz Company Completes Construction of Kindred Transitional Care Center

Kindred Image

The Weitz Company is pleased to announce the completion of Kindred Transitional Care Center in Phoenix, Ariz. Built near downtown Phoenix, Kindred is a 120 bed post-acute care facility focused on patient rehabilitation. The facility is a new three-story, 81,000 square foot structure dedicated to physical and occupational therapy.

The building character is hospitality-based, consisting of high-quality food service, salon and customer service. A major feature of the facility is the large multi-use courtyard for patient therapy and rehabilitation, dining, as well as garden spaces with a therapeutic focus. The design serves to unify and set design precedence to the existing medical campus with a primary focus on the building entry sequence, way finding and exterior features and landscaping.

“We are pleased to deliver our first project on behalf of Kindred,” said Chris Harrison, executive vice president and leader of Weitz’s Phoenix office. “Weitz has a long-standing track record in the health care market, which has given us a unique perspective on the requirements and standards to complete this facility to their expectations. We look forward to future opportunities to team with Kindred.”

Selected as the design-builder, The Weitz Company teamed with BDP, SmithGroupJJR, TD Industries, and Wilson Electric.

Bi-Annual Senior Housing Construction Cost Data Available


The American Senior Housing Association (ASHA) and leading national construction firm The Weitz Company have published the results of their bi-annual Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) and Senior Housing Construction Cost Data Special Issue Brief.

This latest research reveals material prices are down slightly for the year. However, skilled labor continues to be an issue. The labor shortage is causing some contractors to turn down work or be very selective about the projects they pursue.

“The effect of this skilled labor shortage is significant, as we have seen the selling price for construction services increase nearly 10 percent this past year,” said Larry Graeve, senior vice president – Senior Living, The Weitz Company. “For the coming year, we anticipate a more moderate increase of 3 to 5 percent.”

The Weitz Company is one of the largest and most established construction managers of senior living facilities in the United States. Weitz’s specialized team has a proven track record in new construction, as well as renovations and repositionings in occupied senior living communities. Weitz works closely with the designers and operators to build communities that keeps residents’ wants and needs in mind, while maximizing the client’s investment.

 About the CCRC and Senior Housing Construction Cost Data Special Issue Brief  

The bi-annual CCRC and Senior Housing Construction Cost Data Special Issue Brief is released every Summer and Winter, and is based on nation-wide data of senior living projects under construction or completed by The Weitz Company. Costs are full burden and include general conditions, insurance, tax, bond and fee, but exclude site construction costs. The costs are based on a city index of 100. Each city carries a different index. These indices, coupled with local market conditions, are essential when comparing overall pricing.


Senior Living Cost Brief Winter 2016

+ Full Burden: Costs are full burden and include general conditions, insurance, tax, bond and fee, but exclude site construction costs. The above costs are based on a city index of 100. Each city carries a different index, for example: Shreveport, LA has an index of 83.1, which translates to a cost range of $104-$134 per SF for Independent Living; Chicago, IL has an index of 117.6, which translates to a cost range of $147-$189 per SF for Independent Living. These indices coupled with local market conditions are essential when comparing overall pricing.

+ Mid-Level: Generally wood-framed with standard amenities and finishes, typically targeting the moderate income senior

+ High-Level: Generally steel or concrete construction with high-end finishes and luxury amenities, typically targeting the higher income senior