Make the move right Featured

9:01am EDT December 3, 2001
As most business owners know, there is often a point when a company experiences growing pains. These involve not having enough room to expand and having too much going on in the existing facility to be efficient.

Three years ago, this is exactly where Hopkins Printing found itself. We were faced with the dilemma of expanding or doing less business.

Doing less business was not an option. Therefore, we were left with the options of buying an existing facility and converting it into a printing plant or designing and building a new facility specific for our needs. We decided to build a new facility.

To continue to give our customers quality service and remain competitive and technologically savvy, developing a facility specific for printing plants was the best decision. However, I didn't want to rush into the building process and skip the planning. For two years, we researched and planned the expansion and move.

I worked with a consultant who specializes in printing plant layout and design. I discovered John Geis, consultant engineer, A.J. Geis & Associates, Chapel Hill, N.C., while reading his book, "Printing Plant Layout & Facility Design."

Since Geis is an expert in my field, he understood the competitiveness of printing firms and our technology requirements and was able to implement solutions to our specific needs. Geis did not just listen to my suggestions and comments -- he spent several hours working with managers and supervisors to gain an understanding of the current situation and the projected outcome.

After he reviewed the types of printing we were doing, Geis created a floor layout of the proposed plant and made cut-outs of our equipment, allowing us to see how each processing line would be set up and how printing projects would be transported from one operation to another. We also could see how it would be possible to place new equipment as we grew the business.

Throughout these discussions, we discovered our workflow needed a better design. We wanted our employees to work comfortably and efficiently, and believed there was room for improvement. Geis solved this problem by strategically placing the equipment and offices so they interact.

Building a new facility allowed for us to purchase the latest technology equipment, so the $5 million building project was accompanied by $3 million in new equipment.

I want the business to grow but I did not want to build a new facility every five years. Since I expect to add 50 positions over the next three to five years, I needed to make sure there was room to expand.

Geis was able to place our offices and equipment in areas that allow for expansion without upsetting the workflow. When the time comes to expand, I already know where we'll place the first phase.

If you are a business owner, I know you're thinking about the cost of a consultant. It cost us less than $8,000 to use one for this project. The cost of change orders can be expensive if changes are made once the project is started; it is more efficient to have a working model before starting.

The advantage of having consultants who are experts in your industry is that they bring the experience of others to your project. This type of consultant can share the successes and failures that he or she has witnessed. I firmly believe that working with a consultant increased my company's productivity 10 percent.

I also believe that if companies can design a useful and efficient building, they will get back the cost of the consultant many times over the original investment. Jim Hopkins is president of Hopkins Printing, a 24-year-old Columbus-based commercial printing firm. He can be reached at 509-1080 or jhopkins@hopkinsprinting.com.