Ask Lamb’s Facility Planner

With more than 23 years as Robert E. Lamb’s facilities planning engineer, Mike Schirling has helped solve a wide variety of facility and operational challenges over the years for our industrial and manufacturing clients.

Our holistic approach to planning optimizes the facility’s workflow both inside and outside the building. Mike follows Lamb’s methodical process, examining each step in the workflow for potential enhancements.

Learn from Mike’s experience addressing common facilities questions.

Do you have your own questions for Mike? Ask him!

What are some common mistakes that can be made when initially planning to build a new facility?

When initially planning a new facility, Lamb interviews the team to determine the process and needs of the facility. This can often start a dialogue between the client’s management and operations teams, which is imperative to make sure all team members understand the actual process flow. Without this total foundational understanding of the process, issues can arise when implementing new changes. The lack of a detailed layout defining operational, material and personnel flow is also a common miss when planning for a new or renovated facility. It is important to account for space for equipment operations, maintenance access, and material staging to and from the equipment. You also want to ensure expansion considerations for future growth are available.

Tell us about a time when a client didn’t properly plan. How can this be avoided?

There are many cases when a client doesn’t properly plan as it pertains to their project goals. This can result in adjustments made to scope and budgets, which can delay a project. When a client is hoping to move quickly on an urgent project, decisions are often made before a layout or plan has been approved. This can result in additional changes, time, and cost in the future. It is also important to account for all process flows and operations, with any additional storage space needed. Planning your current project for the future will set your facility up for optimal growth and expansions.

What are some of the biggest challenges our clients face in the industrial industry? How can Lamb help them?

Remaining cost competitive and budgeting are big challenges for the majority of our clients. There are often strict budgets that need to be met, which, in turn, can impact the final scope of a project. There is also no “cookie-cutter” solution for every client. Each client is different, and the process, flow, scope, and solution varies. Lamb works with the employees and examines the facility to determine their process and workflow, and assists in determining possible areas of improvements. We can help determine what is a feasible and attainable solution, while working with the client’s needs and budget considerations. Lamb also has all resources in-house, which makes working with our different disciplines very easy.

Do you have any tips for clients to stay abreast of the ever-changing industry trends?

It’s important to plan for the future. Trends, regulations, and needs change through the years. Planning and accommodating for these changes will make implementing them that much easier. Technology, for example, is constantly evolving and becoming more and more prevalent. Staying open-minded, while still prioritizing your facility’s and employee’s needs and expectations, is imperative. Always be willing to challenge the status quo. Just because you have been following a process for years, does not mean it is the most efficient or best process. Change can be good!

Can you describe any trends that you’ve seen over the years? Technology, layout preferences, ways of thinking, etc.?

Trends vary by company – and can especially vary when comparing larger companies to smaller companies. Larger companies are more likely to embrace newer technologies, due to their larger volumes and price justification. Smaller companies find it difficult to invest in technology. Most companies, however, attempt to operate on a lean manufacturing style. This is a process that flows from step to step, with minimal hand-off points and minimal on-hand inventory. This helps streamline the process and creates the simplest, most efficient way to manufacture a product. This process will vary from company to company, but is a good starting point for many companies to build on. During any renovation or process improvement, clients also want to maintain production. This usually means phased renovations or implementations are involved, so as not to disrupt the entire facility’s production.

What was the most memorable challenge you had on a project?

So many of the challenges on projects come from phasing in new equipment or processes while maintaining ongoing operations. Identifying the transition plan and staying flexible through that process is key. Ultimately, the challenge is understanding which pieces can be taken out of service, when they can be down, and where they can be temporarily relocated while work is going on. This involves our whole team, from Planning to Construction. Another memorable challenge was a client that had a list of ten “must-haves” in their building. Fitting these all in with minimal room for expansion and requiring integration with other existing operations was an interesting exercise. There were many iterations and changes to the plans as we worked to make everything fit in the most logical way.

What makes Lamb different?

Lamb becomes a partner with our clients. We become an extension of their team and collaborate with them to develop a solution to meet their goals. As we said before, there is no “cookie-cutter” solution. We work with our clients to determine the most feasible and realistic solution for them. We work with the team to generate plans that visually represent their vision. The ability to have all disciplines in-house makes our planning and decision-making easy and seamless, for both us and the client. As a small company with a family-like mindset, our client’s success is our success.

Do you have your own questions for Mike? Ask him!