Closing a food & beverage factory – the complexities of decommissioning and managing risks

Building Foundation

Factory decommissioning and the consolidation of smaller food production plants into larger, more cost-effective facilities is a complex process. While shifting production to a new location can reduce costs, the process involves more than just moving equipment.

June 6, 2024

Decommissioning a facility presents numerous challenges and risks, many of which are often overlooked during the planning phase. Recognizing, assessing, and planning for these business risks is crucial before beginning any decommissioning activities, whether the facility is being dismantled, demolished, sold, or returned to the landlord for future use.

NIRAS has significant experience managing site decommissioning projects, particularly in the food and drink sector. NIRAS have handled several large projects in this industry, developing a refined methodology that incorporates best practices.

Phil Colquhoun, Business Unit Director at NIRAS UK who has led several rationalisations of manufacturing operations and subsequent closures commented:

“Companies should conduct a comprehensive review of all building aspects well before decommissioning. This ensures necessary resources are identified and critical data is retained. Proper documentation of all assets, along with ensuring the availability of essential spare parts, change parts, and operating manuals, is crucial.”

Effectively managing the disposal of plant and machinery can help companies realize the full value of these assets, potentially offsetting decommissioning costs and making the overall project cost-neutral.

If the plant is being relocated, it is vital to have a robust, well-communicated, and safe plan for dismantling and transportation. Additionally, occupiers must evaluate the risk of residual chemicals that may have leaked into the ground and identify hazardous materials like asbestos. Licensed experts should be engaged to dispose of hazardous waste when necessary.

Vacated sites can attract criminals, especially if valuable assets such as production line machinery remain. They can also become hazardous "playgrounds." There is a duty of care to prevent anyone, including trespassers, from sustaining injury on the site.

Thorough planning is paramount. A well-planned site decommissioning can prevent a business from incurring expensive maintenance bills and other liabilities for an unused site.

NIRAS offers engineering design, project management, and technical consulting services to clients in the food and beverage, brewing, life sciences, and manufacturing industries. They also assist companies in developing low-carbon strategies through to a dedicating compliance & health and safety team to review factory operations are safe and controlled including machinery assessments, CE Marking and explosive atmosphere reviews (ATEX/DSEAR). Please get in touch to find out more.

Reach out

Matthew Hidderley

Matthew Hidderley

Sales & Marketing Director (UK)

Burton upon Trent, United Kingdom

+44 7770 624 786

Matthew Carr

Matthew Carr

Business Unit Director

Kegworth, United Kingdom

+44 (0) 1509670850

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