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Growing pains: New factory construction in Mexico

Daniel G. Little

We had a lot of new business coming in and no room left. It was time to build our second facility in Mexico.

After a lengthy negotiation, we purchased a good piece of property on fairly level ground. It was important that the lot be level, as the cost of excavation and disposal can be very expensive. The new property was also directly across the street from our existing facility, which was a huge bonus. There was an existing building on the property, which we renovated and moved into immediately. The building was 20,000 square feet but we needed at least 40,000 square feet for our current needs. We decided to build a new structure to the maximum square footage allowed by the industrial park, 110,000 square feet.

We contracted a Japanese firm to do the design and build, but I wanted to have my own representative to check the details and to make sure the contractors delivered what was quoted. I hired a civil engineer on a contract to monitor the construction.

Our engineer did a weekly report on the progress that detailed the work done and included photographs of the construction. I was able to use these reports to document our progress to our head office in Canada. The engineer would keep an accurate accounting of the bricks and other material used, the concrete poured and the work done. These records were used to check against the progress invoices from the contractor. Every invoice was reduced because the contractor was trying to invoice ahead or to overstate the amount of materials used.

The engineer also checked the quality of the materials coming on to the job site. He had test pours done on every load of concrete and had them tested at an independent laboratory to make certain that they met the specification. At one point, one of the contractors tried to use concrete mixed by hand in a wheel barrow. Our engineer put a quick stop to this. When the asphalt for the driveways and parking areas was laid, he had cores taken to ensure that we got the thickness and compaction that was required.

Our engineer also kept track of all the materials that were removed from the existing structure and arranged to auction this material off at the end of the project. The money received more than paid for his contract!

The new building was being built over top of the existing structure and we needed to stay in production throughout the construction. Our engineer coordinated the contractor's work with our production schedules and we never missed a shipment.

The project was finished on time and below budget. I credit having our own engineer watching the day to day activities with the great results. He paid for himself many times over and made the process painless to our production people as they only had one person to deal with.

Published or Updated on: October 1, 2008 by Daniel G. Little © 2008
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