Sarah Cordell, right, a Project Engineer in Haskell’s Process Engineering Division, confers with Shawn Hubbard, Director of Process Manufacturing, at the company’s Jacksonville, Florida, headquarters. Cordell and others on the Haskell team have managed design of the new Starbucks roasting plant in Kunshan, China, 100% virtually.

February 21, 2022

Designing a Starbucks Roastery from Half a World Away

It's hard to imagine a better example of “Reimagining the Possible" than Haskell's work to create the expansive Coffee Innovation Park facility.


Editor’s note: February 20-26 is designated as National Engineers Week 2022. All week, is featuring innovating approaches across the disciplines that exemplify this year’s theme of “Reimagining the Possible.”

Conversations between Haskell and Starbucks began in August 2019 about the design and construction of a vast, state-of-the-art roasting plant in Kunshan, China. The facility would be the multinational coffee giant’s largest investment outside the United States and its first in China, its second-largest market.

Today is Day 3 of Construction Inclusion Week, an industry-wide effort to celebrate and amplify awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and to spearhead change. Haskell is proud to sponsor Construction Inclusion Week at the Ambassador level and to participate by highlighting each day’s theme. Today’s theme is Supplier Diversity.

Supplier diversity is a business practice that includes businesses owned by diverse individuals or groups in the procurement of goods and services. A diverse supplier is generally defined as a business that’s at least 51% owned and operated by individuals who are part of a traditionally underrepresented or underserved group.

In March 2020, Starbucks announced that it would open the new $130 million roasting facility as a part of its new Coffee Innovation Park. Haskell would manage and coordinate design of the building and equipment layout in conjunction with an in-country local design institute (LDI), as required by Chinese law, and work with Chinese partner SEP to manage construction.

Of course, March 2020 was also when COVID-19, already raging in China, overtook the world. But from the beginning, Starbucks was clear that it expected no pandemic-related delays, and despite continuous complications and historic travel restrictions, the project is on track to go vertical in Spring 2022, with equipment installation in the summer and fall before the first products ship throughout Asia in Q1 2023.

This week, Haskell commemorates Engineers Week 2022, the theme of which is “Reimagining the Possible,” and it’s hard to imagine a better example than the Coffee Innovation Park project, which has been designed and managed from the other side of the globe.

“This is our first design project with Starbucks, and it’s a significant opportunity for Haskell,” said Haskell Process Project Engineer Sarah Cordell, who has been on the project from the beginning. “It is definitely a challenge and requires us to take our ability to communicate to a higher level. Starbucks is also struggling to get its team members there. Everybody is on the same team as far as figuring out what’s best in a new environment.”

Starbucks has specified that the roasting facility include a sustainability focus on manufacturing advancements, smart supply-chain innovation and technology that will produce the world’s most energy- and water-efficient roasting operations. It hopes to meet LEED Platinum standards and China’s Three Star Green Building standards.

While the facilities team handed off an early-stage design to its Chinese counterparts, Haskell’s Process, Packaging and Automation teams took their design to 100%. Cordell has remained abreast of the project from its earliest days from the company’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, working collaborating remotely with constituencies worldwide.

In recent years, Haskell has chronicled dramatic instances, such as the award-winning Norwegian Cruise Line Cruise Terminal B at PortMiami, when it has employed Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) at never-before-seen levels. In the case of Starbucks, technology has allowed the engineering teams to design, develop and share calculations and produce construction documents remotely.

Cordell has regularly coordinated with team members from Haskell, Starbucks and numerous contractors and vendors in Seattle, Georgia, Wisconsin, Dallas, Jacksonville, China, Malaysia and Europe. Twelve-hour time differences have been a geographical given, and video calls at 4 a.m. Pacific or midnight Eastern have been a fact of life.

“It has required a lot more planning to get people together,” Cordell said. “No meeting time is good for everybody. Everyone has to work together and compromise.”

Cordell has coordinated with Malaysia-based Haskell engineers to determine whether they can travel to the construction site in China. Normally, Haskell would have engineers on site with the European manufacturer of the roasting equipment to review quality of workmanship and check for compliance with the design specifications, but most of that oversight is taking place virtually. Also, Cordell typically would visit the job site multiple times, including a longer stint toward the end of equipment installation and through commissioning, but she’ll remain domestic through the end of her first international project.

“I’m unlikely to go to China at all for this,” she said. “Doing everything remotely across the world is unique. We are going to install with supervision remotely for the first time. The completion of this project, with the first product coming out, will be huge for this team and Haskell.”

Haskell’s engineers excel at meeting complex challenges, even from halfway around the globe. Contact them to discuss your facilities needs.

Haskell delivers $2± billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,200 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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