Haskell employees working in distillery.

June 28, 2018

How to Build a Distillery | Step 2: Building the (Right) Team


Now that you’ve defined your business opportunity in Step One of our How to Build a Distillery series, it’s time to assemble your project execution team.

But this can’t be just ANY team.

For your project to succeed, you have to build the RIGHT team. Choosing the best group of subject matter experts to fulfill your goals is a simple, but critical task that can be broken down into four areas of focus.

  1. Identify Risks, Scale & Complexity

Sometimes, to figure out how to do something right, you have to take off the rose-colored glasses and look more closely at what could go wrong. Projects going over budget and beyond schedule are so common in the industry that it’s almost laughable. But what if your production line doesn’t work at all? What if your investment doesn’t yield any return? These risks are very real, but they’re also avoidable.

To subvert a crisis, start by ranking the most critical aspects of your project and, further, rank how likely it is that each of these risks will occur. For example, it’s far more likely to experience technical challenges when you’re creating a new product in large volume at a new location than when you’re making a small addition to an existing operation. The two most common, root causes of project failure are scale and complexity, so it’s critical to identify what could go wrong and how likely it is to happen.

  1. Assess You Capabilities

Ask yourself, “What expertise do I already have?”

You and your team certainly have experience and core competencies that make you great. You should map those skills and assets, and then compare them to the needs of your distillery project to see how they marry up to your risks.

But watch out ... you’ve got to be honest with yourself! Capital projects are not the same as operations, so the skill set required for each activity is different as well. A wise man once said, “A project has a beginning and an end, but operations is forever.”

For example, do you have the technical and project management skills required to mitigate the risks you identified in Step 1? To assess the project on a longer timeline we typically utilize the categories of Design, Procurement, Construction, and Startup (also known as: Think, Buy, Do, and Verify). Do you feel like you can perform each of these steps safely, efficiently, and with a high attention to quality? Knowing where your skills match up with these different project aspects will help you determine where you need to supplement your team with additional subject matter experts.

  1. Balance Your Workload

Now that you know what you CAN do, it’s time to decide what you SHOULD do.
You have a finite number of hours in a day. Your employees are on staff for a specific purpose. Is that purpose managing a capital project of this complexity? If the answer is yes, then keep on rocking! However, if you’re adding to an employee’s full plate or asking her/him to work beyond their intended purpose, be careful. A fully utilized resource will have to balance their priorities, so executing your expansion will certainly take away from other responsibilities.

  1. Fill the Gaps

After completing Steps 1-3, you should have a solid handle on your gaps. As mentioned in Step 3, Strategy, Project Management, Site Selection, Engineering, Procurement, Construction, and Startup are some good, basic categories to use in your gap analysis. If you have strategy and project management under control, then it is relatively simple to start sourcing vendors to fill those gaps.

But, if you find that you have knowledge gaps in all of these areas, an experienced, turnkey EPC or design-build vendor is likely your best bet (we happen to know one, if you need a reference).

Next: Dive Into the Details With Your Team
Once you have your team in place, your next step will be to suit up and dive into the details of your distillery design. We’ll jump in with you on the next post in our How to Build a Distillery series.

For more information, contact Haskell’s Beer, Wine & Spirits division leader, Anthony White.

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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