The food and beverage industry in China is one of the fastest-growing in the world, controlling almost 700 billion U.S. dollars of the global share. This growth can be attributed to many factors, and one among them is rethinking how processing plants are built. Until a few years ago, businesses were running their production and manufacturing operations in minimally planned factories that focused only on output over sustainability and efficiency. It is only recently that businesses have started shifting their strategies, and are now investing in long-term and sustainable world-class facilities that focus not just on instant profitability but also on delivering greater efficiency for the long run.
David Zhou and Jim Costa, two experts in construction project management, witnessed this paradigm shift in the plant construction 16 years ago. They understood the need for reinventing the building standards, which in turn would help organizations in bringing more sustainability into their production and processing operations. Soon, their vision of delivering ‘global building standards at localized levels’ culminated in Solutions Engineering and Project Management (SEP), a complete engineering, procurement, and construction management (EPCM) company that was formed by the duo.
Today, as a consortium partner with The Haskell Company, Precision Distribution Consultants (PDC), PET Terra Systems (PTS), and others, SEP has undertaken and completed highly innovative projects throughout China. Along with food and beverage industry, SEP is also working extensively to build, enhance the building capability for the healthcare and pharmaceutical space which SEP sees as the next “big thing” in their category of EPCM.
Especially with the rise in healthcare problems among the citizens, there is an increasing focus on accelerating the construction of care centers in the country. Today, almost twothirds of the global cancer cases originate in China, and hence, there is a need to build cancer treatment facilities that can provide timely care to the patients. Alongside, assisted living is also gaining traction in the healthcare sector, which will necessitate quick and high-quality construction of nursing homes to accommodate and provide care for the aging population. “Owing to these trends, the Chinese government is increasingly focusing on localizing these high-priority projects to shorten their timelines while also minimizing the overall budget,” says Jim Costa, Co-Founder, Managing Director and Executive Administrative Project Leader at SEP.
And notably, the company’s global-standard EPCM services, ranging from design to construction permit and commissioning, are particularly crafted to raise the overall quality of building projects. SEP’s team of project managers and engineers live by the company’s motto, ‘Think Global, Work Local.’ Furthermore, by utilizing their wide-ranging experience and skillsets, SEP’s team supports its clients through every stage of their projects—from concept creation, designing, and costing, until its execution. For instance, SEP’s online sharing platform, acts as a link between all its functionalities, streamlining the document management and communication aspects of projects, thus ensuring that everyone involved in the project is on the same page. All the stakeholders—whether it is the SEP team, the client, or other suppliers—can effortlessly store documentation, manage presentations, and access several other functionalities through More importantly, the SEP platform can bring up to date, complete information regarding the projects directly to clients’ fingertips through the unique ‘client dashboard,’—eliminating any guesswork or delay.
This collaborative aspect of SEP goes beyond just connecting the different stakeholders of a project. For foreign companies investing in China, SEP also acts as a conduit that seamlessly guides them through the maze of government regulations and standards. The risk management services provided by SEP help clients to avert heavy penalties, fines, and even project shutdowns in some cases. Whether it is environmental violations or safety compliance, by working with SEP, business organizations can be assured that their approaches align with the compliance requirements, and thus, avoid the attention of regulatory authorities. Also, the company invests significant time and effort at project sites to facilitate a seamless workflow and eliminate any untoward incident. “In fact, in all the projects we have worked on, our safety record has been best in class,” remarks Zhengwei Li, senior project manager of SEP.
Quality is the defining virtue for SEP, as the company always goes above and beyond to exceed the expectations of its clients. “At the regional level, businesses can prove their compliance through the approval of the local design institute (LDI), but the real challenge is in meeting the global quality standard,” says David Zhou, Chairman and Executive Project Leader at SEP. This is where SEP excels, delivering hygienic and clean designs that often outperform client requirements. The company considers what the clients view as the gold standard for quality, whether it is some ideal facility in Japan or Europe, U.S. Based or even within China itself regardless, and calibrates its designs to suit the clients’ ideal requirements.
Such a personalized approach of SEP to meet the individual requirements has cemented its unique position as a corporate representative of the client. Even when the clients are partnered with other suppliers and service providers, SEP facilitates frictionless collaboration between all stakeholders. “Our goal is the same as that of the client; to deliver on time and within budget,” mentions Costa.
A case in point is an agricultural client of SEP, which had gotten into a sticky situation with a local authority. The client was facing a risk of compensation over two million dollars of funds to access the property. That was when they sought out SEP. The company enabled the client to save the two million dollars and help them get access to the property. Furthermore, SEP also managed their entire project well-within the specified time and budget, making the whole experience as seamless as possible for the client.
Such robust functionalities, and many more, offered by SEP, are making the company a go-to project management solution provider for organizations all across China. With food and beverage as the main focus and an expanding interest in healthcare, SEP’s next big step is the Automated Warehouse in Material Handling sector. “We have a ton of learning to do here but it’s a hill we want to climb” conclude David and Jim.
Driven by its motto of offering world-class quality standards locally, the company is poised to cement its name as a Greater China leader in process innovation and EPCM space soon.
Originally published in ConstructionTechReview