Archives: Blogs

The Austin Consulting Blogs

That’s a Wrap – Food Packaging Basics

That’s a Wrap

Good packaging doesn’t just happen; it’s designed and delivered. And even a well-designed package requires a significant investment in quality equipment to fill, close, label, inspect and case the product. This section presents a brief overview of the major items associated with the package and the packaging system.

A Well-Designed Package

Good packaging doesn’t just happen; it’s designed and delivered. And even a well-designed package requires a significant investment in quality equipment to fill, close, label, inspect and case the product. This section presents a brief overview of the major items associated with the package and the packaging system.

A Well-Designed Package

A well-designed package must achieve several goals simultaneously. First, it must protect the product from environmental factors that degrade product quality. Second, it should complement the use of the product. Third, it must present the product in a desirable and appealing fashion. Fourth, it has to survive the rigors of the distribution system. Fifth, and last, it has to “go the distance” until the product is consumed.

Three Packaging Types

The primary package is the package that a single-serving or standard amount of the product comes in. A secondary package is typically a carton or a case that encloses a bundle or grouping of primary containers. Tertiary packaging typically refers to pallets, slip sheets, and stretch wraps that deliver unit loads to a warehousing environment.

Primary Packaging

The major environmental factors contributing to product degradation are light, oxygen, moisture, and heat. The selection of barrier properties in the primary package is critical to ensuring that the package protects the product. The design of the package may influence how the product is dispensed and stored in the consumer’s household. Whether the product is designed for multiple-use delivery or single-serve (one-time) dispensing, package shape, closure, and ability to reseal completely are all important to consider. Eye-catching graphics, the use of color, and the shape of the package all contribute to the appeal of the product and the package. It should come as no surprise that the package can oftentimes be one of the best means for encouraging a trial purchase.

Secondary Packaging

Keeping the package intact until the point of sale is a job in itself. Efficient systems for grouping, bundling, and stacking products for shipment are critical to successful operations. But not all approaches are equally effective, nor does any single approach apply in all circumstances. A system tailored to handle the primary package while delivering protection against abrasion, puncture, crushing, and dropping damage is a critical part of the mix. And, while it’s possible to make an outer container that’s impervious to these challenges, it’s always a tradeoff between protection and easy-opening features that improve product acceptance.

In many warehouses and “club” stores, the secondary packaging is partially opened and serves as a display unit for the product. It’s also common to see products that are being promoted shipped in specially-designed display cases, which are types of secondary packaging.

Tertiary Packaging

Before the rise of warehouse and “club” stores, most products were shipped in brown, corrugated cases stacked upon wooden pallets. The pallet load was typically tied together with string or tape to help build a stable pallet load.

In the last twenty years, this delivery system has been severely challenged by the club and warehouse stores, who object to the large amount of corrugated material that has to be removed and disposed of. As a result, a combination of display-ready cases integrated with plastic stretch-wrapping material has become more commonplace.

Some retailers require the inclusion of RFID (radio frequency identification) tags on the external pallet load. RFID tags are small microchips that may be applied to either a pallet load or, in some instances, individual cases so that automated equipment may scan, identify, record, and track incoming and outgoing shipments without the need for visual identification methods.

Designing the System

It’s in the selection, installation, and start-up of equipment where the “rubber meets the road.” The design and implementation of the packaging system usually involve trade-offs among operational speed, crewing levels, and material supply issues. Layout is strongly impacted by material handling and operator line-of-sight requirements. Operator skill-set requirements, training, and the control system interface may significantly impact overall line efficiency and reliability.


Recent advances in automation, control, and changeover tooling have all tended to reduce the need for operators to full-time monitor packaging machinery. However, we’re still far from the “lights out” factory of the future once predicted in the early 1980s.

Fewer crew means more emphasis on communication and line-of-sight control. This factor is often overlooked in the design of high-speed lines. Operator response times are significantly improved if operators can communicate both visually and verbally with each other and if they can see upstream and downstream disturbances in product flow through the line. Building layouts that include intervening walls and/or different operating floor levels may oftentimes be necessary for biological or processing reasons, and they can create operator inefficiencies. Where walls must be installed, adequate windows should be provided, and communication systems between operators have proven effective in multi-level operations.

Material Handling On-line

Another critical component of line design is allowing for adequate access and delivery of packaging materials and supplies, plus the removal of generated waste and trash. Having adequate traffic aisles and “staging” areas immediately adjacent to usage points is critical for the proper operation of the line. If travel distances from storage to use points are especially long, delays in restocking the line (and resulting downtime) may be expected. It’s also critical to anticipate where and when a catastrophic failure of a downstream component might require an expedient way of disposing of a large amount of product. For example, in a baking operation, over 30 minutes of production may be in transit through the ovens. If the downstream portion of the line were to “shut down,” the product must be cleared from the line to prevent burning or loss of product. Appropriate accumulators, dropouts, and diverters should be positioned to assist in this situation.

Automation and Training

While there have been significant improvements in automation and control systems over the years, it ultimately comes down to competent, trained, and motivated operators and line personnel. The design of the packaging line cannot be solely focused on equipment selection and throughput. Consideration around operator requirements, control system complexity, and the availability and adequacy of training programs must all be built into the packaging system from the beginning and not as an afterthought.


Packaging system designs must take all of these goals and factors into account while delivering cost-effective and efficient systems with a high degree of reliability and safety. Putting systems like this together is both an art and a science.

The Austin Company Attends SelectUSA

Select USA 2023

The Austin Company, including Austin’s site selection consulting arm, attends the SelectUSA, May 1-4, 2023. This year’s event is being held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD. Join us at booth #935 to learn more about how Austin can help you with all your site selection and Design-Build needs.  

SelectUSA is a U.S. government program led by the U.S. Department of Commerce that focuses on facilitating job-creating business investment in the United States and raising awareness of the critical role that economic development plays in the U.S. economy. Since its inception, SelectUSA has facilitated more than $91 billion in investment, creating and/or retaining over 115,000 U.S. jobs.

Hosted by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo, notable speakers presenting at the conference include Cabinet members, U.S. governors, thought leaders, and C-suite executives from U.S. and global companies. The event features business and networking opportunities for participants committed to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Austin looks forward to leading the way in helping companies gain a foothold in the U.S. market.


Jim Cathcart, General Manager

Matt Eddleman, Senior Vice President of Operations

Kylee Garretson, Sit Location Consultant

Johnathan Gemmen, Senior Vice Presdient of Operations

Lynn Huff, Director of Project Planning

Matt Poreba, Director, Austin Consulting

Brandon Talbert, Managing Director, Austin Consulting

Tamara Zupancic, Director of Marketing and Communications

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Process, Material Handling & Storage Considerations

For a Food Plant project to be successful, it must be planned from the inside out, beginning with a careful analysis and documentation of the processing, packaging, and storage operation requirements. The full range of products and their packaging to be produced must be identified along with a definition of the required capacity for each. Thorough documentation of this basic information is critical so that specialized technical and procurement personnel working on design and construction maintain contact with the essential areas of focus of the project.

The tools and data usually used to define the products and processes include:

  • Product Family and SKU Lists, including packaging requirements.
  • Raw material specifications and physical property data.
  • Packaging and Labeling materials specifications and physical data.
  • Finished Product data sheets, specifications, and physical property data.
  • Process Flow Diagrams and P&IDs in the case of automated processes.
  • Material Balances and line capacity calculations.
  • Peak week work schedules.
  • Equipment Lists, including utility requirements.
  • Staffing assignments by department, by shift, and by gender.
  • Preliminary or final HACCP and product quality specifications.
  • Preliminary Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs).

The planning activity must include many important operational factors to ensure a good outcome.

  • Seasonality of supply and demand.
  • Sensible inventory levels for raw materials, packaging materials, and finished products.
  • Flexibility to meet changing market conditions – especially with retail packaging.
  • Provisions for future expansion and potential automation.
  • Growth in requirements for food safety and security coming from customers and regulatory agencies.
  • Evaluation of options for mechanized material handling and automation.
  • Provisions for handling of allergens, special? materials, re-work, returns, and by-products.
  • Definition of environmental control requirements (air emissions, wastewater treatment).
  • Definition of Ergonomic and Worker Safety issues.
  • Determine the level of automation desired.

The design of physical spaces for processing, packaging, and storage operations must be based on an intimate knowledge of the manufacturing, quality, and food safety requirements. Many critical factors must be evaluated, including:

  • Environmental and sanitation requirements to determine appropriate materials for construction.
  • Isolation of incompatible activities.
  • Dividing the plant up into distinct “hygiene zones” and isolation process areas handling allergens.
  • Provisions for and segregation of traffic (people, raw materials, wheeled vehicles & carts, trash movements).
  • Control of airflow and room pressurization by hygiene zone and make-up air quality.
  • Ease of cleaning equipment and interior surfaces.
  • Ease of maintaining the equipment.
  • Installed equipment and services for sanitation, COP, and CIP.

When a plan for processing, materials handling, and storage is developed, the following documentation needs to be carefully reviewed and approved by management and critical operations, quality, and sanitation personnel to give the building and utility design professionals a well-defined starting point for facility design.

Master Equipment List

  • Equipment and room layouts for processing spaces.
  • Rack or stack layouts for storage spaces.
  • Processing areas room finish schedule.
  • Plant-wide traffic + workflow diagrams or layouts.
  • Plant-wide airflow diagrams.
  • Plant-wide Hygiene Zone definitions.
  • Criteria for welfare activities.
  • Criteria for support spaces (control rooms, labs, chemical storage, COP rooms, etc.)

Project Design – A Step-Wise Approach

In the Planning step of developing the design for what a new food processing facility will be, it is of critical importance to develop an initial project team comprised of management, production personnel, and engineering support staff to begin looking at the issues involved in developing an exemplary process flow, required equipment lists, warehousing needs, and square footage requirements.

Once the essential planning is completed, a Conceptual Design and Order of Magnitude Cost Estimate should be developed, typically with an accuracy range of 25-30%, where all major cost issues can be examined and discussed before moving forward with further design activities.  Once the Conceptual Design is approved, a Milestone Schedule should be developed and the entire project reviewed by the project team to ensure that the four critical areas of project control – Scope, Cost, Time, and Quality – have been addressed and performance guidelines established.

Based on the planning work and approval thereof, design and engineering can be advanced to the 30% to 50% range by discipline to support the development of a detailed cost estimate and a comprehensive project schedule before proceeding with the final design, engineering, equipment procurement, and construction.

Now that we’ve briefly discussed the “how” of a food plant design, let’s take some time to look at what goes on inside and some critical areas and issues that need to be considered:

Food processing facilities are generally designed to either process a grown or harvested product (such as a coffee roasting plant, dairy, or meat) or to assemble various ingredients from diverse sources into a “manufactured” food product (such as a confectionery, baking, or ready-meals plant). In most cases, plants will be designed to produce a single product or a group of related products.

As stated in our introduction, the U.S. food and beverage industry is one of the most regulated entities in the world. Its basis is legislation enacted as the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which provides for the regulation of all food and pharmaceuticals produced in the U.S. In addition to federal laws, many states and municipalities have additional requirements.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are the two federal agencies charged with regulating the food industry. The USDA oversees all meat and poultry-related operations, while the FDA looks out for everything else, including seafood. Recently these two governing agencies have been combined based on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Today, many additional (and not always coordinated) requirements or guidelines are overlaid on the US Government requirements by industry consensus, customers, or foreign trade protocols.


Global Food Safety Initiative.

FDA or USDA Draft Guidance.

Typical Process Facility Areas

Depending on the food processed, a typical food manufacturing facility may contain many or all of the following functions, each with its particular requirements:


Raw materials are often received in large quantities and deposited into bulk storage. Materials received this way can include liquid ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup and milk or solids such as meat, flour, or corn meal. In some instances, raw materials are received in the solid (bulk) form and then converted to liquid storage for use in the manufacturing process (such as milk chocolate). Some raw materials and most packaging materials arrive on pallets, while others may arrive in reusable totes and bulk containers.

Raw Material Holding

Occasionally, raw materials need to be segregated before being released into the manufacturing cycle, allowing the materials to be tested for bacteria or impurities before being processed. Fresh or frozen products must be segregated in refrigerated storage areas to prevent cross-contamination, especially raw materials such as meat products. Sometimes, tempering rooms, which allow frozen ingredients to thaw safely before processing, are necessary. Dry storage areas of adequate size are still needed for materials not requiring refrigeration.

Process Preparation – Grinding, Mixing, Batching, and Blending

Almost all raw materials will need some preparation before being utilized in the manufacturing process; a plant needs adequate space and flow to de-palletize, debag, sort, weigh and measure materials. Incoming raw materials may need to be cleaned, washed, or sanitized. These “holding areas” can also be used as a weighing and pre-batch area for “minor” ingredients (i.e., flavorings, colorants, etc.) which may need to be added to the product being manufactured.

Baking, Smoking, Cooking, and Cooling

Processes that can take place in these areas include an extensive array of thermal processes, including baking, cooking in kettles, frying, broilers, retorts, food processing ovens (batch and continuous linear), and sous vide cooking equipment. The product is almost always cooled, chilled, or frozen immediately after heating using mechanical or cryogenic cooling.  Some chilled products may be classified as “ready-to-eat” or “ready-to-cook” food products.


Products are packaged for retail or food service. The range of possibilities is extensive and ever-changing, including but not limited to horizontal roll stock, vertical form fill seal (VFFS), various tray loading, cartooning, aseptic, and flow wrapping, to name a few. Capabilities sometimes are needed for club packs and variety packs, which add complexity. Some products may be pasteurized after packaging, but many must be handled under strict hygienic conditions until hermetically sealed in packages. Collating packages and manually or automatically loaded into cases, case labeling, and manual or automated palletizing conclude this activity.


Although many products may be loaded directly into trucks, some plants will require storage areas for processed foods. One issue that all food processors deal with is that the longer a product stays in storage, the shorter its shelf life will be when arriving into commerce. Assumptions on the product mix and days of storage required for receiving, work-in-process, dry storage, and finished goods must be agreed upon at the beginning of the design. Some storage areas, such as those for ice cream, meat, and other perishables, need refrigeration. As regulations apply, employees may use the storage area to test finished products before distribution.


Loading onto rail cars or trucks is usually done via fork trucks or pallet jacks. In some instances, “pre-staging” of entire loads will take place at the shipping dock, with those loads then automatically transferred to the shipping vehicle.

Winter Construction Safety Guide

Winter Construction Safety Guide

While March can conjure Spring-like images, this time of year can still deliver a wintery weather mix. Therefore, it’s important to stay vigilant and take extra steps to ensure your construction site is well-prepared for the cold weather.  

In this blog post, we provide tips on keeping a construction site safe and secure during winter. From protecting workers from the elements to equipment care, we’ll cover tips for running a safe job site.  

Stay hydrated.  

While dehydration is most often associated with summer, you can become dehydrated just as quickly in winter. The body doesn’t get as hot and sweat evaporates more rapidly in the cold air. Thus, we can be tricked into thinking we aren’t losing fluids as rapidly.  

In cold weather, the body’s thirst response is diminished (by up to 40 percent) even when dehydrated. This happens because our blood vessels constrict when cold to prevent blood from flowing freely to the extremities, enabling the body to conserve heat by drawing more blood to its core. The body is fooled into thinking it is adequately hydrated. As a result, you don’t feel as thirsty, and your body doesn’t conserve water. 

Workers should wear layers whenever necessary, including an insulating, moisture-wicking base, and follow with waterproof outer layers. Wearing extra clothing helps your body conserve heat. But the added weight can make the body work between 10 and 40 percent harder producing more sweat and contributing to fluid loss. 

In cold weather, we lose more fluids through respiratory water loss. For example, when you can see your breath, that’s water vapor that your body is losing. The colder the temperature and the more intense the physical labor, the more moisture you lose when you breathe. 

Many construction workers turn to coffee to help them get through their shifts. However, drinking caffeinated beverages in winter conditions should be avoided. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages can increase workers’ heart rates, making them feel falsely warm. Instead, encourage workers to drink water or sports-type drinks to replace depleted electrolytes and to stay hydrated.

 Know the warning signs.  

Winter conditions can expose workers to severe health problems, including hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot. Shivering, clumsiness, lack of coordination, and slurred speech or mumbling are symptoms of hypothermia. If a worker exhibits any signs of illness or injury, emergency help must be called immediately. 

To prevent hypothermia, wear insulated, waterproof boots with extreme traction, warm socks and hats, and gloves with grips to safely handle equipment.  

Inspect the site.

When winter storms roll in, you must inspect your construction sites for downed power lines and trees before allowing workers to begin work. Remove snow and ice from walking and working surfaces, including all walkways, roofs, scaffolding, and ladders. Use salt or sand to melt icy patches and improve traction for workers. Mark areas that can’t be cleared. Remind workers to slow down and take shorter steps to avoid slips and falls. Knock off icicles that have formed or cordon off areas to prevent workers from accidentally breaking them loose and creating falling object hazards.

Be mindful of slight shifts in temperature. 

It isn’t only when severe weather is predicted that you need to stay alert. Morning dew can change into afternoon ice with a slight shift in temperature. Clearing snow and ice from walking surfaces and spreading deicer as quickly as possible helps to prevent slips, trips, and falls.  


Your feet are particularly susceptible to cold weather. This is because you lose more body heat through your feet than through your legs, arms, or torso. In addition to causing discomfort, cold feet can cause other problems, such as blood flow loss and frostbite in extreme cases. 

Wearing insulated boots with a good grip keeps your feet warm and gives you the traction you need to traverse through snow and ice.Wool socks are a good choice because they minimize the heat that escapes your feet.  

Keep your feet dry. Moisture encourages the release of heat. This is why our bodies sweat when we are hot. Heat will escape from your feet more quickly if your feet get wet.  

Have several pairs of gloves. 

Like feet, hands are an extremity that can receive less blood flow in cold weather. Switching out your gloves before you feel the moisture seeping through the material will prevent your hands from becoming cold.  

Protect your joints.

In cold weather, your body protects organs by rerouting blood from your arms and legs to your core. A slight difference in blood flow affects your joints. Dressing in layers can help keep your joints warm and protected during the cold winter. This is because layers trap heat around the joint, providing added warmth and cushioning.  

Take smaller steps.

While walking on icy surfaces, take smaller steps. Smaller steps reduce the backward and forward forces, stabilizing your movement. This helps prevent you from slipping or falling.  

Prepare by packing. 

Keeping the cold weather items mentioned in this blog in your vehicle is a good idea. You will be better prepared on the job site and on the road. Weather can turn on a dime. Being fully stocked could save your life.

Protecting equipment.  

Rechargeable batteries used to run saws, drills, flashlights, and even some demolition tools should never be left out in cold weather. Below 40 degrees, lithium-ion batteries won’t hold a charge, and leaving them out in freezing temperatures can permanently reduce run time. Don’t store these in an unheated shop or your truck toolbox when freezing weather threatens. 

Air-driven power tools such as DA sanders and nail guns rely on seals, O-rings, and lubrication to function correctly. When cold temps turn these materials brittle or cause the lubrication to gel, they won’t fire properly and may become permanently damaged. Storing them inside is recommended. 

Air compressors will accumulate moisture over repeated exposure to rising and falling temperatures. Drain the compressor at the end of every day and use air hoses that remain flexible in the cold.   

Repeated cold, thaw cycles can create small, temporary air leaks between the rim and sidewalls of your truck and equipment tires. Over the course of a few days, this can lead to a loss of as much as 20 to 40 percent of the air pressure in your tires. Check your tires after the first hard cold snap and adjust the psi if necessary. Cold weather can also make tires brittle and more prone to damage, so tread lightly in operation. 

At Austin, we believe in safety first because people are always the highest priority on a construction site.   

To learn more about our commitment to safety – 

Two Books and a Podcast that Inspires Service, Leadership, and Purpose.

Two Books and a Podcast That Inspire

Work is Love Made Visible

“Truly inspiring, transformative leadership requires the wisdom to understand that the overarching role of business is to serve people. To give them what they need to do their jobs and smooth the edges of their days. To bring them joy. To relieve their suffering. To give them the essential tools and hope that will empower them to step into the best versions of themselves. To ease their loneliness and isolation.” Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40.

These profound words come from Ridge’s essay in the book Work is Love Made Visible, a collection of essays about work, leadership, and purpose. There are few books I have highlighted more than this one. The title—Work is Love Made Visible—comes from a quote by Kahlil Gibran, who wrote about the importance of working with joy and love. I suggest this book as required reading for anyone interested in how their role impacts work, organizations, and society.

By serving people, Ridge does not differentiate between employees and customers or society at large. What if we started the day with Ridge’s mission in our head, “What can I do today to serve people?” I believe this one question can affect how we think about our jobs and how we approach our role in our companies, families, and communities. Ridge does not differentiate the kinds of work leaders do either. Regardless of the type of work, corporate, non-profit, government, or volunteer as a leader, if you value being of service to others—some call this servant leadership—you will find greater joy in your work. Those you serve will be inspired to be of service also.

Organizational Life Cycles

I found another impactful approach to work in Organizational Life Cycles by Ichak Adizes. I first read this book several years ago, and I keep coming back to it to assess how I am leading Austin. Adizes theorizes that there are four stages to an organizational life cycle: startup, growth, maturity, and decline. He explains that the startup and growth phases are energized by the ultimate mission of serving people in some way or another. Maturity occurs when the organization has been stabilized by its structure, processes, policies, and procedures to enable proper governance and effective utilization of resources. Decline is the result of an organization existing to serve itself. Its purpose is more about sustaining its bureaucracy than serving the people it was created to serve.

For Adizes, serving people is what defines great organizations and effective leadership. To avoid decline, he suggests organizations create a rebirth that reconnects the organization with its original purpose or a renewed one. When the organization embraces the change required to reignite the passion that fueled the growth phase, it can rekindle its excitement about the future.

The Way I Heard It

I have also been listening to The Way I Heard It, a podcast by Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy. Rowe is a champion for the joy of work and the feeling of self-satisfaction that comes from a day of hard work. His podcasts are both entertaining and enlightening. He has hour-long interviews with people ranging from his mother, Peggy Rowe, who became a New York Times best-selling author for the first time in her late 70s, to an interview with a guy who scuba dives in the frozen Bering Sea to mine for gold. Whether it Is a Dirty Jobs segment or the exploration of the source of an innovation or impactful research, Rowe continually explores why work is important beyond the monetary benefits.

The common thread through these pieces of content is that work should be rewarding psychologically, mentally, and emotionally. When organizations mature, they tend to become bureaucratic. This is the point at which the “why” of the organization changes from its original purpose of serving people to serving its own existence. And, it is when leaders of people devolve into managers of structure. For those who derive joy from fulfilling the purpose of their work and serving people and not just the organization, this can become demoralizing.

There is a direct connection between leadership and the ability of an organization to truly serve the people in its sphere. The challenge is to make a connection that is sustainable and grows. Effective leaders do not exert power over people. Rather, they empower people to serve those in their sphere in the most authentic way.

This is fine, but how do you avoid the decline that Adizes predicts in his model? How do you create the environment Ridge envisions and foster the contentment Rowe reveals? How do you avoid stagnation, complacency, and bureaucracy? The answer lies in staying connected to the people you are there to serve.

If a company’s values truly represent the organization, and you—the leader— stay true to those values, you will see those values everywhere you turn.

In closing, I challenge you to be open and humble enough to consider your role and impact on those you serve and manifest an environment where your work fosters satisfaction, joy, and accomplishment. Lead so people find joy in their work and you just.may discover this is where your own joy is found.

Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power, but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those who are led. The most essential work of a leader is to create more leaders.

Mary Parker Follett

Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you. 

Peter Drucker

Our most valuable currency is relationship, emotional capital, without which we have nothing

and accomplish nothing.

Susan Scott


Christopher Elden Project Executive
Christopher Elden, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Christopher Elden, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, an executive with over 30 years of experience in management and operations, joins The Austin Company. Elden will serve as Project Executive for Austin’s aerospace and defense work out of the company’s new office in Merritt Island, Florida. 

“We are extremely excited to have Chris Elden join our National Aerospace Executive Leadership Team, supporting our collective efforts to be the most trusted partner for complex and challenging projects,” said Jim E. Cathcart, National Accounts Director. 

“Austin has done work in Florida for decades and looks forward to the growth of this market bolstered by the expertise of professionals like Chris,” said Senior Vice President of Operations Matt Eddleman. 

Elden graduated from the University of Arizona, earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and is a certified LEED Associate Professional (LEED AP).  The Austin Company is a full-service, design-build company offering site location consulting, design, engineering, and construction. Headquartered in Cleveland, Austin has offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Irvine, California; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Merritt Island, Florida; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and London, United Kingdom.  The Austin Company is a subsidiary of Kajima USA.


Florida Office

In response to Florida’s booming aerospace and defense industry and the need for our clients to have the best-in-class design-build company close at hand, The Austin Company announced the opening of a new office in Merritt Island, Florida.

“The Austin Company’s first aviation project was for Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation in 1916,” explains President and CEO Mike Pierce. “Since then, Austin has planned, designed, engineered, and constructed more square footage of commercial and military aviation and aerospace facilities than any other firm of its kind in the United States. This includes projects for Northrop Grumman and Embraer on the Space Coast.”

“With our legacy and new clients in mind, Austin has invested in expanding its presence in Florida. We look forward to our ongoing design-build work on Florida’s Space Coast,” said Vice President of Operations Matt Eddleman. “This new office will be a hub for our aerospace and defense subject matter experts, designer, engineers, and construction management professionals.”

According to Space Florida, the Aerospace industry has contributed $5.9 billion to Florida’s economy since 2007, with a projected impact of $1.1 billion every year for the next five years.

Austin’s legacy clients and more recent partners include Aerojet Rocketdyne, Airbus, The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Embraer, and General Atomics, including NASA, NAVFAC, and USAF. Austin is a full-service, design-build company offering site location consulting, design, engineering, and construction. Headquartered in Cleveland, Austin has offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Irvine, California; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Merritt Island, Florida; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and London, United Kingdom.  The Austin Company is a subsidiary of Kajima.


Through the Decades The 2010s

Repeat business, new clients, and a successful expansion into Mexico, via Kajima|Alberici MX contributed to ongoing growth for Austin’s California office in the 2010s.

Mexico – Kajima|Alberici MX 

In response to the Economic Partnership Agreement implemented between Japan and Mexico in 2005, Kajima Corporation began discussions with Japanese automotive manufacturing clients about new projects in Mexico in late 2008 and 20098.  As a result, Kajima included The Austin Company in its strategic plans to target automotive and related manufacturing projects in Mexico. 

It was not until late 2010 that a definitive plan was established to pursue work in Mexico. A decision was made that Austin would head up a new entity in Mexico to pursue and execute project work on behalf of Kajima Corporation. Austin recommended establishing a joint-venture company with J.S. Alberici Constructors out of St. Louis, MO.  

Austin had successfully worked with Alberici on the Boeing Delta IV project in a joint-venture arrangement. Alberici already had a construction operation in Mexico and knew its way around the subcontractor and supplier market. An agreement was made with Alberici to form Austin|Alberici MX. This was quickly changed to Kajima|Alberici MX to establish a clear tie to Kajima Corporation for its Japan-based clients. 

A series of Kajima clients and projects were pursued. Between 2012 and 2017, projects included two major projects for Y-Tec KEYLEX at the Mazda Supplier Park in Guanajuato, a major project for Stanley Electric, and a project for Tokyo Roki. The Y-Tec KEYLEX project was recognized by Engineering News Record (ENR) in 2014 as a Global Best Project in the Manufacturing category. 


The approximately 600,000 SF Y-Tec Keylex Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (YKM) automotive parts manufacturing and assembly facility was implemented as a design-build project at the Mazda automotive complex in Guanajuato, Mexico. Austin provided design and engineering out of the Irvine, CA, office and served as the lead member of the joint venture for construction. 

Y-Tec Keylex Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (YKM) automotive parts manufacturing and assembly facility

Stanley Electric

For Stanley Electric, Kajima|Alberici designed, engineered, and constructed a 240,000 SF LED-based headlight and taillight assembly manufacturing facility for automobiles and motorcycles. The project was also implemented on a design-build basis, with Austin providing design and engineering out of the Irvine, CA, office. Austin served as the lead member of the joint venture for construction. The facility was completed in 2016.

In 2017, a new Austin entity called Austin Mexico assumed responsibility for operations in Mexico, replacing Kajima|Alberici MX.

Ford Motor Company

Austin’s Irvine, CA office partnered with Irvine-based LPA Design Studios for the programming, site selection, master planning, and design and engineering through design development bridging documents for Ford Motor Company’s new product development center and headquarters in Mexico City.

The project included 360,00 SF of engineering and corporate office space, 250,000 SF of engineering lab space, a 98,000 SF dining and training center, and a 2,000-car parking structure to support 3,500 employees. The project included the creation of outdoor collaboration and connecting spaces. The building was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification. Construction Documents were prepared by Austin’s subsidiary company Gala and Associates.

Ford Motor Company’s new product development center and headquarters in Mexico City.

Austin (and its subsidiary and sister Kajima companies) have served Ford Motor Company worldwide for over 100 years, including recent and current major project work for the company in Mexico and the U.S.

Northrop Grumman

The 2010s continued to be active in serving Northrop Grumman in Southern California with projects at the El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Palmdale, and San Diego, CA sites, as well as Melbourne and St. Augustine, FL.

Melbourne and St. Augustine, Florida

In March 2013, Northrop Grumman announced the creation of five Centers of Excellence across the United States. This corporate initiative aimed to improve its strategic alignment with customers’ need for increasingly innovative and affordable products, services, and solutions.  Northrop Grumman’s campus in Melbourne, FL, was designated as one of the five Centers of Excellence – A Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence. Their campus in St. Augustine, FL, was designated a Manned Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence.

Building 228

In support of the Center of Excellence initiative, Northrop relocated the E-2 Hawkeye Program and functional support organizations from Bethpage, NY, to Melbourne. With an aggressive target schedule for the move, the Northrop Grumman facilities team members and The Austin Company’s architects and engineers worked together to map out the path forward.

Given the specialized requirements of the facility, the project team began planning for a new building – Building 228. Austin provided overall site planning, architectural design, engineering, and construction services for this 210,000 SF aerospace program administration, engineering office, and lab building.

Planning and design began concurrently in late April 2013, and in early May structural engineering was underway for what would be Northrop Grumman’s newest program, engineering, and lab building. Architectural and MEP engineering followed structural only days behind. Construction commenced in the third week of August (three months after the start of planning), with the first structural steel in the air in October 2013. Just ten months after groundbreaking, 13 months after the start of engineering, and 14 months after the first pen went to paper, the project achieved a mid-June 2014 beneficial occupancy. This is one of the fastest-ever project implementations for Northrop Grumman and Austin for a new building of this technical complexity and size. By all industry standards, this was a three-year project, implemented in just one year.

The project was awarded LEED® Silver Certification. The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) awarded the project a 2014 Design-Build Merit Award, and Engineering News Record (ENR) awarded the project a Regional Best Projects Award.

Building 229

Overlapping the construction completion of Building 228, Austin began constructing a sister facility, Building 229. This building, at 219,000 SF, houses program administration and engineering offices for Northrop Grumman’s Manned Aircraft Program. Construction of Building 229 began in July 2014. The Certificate of Occupancy was received in mid-April 2015 – just 42 weeks from the groundbreaking. This was a second fast-track project on an accelerated schedule to meet Northrop Grumman program requirements. The project was awarded LEED® Gold Certification.

Building 100

Concurrently with the planning, design, engineering, and construction of Building 228 in Melbourne, Austin undertook the planning, design, engineering, and construction of Building 100 in St. Augustine, FL. At approximately 366,000 SF, the new Aircraft Manufacturing Center facility supports the production of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Aircraft and was designed and built on an accelerated schedule to meet E-2D production schedules.

In response to an aggressive completion schedule, Austin began planning, design, and engineering in September 2013 and broke ground for implementing a phased construction approach in January 2014. Austin was able to beat an originally projected 18-month schedule, despite heavy rains impacting several months of construction. At approximately 310,000 SF, Phase A was delivered in just 16 months and included a 220,000 SF high bay with a 220-foot clear span center bay and two 85-foot clear span side bays; 60,000 SF of office and support space; a 13,000 SF auditorium and cafeteria; and 14,000 SF of initial-phase mechanical and electrical support space. The building was delivered to Northrop Grumman on May 4, 2015, to allow the installation of aircraft manufacturing workstations and equipment. Offices were fully furnished with IT systems in place, ready for move-in. Initial High Bay production operations began on May 14, 2015.

Once Northrop Grumman moved into Building 100, two small adjacent buildings were demolished, and an addition constructed to house support shops increasing the total size of Building 100 to 366,000 SF.

The project was awarded LEED Gold certification and Engineering News Record (ENR) Regional Best Projects and Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) Awards.

Space Park – Redondo and Manhattan Beach, California

Austin has supported Northrop Grumman (and heritage TRW Space and Electronics) at the California Space Park Campus for over 35 years. During that time, Austin completed a wide variety of projects providing services including planning, design and engineering, and construction.

M1-M2 Complex Modernization and Expansion – Redondo Beach, California

Representative of this work is the M1-M2 manufacturing complex modernization and expansion. The objective of the overall program was to maximize, consolidate, and expand current advanced technology labs and manufacturing assembly areas into large, flexible spaces with a modernized advanced technology production line.

In 2016, Austin began by developing a master plan for the effort, defining a series of phases for the implementation. To meet this new concept, additional square footage was required, including the addition of manufacturing and test high bays with offices, labs, and control rooms.

This was followed in 2017 by the design, engineering, and construction of Phase 1, which included a 45,800 SF addition to Building M2 inclusive of a manufacturing high bay (with overhead cranes), labs and test areas, and office area. The high bay, labs, and offices are secure areas designed and constructed to ICD-705 requirements. The project also included renovation and modernization of the existing M2 first-floor labs and manufacturing areas, including clean rooms.

Phase 2 planning and design began in 2021 and included an addition to Building M1 with two new cleanroom final assembly super high bays (60 foot clear to hook) – with 20 and 40-ton overhead cranes – totaling 34,000 SF. Both high bay spaces are secure and designed to meet ICD-705 requirements. Construction began in early 2022 with a Spring 2023 occupancy.

Lockheed Martin

Skunk Works – Palmdale, CA In 2019, Austin continued its relationship with Lockheed Martin by undertaking the first major new project in Palmdale in 35 years, the planning, design, engineering, and construction of a 220,000 SF Advanced Aerospace Manufacturing Center. The ICD 705 compliant center (with multiple DoD Classified SCIFs) supports aircraft prototype-to-final assembly, with associated tooling, structures test, and material handling systems for large-scale composites. It spans 152,000 SF and includes program offices, conference, presentation rooms, a café and market, and additional amenities totaling 68,000 SF. Construction was completed in late 2021. The project is anticipated to achieve LEED® Gold Certification.

The Austin Company provided planning, design, engineering, and cost-estimating services for a new 60,000 SF spacecraft development center, Building 351. The ICD 705 compliant facility is divided between high bay and low bay space plus a common core and facilities infrastructure. (The project construction was placed on hold following design completion.)

Austin also completed projects for Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense clients Aerojet Rocketdyne, Aerospace Corporation, and General Atomics during the 2010s.

The Walt Disney Company

In 2015, Austin actively continued the relationship that had begun in 1988 with The Walt Disney Company, with a series of projects in preparation for the new Star Wars Land at the Disneyland Resort in California. The projects involved developing new Disneyland Resort “Back of House” operations support facilities so that existing back-of-house areas could become a part of the Disneyland Park guest experience area as Star Wars Land. These new facilities included:

  • Transportation Service Center
  • Tram Refueling Depot
  • Circle D Ranch / Carriage House
  • Stables and Kennels
  • Horticulture / Landscape Complex
  • Environmental Activities Center
  • Pyrotechnics Launch and Staging
  • West Side Laydown and Staging
  • Relocation of Historic Pope House

Austin provided planning, design, engineering, and construction services.

U.S. Bakery

In 2017, Austin began a new client relationship with U.S. Bakery (also known as Franz Family Bakeries), in Portland, OR. The project involved the design, engineering, and construction of a 50,000 SF expansion at Franz’s bakery facility in Springfield (Eugene), OR, to support continued growth and provide increased production capacity and flexibility for the baker.

B|Braun Medical

Along with many other continuing clients, Austin cultivated its relationship with B|Braun, which begin in 2005 and led to over 50 projects at B | Braun’s Irvine, CA campus. Projects throughout the 2010s included designing and engineering for a major expansion to their Duplex Filling Line and Facility in 2019. The project involved the integration of a new filling line and expansion of the Duplex production facility and utilities to support the increased demand for the product Cephalosporin.

The Next 100 Years

Austin’s California office entered the 2020s well prepared to begin its next 100 years in January 2023 with a solid local California, regional, and national market footing in Aviation, Aerospace and Defense, Entertainment, Food & Beverage, and Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products, among other markets and industries.


Sean Barr VP
Sean Barr, Vice President, The Austin Company

The Austin Company announced that Sean Barr, former National Accounts Manager and Director of Project Planning, will assume the position of Vice President.

“Our clients find Sean to be a valued partner in the design-build process. He brings decades of food industry experience to every project, with a primary focus on the meat and poultry sector. We look forward to his growth potential in this core market,” said President and CEO Mike Pierce. 

“I am thrilled to move into the position of Vice President at The Austin Company. This is a role that I have been working towards for decades, and I am excited to take on the new responsibilities and challenges that come with it,” said Barr.

As Vice President, Barr will work closely with leadership and the market teams to help drive the growth of Austin’s meat and poultry, alternative meat, and related food markets to ensure that Austin continuously improves and evolves to meet the needs of its customers.

“When Sean joined Austin, we created a vision to become a preferred service provider to the meat and poultry industry and increase Austin’s presence in that market. Through Sean’s passion, perseverance, and his team’s “Results, Not Excuses” mindset, Austin is now a design-builder of choice for many of today’s leading meat and poultry producers,” explained Sr. Vice President of Operations Matt Eddleman.

Barr has worked in the food industry for over 35 years and has been with The Austin Company for 13 years. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Mississippi State University and obtained his master’s degree in Project Management from Keller Graduate School of Management, DeVry University. He also holds Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute and Professional Project Executive (PPE) certification from Prodevia Learning. Barr is a sought-after speaker and thought leader within the food industry.

Austin is a full-service, design-build company offering site location consulting, design, engineering, and construction. Headquartered in Cleveland, Austin has offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Irvine, California; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Merritt Island, Florida; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and London, United Kingdom.  The Austin Company is a subsidiary of Kajima. To learn more about Austin –


Hussein Elhage President Gala
Hussein Elhage, Gala and Associates new President.
Hussein Elhage, Gala and Associates new President.

Gala & Associates, Inc., announced that Hussein Elhage, former Sr. Vice President, will assume the position of President as founder Chuni Gala steps into a new role as Executive Advisor and Director.

“Hussein has been with Gala since the inception. He will continue the traditions and legacy of Gala & Associates into the future, providing continuity, stability, and sound leadership,” said the outgoing President and founder of Gala & Associates, Inc., Chuni Gala. “Hussein is well respected throughout the industry, and his name is synonymous with Gala & Associates.”

“The depth of leadership experience within Gala & Associates is one of the reasons The Austin Company was drawn to acquiring the company,” said President and CEO of Austin, Mike Pierce. “Hussein has been with Gala since the beginning. He has progressively grown with the company, taking on additional leadership responsibilities, assisting in the development of Gala’s scope of services throughout the U.S. and into Mexico, mentoring young engineers, and overseeing Gala’s data and technology departments.”

“I am honored to be able to continue to grow the relationships we have built over the past 35 years and lead Gala into the future. I am proud of the company we have built, the team we have assembled, and I look forward to the future,” said Elhage.

Hussein holds a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering and a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from Wayne State University. He is a licensed professional engineer in multiple states.

Gala provides architectural engineering, design, and project management services for automotive assembly and heavy industrial facilities. Established in 1987, Gala is headquartered in Beverly Hills, Michigan (a Northern suburb of Detroit, Michigan).

Austin took ownership of Gala in 2022.  Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Austin has offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Irvine, California; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Merritt Island, Florida; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and London, United Kingdom.  The Austin Company is a subsidiary of Kajima.

The Austin Company Participates in IPPE 2023 

IBIE 2022

The Austin Company will exhibit (Booth C12210) at the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, GA, Tuesday, January 25 – 27, 2023. A collaboration of three shows – the International Feed Expo, the International Meat Expo, and the International Poultry Expo, this comprehensive industry event showcases the latest technology, equipment, supplies, and services used in producing and processing eggs, meat and poultry, and those involved in animal food manufacturing. The event will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center. 

TechTalk with Sean Barr, Vice President  

In addition to exhibiting, Austin Vice President Sean Barr will share “The Practical Application of the Theory of Constraints” as part of the event’s TechTalk, Wednesday, January 25, 2023, in C Hall, Booth C10611, from 3:30 pm – 3:50 pm This thought-provoking offering covers… 

  • How to identify what’s standing in the way of achieving your production goals.  
  • Discover how to improve production bottlenecks.  
  • Delve into what limits your production process.   
  • Explore this effective plan for growth.  

Learn More About Sean

“Ask Us Anything” Beer Night

Austin’s subject matter experts are on hand to answer your questions. So, stop by our “Ask Us Anything” beer night event on January 24th, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., in Austin’s booth (C12210).

 One-on-one Consultations

There is still time to book a one-on-one consultation. Austin’s meat and poultry facility design experts will share their insights on your greatest challenges. Contact Matt Shank at to book your meeting time.  

Who’s Attending from The Austin Company

Chuck Adams

Sean Barr

Matt Eddleman

Fabricio Salinas

Brandon Talbert

Ed Wright

Tamara Zupancic

Learn more about Austin’s extensive work in the meat and poultry industry   

Through the Decades – the 2000s

Through the Decades 2000s

A retrospective of the first 100 years of work completed by Austin’s California Office.

The world anxiously anticipated the countdown to 2000 as computer experts warned of catastrophic errors related to the formatting and storage of calendar data for dates in and after the year 2000. But the potential to bring down worldwide infrastructures for industries ranging from banking to air travel didn’t materialize thanks to many preemptive strategies.  

Austin ushered in the 2000s with repeat business from legacy clients, new clients, and a successful transition to being a part of the Kajima USA group of companies in late 2005, contributing to the continuing growth of Austin’s California office throughout the 2000s.

Repeat clients included aviation, aerospace, and defense companies – most notably Boeing and Northrop Grumman. The office returned to Toyota with a series of national projects, undertook numerous new projects for Disney, and completed a long list of Southern California Edison projects under the seven-year agreement signed in 1997.

New clients and projects included a major seismic upgrade and renovation project for the US General Services Administration (GSA), emergency operations centers for Los Alamos National Laboratory and the County of Santa Barbara, and what would become new long-term relationships with Mater Dei High School and B|Braun Medical. In the late 2000s, the office launched the company’s plans to expand operations into Mexico, serving as the lead partner in Kajima-Alberici MX.

Boeing Fitness Center

Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense

Austin completed over 175 projects for Aerospace Corporation, Boeing (and its heritage companies), Gulfstream Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman (and heritage company TRW Space & Electronics) in the first half of the decade alone (between 2000 and 2005).

For Boeing Space Systems, Austin continued work at the Decatur, AL, 1.5 million SF Satellite Launch Vehicle Production Center supporting the relocation of the Delta II and III programs to the Decatur plant. Austin also worked in Long Beach, CA, supporting the C-17 Airlifter program facilities. Support included the design and engineering of a new fitness center to serve 10,000 employees of the C-17 program. Totaling 14,000 SF, the fitness facility included a cardiovascular training area, strength/weight training area, aerobics studio, locker and shower rooms, and administrative spaces. Exterior areas featured a running trail, a multi-use soccer/football field, and basketball, tennis, and sand volleyball courts.  Austin’s long relationship with Boeing, combined with recent experience completing a new fitness center for Southern California Edison in Rosemead, CA, made Austin the ideal choice for the project.

Northrop Grumman. The 2000s continued to be active in service to Northrop Grumman and heritage company TRW Space & Electronics in Southern California with more than 200 projects at the El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Palmdale, CA sites.


Austin returned to the automotive industry following a short break during the 1990s with a series of projects for Toyota. This included design, engineering, and construction work at Toyota’s auto body plant in Long Beach, a vehicle repair facility in Torrance, CA, and modernizations and expansions at Toyota Motor Sales regional facilities in Boston, Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City, and San Ramon, CA.


Austin actively continued the relationship that had begun in 1988 with The Walt Disney Company, with over 50 new design and engineering projects at the Disneyland Resort – over 40 projects in the first half of the decade alone (2000-2005). Most notable of these projects are the attractions infrastructure throughout the park, “back of house” support projects, and the Disneyland Hotel renovation and modernization.

Austin’s multi-discipline design and engineering team’s considerable experience with facilities infrastructure (across multiple industries) and understanding of the technical complexities of Disney’s attractions (based on decades of motion picture and television production facility experience) provided Disney with unequaled “industry cross-over” experience.

The Back of House group of projects included:

  • The New Entertainment Center, adjacent Rehearsal Hall, and Recording Studio
  • Uniform Issue and Cast Lockers
  • Supply Chain Logistics Warehouse
  • Transportation Center
  • Tram and Vehicle Maintenance Centers
DISNEYLAND HOTEL ROOMS — The focal point of each new guest room at the Disneyland Hotel is the stunning new headboard that features an artistically carved representation of Disneyland parkÕs famous Sleeping Beauty Castle. Fiber optics are used to create a magical skyline with fireworks Ð bringing the immersive park experience into the room. (Scott Brinegar/Disneyland)

Austin was selected as the Architect of Record and Engineer for the major renovation of the Disneyland Hotel based upon their knowledge of the hotel complex infrastructure from prior projects, multi-disciplinary in-house team approach, and experience working with the company. The Austin Team completed a comprehensive Condition Assessment of the three main towers of the hotel complex then proceeded with Schematic Design, Design Development, and preparation of Construction Documents for the renovation. During construction, Austin provided full-time on-site representation and on-call engineering support from its Irvine, CA, offices.

The Disneyland Hotel renovation was a multi-year project encompassing the full renovation and modernization of the hotel’s original three main towers, including 970 guest rooms, top-floor suites, and lobbies. The 1955 hotel underwent a head-to-toe makeover that encompassed every guest room. The new guest rooms were conceived by designers at Walt Disney Imagineering with a concept that included many Disney touches, such as hidden Mickeys in the carpeting, the bathrooms, and other niches, and headboards that light up with a fiber-optics display of the world-famous Disneyland fireworks above Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The rooms were outfitted with energy-efficient lighting and double-paned, energy-efficient windows that were tinted blue to give the towers a new exterior look. The work was done in phases, with the Dream Tower completed first, then the Magic Tower and Wonder Tower rounding out the project. Disney maintained a high occupancy level at the hotel throughout the renovation, with construction crews sensitive to maintaining a positive guest experience.

Austin also provided construction management staffing support (construction project managers and superintendents) for constructing the California Adventure theme park addition to the Disneyland Resort.

Mater Dei High School

Mater Dei High School, and the Diocese of Orange County, CA.

In 2000, Mater Dei High School, and the Diocese of Orange County, CA, selected Austin to provide design and engineering services for a series of new projects, including a library, sciences building, student activities center, gymnasium, aquatics center, athletic fields, and performing arts center.

Mater Dei is the largest Catholic High School west of the Mississippi and is well known nationally for its academic and athletic programs. Austin was introduced to Mater Dei through our Disneyland relationships and is proud to continue to serve Mater Dei, now entering our 23rd year.

Southern California Edison

In 1997, Austin signed a major seven-year agreement with Southern California Edison as their sole facilities design, engineering, and construction partner. Between that signing and the end of 1999, Austin was awarded 95 projects. Between 2000 and 2005, Austin was awarded an additional 78 projects. Representative projects included call centers, data center upgrades, a complete renovation of the Rosemead Headquarters (including a new central plant), regional service centers, and training centers.

Federal General Services Administration (GSA)

Austin completed two design-build projects for the Federal General Services Administration (GSA), including the modernization of the US Geological Survey campus in Menlo Park, CA, and a seismic upgrade, renovation, and modernization of the Santa Ana Federal Building also in CA.

Austin was selected for the Santa Ana Federal Building project based on its design-build experience, multi-disciplinary in-house design and engineering capabilities, and proposed solution to responding to the building’s seismic performance deficiencies.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (Department of Energy – DOE)

Austin was awarded the contract based on its design-build experience and expertise in high-reliability operations centers. “In addition to its unique one-stop-shop approach, The Austin Company presented an innovative solution to difficult design parameters,” shared the construction manager for the Cerro Grande Rehabilitation Project.

University of California – Santa Barbara

Austin constructed an Engineering Sciences Building (for nanotechnology) at the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus.

B|Braun Medical

In 2005, Austin began providing design and engineering services for B|Braun Medical in Irvine, CA. Austin has served B|Braun continuously since that time.

International Projects

In the late 2000s, Austin launched plans to expand operations into Mexico, with the California office as the lead partner in what would become Kajima-Alberici, MX. More on these projects in the 2010s article.

Join us next in the next blog as we discuss the 2010s.


Clash Detection

“You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site.”  

These words were spoken by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright, and while the tools of the trade may have changed, the sentiment has never been truer. 

The modern eraser for any complex build is a process known as clash detection. Before components are ordered, delivered, or prefabricated, a digital representation of those components is combined in a virtual 3D environment and compared. The software can quickly point out where one component collides with another. Examples include a drainpipe running through a foundation footing, a sprinkler head in conflict with a duct, or light switches buried inside a column. 

Due to the rigid necessity of many architectural and structural elements in a design, it is not uncommon for contractors and others to refer to clash detection as MEP coordination. The operative assumption is that various mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components must be adjusted and routed around conflicts.  

Ultimately, all the hard clashes are resolved. The only question is whether clashes are addressed through updates to virtual models and drawings or in the field. Working through clashes in the design phase is more efficient and cost-effective than on the construction site.

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Dr. Atul Gawande visited an active construction project and marveled at using a software application he referred to only as the ‘Clash Detective.’ The sobering message for the AEC industry is that we were presumed ahead of other industries (such as healthcare) in applying our knowledge to work through every possible conflict. It seems clear that in 2022 and beyond, building projects that skip design review through clash detection exercises are not meeting the standard of care for our industry. 

Many potential issues go beyond a software’s current identification capabilities, so involving field personnel in the review of models is always a good idea. The experience gained on one project leads to checking for the same challenges on future projects.  

Case in Point 
Building professionals should understand early in the design process about connection points for building services. Somewhere between all the code books and the operations manuals, there are some practical minimums for equipment clearances. Only veteran modelers are savvy enough to show such clearance zones within the computer’s representations. And often, those who have worked in the field have insights into where following the manual or meeting the minimum code requirement isn’t going to provide the best result.  

There is not, in fact, a computer application called clash detective. Until recently, this model-checking feature was only found in a single software tool. One of the most powerful changes in the methodology was when it became possible to identify conflicts and share the exact 3D viewpoint (and notes for resolution) with the modeler in their authoring application.  

Prior to this change, it was necessary to hold clash review meetings so everyone could crowd in together to see the issues for the first time. Now tracking issues and sharing them can occur within minutes of identification. We can keep the topical dialogue outside of regularly scheduled meetings. Instead of walking into a model review meeting and not knowing what issues will be raised or that you’ll be tasked to fix, team members can turn to assignments on the tracked issues list.  

Meetings can then be used to check and confirm that things have been (or soon will be) resolved. We can delve deeper into an issue, increasing both awareness and the possibility that someone else on the team may have a better idea of how to resolve the conflict.  

Another change seems to be in the air. While clash detection was once a discrete activity with the potential of not applying the coordination of models to the building process, it is now feasible to manage the 3D model changes, field reports, and digital images in one unified platform. Knowing that the same models can serve both aspects of quality assurance helps us to deliver our customer’s projects on time and with a minimum of re-work.  

Thank you to Nirav Mehta, Mark Osborne, and Brian Zuzik for contributing to this blog post.  


Through the Decades 1990s

With business from legacy clients and the addition of new—including international—clients, the 1990s were a period of continued growth. The office produced major projects for aviation, aerospace, and defense, as well as key projects in broadcasting and entertainment, newspaper printing, and publishing. This work, coupled with a significant contract with Southern California Edison and international projects in Japan, China, South Korea, and The Philippines, kept the office fully utilized.

Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense

In the 1990s, no market growth was greater for Austin than in aviation, aerospace, and defense. Austin worked on over 150 projects for multiple companies in the industry, including Boeing (and its heritage companies), BF Goodrich Aerospace and Rohr, Inc. (today both are a part of Collins Aerospace), Hughes Aircraft Company (now a part of Raytheon), Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman (and its heritage companies), totaling nearly $1 billion in today’s market.

Boeing Space Delta IV Launch Vehicle Manufacturing and Assembly Facility

The largest of these projects was for Boeing Space Systems. The project supported the race to win a large share of the rapidly growing space launch market. Already a key rocket supplier, McDonnell Douglas Aerospace (now a part of Boeing), headquartered in Huntington Beach, CA, selected Austin in early 1997 to begin conceptual design for a new rocket manufacturing plant. It was the first such facility in nearly 40 years and was designed to produce what would be its newest product, the Delta IV rocket series. Austin completed the conceptual design within five weeks and proceeded with further design and cost estimating.

In June, Austin was released on the preliminary design and development of a 1.5 million SF Satellite Launch Vehicle Production Center. In late November, Austin was awarded a design-build contract for the project partnering with J.S. Alberici of St. Louis, MO. Austin served as the A/E of record.

Design activities ramped up dramatically through March 1998. Austin’s A/E team refined the design through the application of value engineering and the use of principals identified with the worldwide trend toward the “Lean Aerospace Initiative.”

Following a demanding 26-month construction schedule, the facility was completed in late 1999, allowing initial production to begin in February 2000.

  • Over 2,000 drawings were issued for the project
  • Over 4 million cubic yards of earth were moved during grading and excavations
  • 14 miles of pilings were driven
  • At its peak height, the building soared to 140 feet and averaged 75 feet
  • Truss lengths up to 220 feet created clear spans and supported 33 bridge cranes with capacities of up to 30 tons
  • The entire facility was environmentally controlled to 72 degrees Fahrenheit 24/7/365
  • At its peak, the construction workforce numbered 1,400
  • In today’s market, the project would be valued at nearly $600 million

Today, the complex is operated by the United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint-venture company of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The complex produces the well-known Delta IV, Atlas V, and Vulcan Centaur rockets.

Boeing Sea Launch, Austin implemented upgrades to over 200,000 SF of existing facilities and constructed two new buildings, including a Payload Integration Facility at a 75-acre site formerly occupied by the U.S. Navy in Long Beach, CA. A project worth $40 million in today’s market.\

Northrop Grumman. The 1990s was a busy time with a list of more than 50 projects in Southern California. Austin designed, engineered, and constructed facilities at Northrop Grumman’s El Segundo, CA facility to accommodate the relocation of B-21 Labs from Pico Rivera, CA. This project would amount to nearly $40 million in today’s market.

Austin has served Northrop Grumman in California and nationally since the 1960s – over 60 years.

During the 1990s, Austin also designed, engineered, and constructed multiple projects for Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems (Skunk Works). This included expansions to Buildings 636 and 637 in Palmdale, CA, (originally built by Austin in the late 1980s). Austin also supported Lockheed Advanced Development Company’s move to Palmdale.

Austin recently completed (Spring 2022) Lockheed Martin’s Building 648 Advanced Aerospace Manufacturing Center at the Palmdale complex, some 35 years following the 1980s relocation of Skunk Works to Palmdale.

Broadcasting and Entertainment

KPDX-TV, in Portland, OR

As the digital broadcast era began to take hold in the 1990s, Austin was active globally in new television broadcast facilities. Austin was instrumental in replacing aging 1950s facilities through modernization and upgrades to existing facilities.

Austin completed more than 60 projects for broadcasting and entertainment clients during the 1990s, including projects for ABS-CBN Broadcasting (Manila, Philippines), Fox Television, Meredith Corporation (Television Broadcasting), Munhwa Broadcasting (Seoul, Korea), National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Republic Broadcasting (Quezon City, Philippines), Tribune Broadcasting (KTLA-TV5), and The Walt Disney Company.

KPDX-TV, in Portland, OR

A prime example of the California office’s work during this time was two projects for Meredith Corporation. This work included a 45,800 SF television broadcast station, KPDX-TV, in Portland, OR, and a 53,900 SF television broadcast station, WGCL-TV, in Atlanta, GA.

Austin continued their relationship that had begun in 1988 with The Walt Disney Company. Austin undertook 25 design and engineering projects at Disneyland in this decade and our first construction project at the park, Tomorrowland.

Newspaper Printing and Publishing

Newspaper print circulation in the US peaked in the 1980s, and Austin’s business in this market was booming in the 1990s. Austin’s California office did work for Copley Newspapers (San Diego Union-Tribune, Torrance Daily Breeze, and multiple papers in Illinois), Cox Arizona Publications, The Daily News (in Valencia), Dow Jones & Co., Imperial Valley Press, Oxnard Press Courier, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and West Coast Community Newspapers.

Southern California Edison

Southern California Edison

In 1997, Austin signed a major seven-year agreement with Southern California Edison as their sole facilities design, engineering, and construction partner. Between that signing and the end of 1999, Austin was awarded 95 projects. Representative projects included call centers, data center upgrades, a complete renovation of the Rosemead Headquarters (including a new central plant), regional service centers, training centers, and even a pole climbing school. Austin implemented more than $120 million in projects.

International Projects

Austin’s California office supported a series of international projects throughout the Pacific Rim. These included projects in Japan, China, South Korea, and The Philippines.

In Japan, Austin participated in six major projects in partnership with a consortium of Japanese companies as a part of the US/Japan construction agreement reached in May 1988. Under the agreement, the Japanese government ensured that American companies could participate in competing for the construction of public works, such as airport projects. Austin’s responsibilities on these projects included value engineering, selection of subcontractors, and construction management.

Projects included the 800,000 SF Wing B of the Asia and Pacific Trade Center located on Nanko Island in Osaka Harbor, a 290,000 SF passenger terminal at the Hiroshima Airport, and a 1.3 million SF air cargo terminal and baggage handling system at the Kansai Airport. The Kansai Airport project represented the largest civil construction project in which an American company participated since the US/Japan construction agreement was signed.

Other Industries

Other industries served by Austin Western in the 1990s included food and beverage, general manufacturing, and continued work for the U.S. Postal Service.

Join us next in the next blog as we discuss the 2000s.

Through the Decades – The 1980s

Through the Decades 1980s

The 1980s were a period of expansive growth for The Austin Company. Legacy clients continued to trust Austin with their facility design, engineering, and construction needs. And new clients in Aviation, Aerospace and Defense, Automotive, Broadcasting, and Entertainment benefited from Austin’s expertise. 

Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense

·         Douglas Aircraft Company (today a part of Boeing)

Representative clients and projects during the 1980s included:

  • Douglas Aircraft Company (today a part of Boeing)
  • Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems
  • Lockheed Missiles and Space
  • Northrop Corporation (today, Northrop Grumman)
  • Northwest Airlines

Northrop Corporation (today, Northrop Grumman) Northwest Airlines

For Douglas Aircraft Company (a division of McDonnell Douglas Corporation – now a part of Boeing), Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a 1.1 million SF high-bay aircraft assembly building in Long Beach, CA.  (2022 Construction Value:  Over $400 million.) The complex produced the well-known C-17 Globemaster III airlifter.

For Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems (Skunk Works) Austin designed, engineered, and constructed two major projects:  a 200,000 SF composites manufacturing facility – Building 636 and a 125,000 SF metallic fabrication center – Building 637 in Palmdale, CA.  (2022 Construction Value:  Just under $250 million.)

The Skunk Works is well-known for its work in advanced aircraft design.  Austin recently completed (Spring 2022) Lockheed Martin’s Building 648 Advanced Aerospace Manufacturing Center at the Palmdale complex, [insert link to project profile] some 35 years following the relocation of Skunk Works to Palmdale in the 1980s.

Austin also did work for Lockheed Missiles and Space during the 1980s in Sunnyvale, CA, and at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For Northrop Corporation, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a 240,000 SF advanced production development center for the F-5G in Hawthorne, CA. (2022 Construction Value: Over $82 million.)

Austin has served Northrop Grumman in California and nationally on a nearly continuous basis since the 1960s.  Within the past ten years, Austin’s Western office led the implementation of three major projects for Northrop Grumman in Florida and California. Austin is presently working on multiple projects at Space Park in Redondo Beach, CA, where it has served Northrop Grumman for more than 35 years.


Toyota Motor Sales

Representative clients and projects during the 1980s included:

  • American Honda Motor Company
  • Toyota Motor Sales

For American Honda, Austin designed a series of Rider Education Centers for street and off-road motorcycles, ATVs, and SXS off-road vehicles. These facilities included plants located in Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas.

For Toyota, Austin designed and implemented the interiors for Toyota’s U.S. headquarters (then in Torrance, CA), and designed, engineered, and constructed a parts distribution center in San Ramon, CA.  (2022 Project Value: Over $75 million.)

Broadcasting and Entertainment

KVVU – Channel 5, Henderson, NV

Representative clients and projects during the 1980s included:

  • Meredith Corporation (Television Broadcasting)
  • National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
  • The Walt Disney Company

Austin continued its work in the broadcast industry begun in the 1930s, designing, engineering, and constructing a new 31,700 SF television broadcast station, KVVU-TV, in Henderson, NV for the Meredith Corporation.  This was the first in a series of new television broadcast facilities that Austin would do for Meredith across the country.  (2022 Value: Just under $12 million.)

For National Broadcasting Company (NBC)Austin continued its work at the Burbank Studio, which began in the 1950s, completing the site’s development.  Among other projects, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed the last new production studio – Studio 11, totaling 62,000 SF. (2022 Construction Value: Over $22 million.)

The Walt Disney Company. In 1988, Austin began a nearly 35-year service relationship with Disney at the Disneyland Resort that continues to this day.

Data and Operations Centers

Bank of America – Orange County

Representative clients and projects during the 1980s included:

  • Arizona Public Service
  • Cedar-Sinai Medical Center
  • Chevron Oil Field Research
  • Douglas Aircraft Company
  • First Security Company
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
  • Salt River Project
  • Security Pacific National Bank (today a part of Bank of America)
  • Southern California Edison

While the 1980s were big for Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense projects, it was also a momentous decade for Austin in Data and Operations Centers, with ten major projects (listed above) totaling millions of square feet.

Security Pacific National Bank. Representative of Data and Operations Center projects was Austin’s work for Security Pacific. Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a new 688,000 SF operations center in Brea, CA. This was the fourth data center for Security Pacific by Austin. Truly state-of-the-technology at the time, the operations center could process over 3 million checks per day, with an employee population of 2,500.  Operational reliability was critical.  Supporting this reliability was an uninterrupted power supply, served by a gas-turbine-powered cogeneration system, which produced all power required for the building (the public utility was the backup supply).  Although the Brea Operations center represented the leading edge of data-processing technology (in the 1980s), it was designed with the flexibility to accommodate future changes in technology. (2022 Construction Value: Over $325 million.)

Bank of America (including heritage Security Pacific National Bank) operated the facility for over 39 years – in recent years, as a call center.  In late 2021, Amazon acquired the facility for its use as a call center.  Photos of the building look the same as they did on that opening day in 1982.

Logistics / Distribution

US Army Lathrop, CA

Representative clients and projects during the 1980s included:

  • Kaiser Permanente
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Postal Service

For Kaiser Permanente, Austin designed, engineered, and constructed a central pharmacy facility in Downey, CA.

For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Austin designed and engineered a series of three Area Oriented Supply Depots in California, Pennsylvania, and Texas.  Representative of these three depots is the Lathrop, CA facility serving ten Western states and the Pacific.  At 832,00 SF, the facility contains inventories of 157,950 small items and 83,600 pallet-size materials. Austin also implemented and installed computer-controlled warehouse material handling systems.

For the U.S. Postal Service, Austin designed and engineered a 318,000 SF General Mail Facility in Santa Ana, CA.

Other Industries

Other industries served by Austin in the 1980s included Food and Beverage, Newspapers, and Real Estate Development.

Join us next month as we discuss the 1990s.