A Marriage Made at PTX

What does it take to win Food Engineering Magazine’s coveted Fabulous Food Plant of the Year award? Ask Fabio Pettenati, Vice President of Operations, Barilla America Inc., and he’ll tell you it takes a lot of leadership, the kind of leadership provided by Faithful + Gould, one of the world’s largest project and cost management consultancies. Because of this leadership, Barilla’s award-winning plant came in under budget and earlier than the expected completion date. But without having attended PTX, Pettenati would not have known about Faithful + Gould.

The Italian transplant began with a single Ames, IA plant. Sales took off, and it was time to think about expanding operations to keep up with the demand, especially on the East Coast. Today the company is rated number two in pasta sales in the US, according to supermarket scan data from ACNielsen.

“When we attended PTX, we were in the phase of strategic planning,” says Pettenati. “We didn’t know for sure whether we would build or not. This was one of the top projects I listed for consideration at PTX, and it led to the eventual project of building a new plant.”

After using Deloitte Consulting to help find a good geographical location, Barilla sought some project estimate advice from a couple of its Ames facility’s engineering firms. The numbers that came back from two design/build companies seemed low and were quite different, raising a red flag, so the project didn’t move forward until PTX.

During PTX, Pettenati sat down with Jonathan Marshall, Vice President, Faithful + Gould, and talked about the low estimates he’d received. Marshall, whose company works extensively in project management and consults on price estimates and delivery schedules, agreed that the estimates were not realistic, and probably would have crept upwards once the project was underway. He explained that his company could help Barilla locate the right engineering firms and contractors, help with risk management, and advise about delivery methods and schedules.

Until PTX, Pettenati didn’t know he needed a company like Faithful + Gould. “I wasn’t exactly looking for a company with such a unique profile,” he explained. “After we met and decided to invest some time working together to estimate the cost, the relationship developed naturally into doing more and more together. I got the support of finding, for example, design and build companies without needing to do this by myself.”

Besides using PTX to find suppliers for equipment, such as conveyors and material handling systems, Pettenati finds that doing business directly with suppliers’ high-level executives saves a lot of time. For example, he doesn’t have to wait for sales people to get approvals through the chain of command, but instead, he can deal directly with high-level management. At PTX, he finds the ability to plan his schedule, decide whom he wants to meet and decide in advance what he wants to discuss, making the 45-minute PTX sessions exceedingly powerful. “Since the relationship is definitely at a very high level In the supplier’s organization, you get a good follow-up on whatever you discussed while you were there.”

Suppliers appreciate PTX, too. Marshall typically meets four to eight processors each year and usually comes away with at least one major client. “PTX is an ongoing opportunity to meet some of the leading engineering managers, supply chain managers, etc. within the food and beverage industry,” says Marshall. For a niche company like Faithful + Gould, it can be tough to get recognized at trade shows. But Marshall finds the matching of suppliers and processors at PTX to be unparalleled.

Just like Pettenati, Marshall stays in touch with all those he meets at PTX, and these relationships withstand the test of time.

Could PTX be the “main event”? Marshall notes, “Companies are using PTX as a main gathering hub for either a semi-annual or annual event.”