Definition of Occupation
The Process Engineer position differs significantly across the industry because they often exist in several functions and departments across an organization. Process Engineers design processes for use in various industries, including agricultural, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, petroleum, mineral, food, water treatment, nuclear, metallurgy, mineral processing, and biotechnology to help
transform raw materials into valuable everyday products.
Process Engineers and Chemical Engineers are often considered as interchangeable. However, Process Engineers focus not on researching new chemical reactions (like Chemical Engineers), but instead focus on applying known chemical reactions for the purpose of designing production processes, maintaining equipment, and optimizing throughput. There is more emphasis on applying knowledge, mathematics, and physics (specifically fluid mechanics, mass, and heat transfer) than chemistry, so they work more with mechanical engineers.
Although Process Engineers develop new, innovative processes for new facilities, they are also often involved in the analysis, upgrading, and modification/optimization of equipment and production processes that a company is already using. During this process, they develop project proposals and study protocols, undertake experiments and other tests, analyze the results, conduct theoretical computations, and prepare project reports and publications. They usually must work with people from every manufacturing industry sector, including research and development (R&D) staff (often chemical engineers), production personnel, operations personnel, management, and even customers, in some cases.
Process Engineers create systems to make the best use of workers, machines, materials, information, and energy. They often work on technology transfer and process scale-up from lab to pilot and pilot to full-scale production facilities. These projects can be experimentally based, theoretical/computation/modelling based, or a combination of both.
When they engage in research it may be in fundamental research, such as investigating the underlying basis of chemical processes, bioprocessing, and bioengineering, or it may be more applied, such as:
- developing a specific chemical process to produce existing chemicals more cost effectively or to produce new chemicals,
- developing a specific biochemical process to produce biopolymers, biofuels, bio-solvents, or bio-actives,
- conducting classic and modern genetic research for new strain development,
- conducting fermentation research for fermentation or enzymatic bioprocess development, and
- investigating methods for monitoring and control of bioprocesses.