How to Become a Process Engineer

Process Engineering 3

There are several specializations in the field of engineering. One of those considered to be high in-demand is Process Engineering. In recent times, the field has experienced rapid growth in terms of awareness, relevance, and value. In this article, we will be discussing how to become a successful Process Engineer. But first, you need to understand some basic things about the specialization.

What is Process Engineering?

Process Engineering is one of the most dynamic and complex fields of engineering. In basic terms, it is the process by which raw materials are turned into a final product or commodity. It is a very important aspect of any production process. Process Engineering involves providing chemical or biochemical processes and equipment that transform raw materials into final products.

Equally, it focuses on processing petrochemical, oil, gas, minerals, food, and several other natural resources to obtain valuable products sustainably. In production, it requires an understanding and application of the fundamental rules of nature to transform materials to finished, usable products.

Process Engineer

Who is a Process Engineer?

A Process Engineer designs, implements, controls, and optimizes industrial processes. These processes can be in the chemical, petrochemical, agriculture, mineral processing, advanced material, food, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological industries. Process engineers are responsible for designing and optimizing the processes that lead to creating products. They ensure that there are minimal losses and waste during the process, and profits are maximised.

Process engineers usually generate and develop product specifications, develop equipment requirements, implement manufacturing strategies, and monitor all the processes they develop to ensure that productivity is maximized.

Responsibilities of a Process Engineer

Process Engineering cuts across many disciplines, and Process Engineers must work with other professionals in the manufacturing industry. The roles that a Process Engineer will play for their employer will differ depending on the company where they work.

However, the roles they are generally likely to play include:

  • Research and development: A lot of Process Engineers spend a huge amount of time on research to develop their designs. They usually focus on researching new technologies that can advance the current processes and facilitate productivity in manufacturing.
  • Simulation tests: Real-life experiments that require overhauling can be very expensive and high risk. Therefore, Process Engineers perform experiments and tests using advanced software that imitate real-life conditions to test that an improvement to the process is worth the risk.
  • Equipment monitoring: Process Engineers in operations departments usually monitor equipment and make sure that it is at optimal functionality. As a Process Engineer, you will ensure that your equipment is running according to the standards that have been set when designing the process.
  • Write and edit documents: As a Process Engineer, you must ensure that documentation for all processes is written and appropriately edited. This is to guide new employees and help other staff understand the best practices and standards of each process.
  • Risk assessment: Process Engineers assess the equipment and the processes they perform to determine the risk of a malfunction.
  • Process and Equipment Evaluation: As a Process Engineer, you must monitor and evaluate every process and equipment to learn how you can develop better and more economical processes.
  • Installing Equipment: As a Process Engineer, at some point, you will be responsible for supervising the installation of new equipment to ensure that it is installed correctly and according to its specifications.

Process Engineer

Other Roles of a Process Engineer

  • Troubleshoot production problems: Process Engineers work together with specialist process technicians. As a Process Engineer, you will work with these professionals to resolve issues with production and processes.
  • Supervise processes and operations personnel: Some Process Engineers play management roles, and they typically have some sort of control over the management of operations personnel and floor workers.
  • Data collection and interpretation: As a Process Engineer, you will analyse, collect, interpret, and compile data and make reports based on the data extracted from the manufacturing department of the company.
  • Findings and Presentation: At some point in your career as a Process Engineer, you may be asked to present the data findings to executives and other higher-level company personnel.
  • Budgeting: Process Engineers may have input in determining the manufacturing budget. The expenses for the development of technologies and constant updates are what their part of the budget contains.

Skills of a Process Engineer

  • Project management: Since you will be dealing with project management systems and process management methods, you must know about project management to be successful in a career as a Process Engineer.
  • Knowledge of standards.
  • Excellent analytical thinking: Process Engineers can approach a process while considering it from all angles. You must know how to dig deep and understand the implications of what you find in the research process. You will be responsible for the analysis and interpretation of data into charts, diagrams, and reports.
  • Leadership qualities.
  • Ability to work in a team.
  • Mathematical and statistical competence: As a Process Engineer, you must have excellent mathematical abilities as you will spend large amounts of time gathering data and calculating. You will use your math skills to determine how to make small inputs that can result in large changes.
  • Excellent computer skills – IT is an essential part of this role. You must have the ability to use simulation software, design software and generate reports.
  • Machinery familiarity: Process engineers use and supervise the use of large and complex equipment daily. As they are responsible for their safety and output, they will need to be familiar with all aspects of these machines.

Educational Requirements

Entry-level jobs for Process Engineers require a bachelor’s degree in Chemical, Manufacturing, or Industrial Engineering (study.com). This means that your Secondary School education must be focused on subjects in the sciences. University Education comes next on your career ladder. While thousands of schools around the world offer degrees programs in Process Engineering, here are a few with proper accreditation, good teaching quality, and excellent student/teacher relationships.

The University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom offers a BEng Hons in Manufacturing Engineering with Management. The program combines a more complex engineering focus (such as mechanics, manufacturing, electronics, maths, programming, engineering calculations of a product’s design) with production and management principles and techniques such as operational improvement and quality management. The tuition for international students is £20,900.

The program is a great fit for someone pursuing a career in Process Engineering. It infuses manufacturing processes, design, CAD, rapid prototyping and digital prototyping technologies, software and practical skills into its curriculum to turn the design and production process into reality.

Bradford University in the United Kingdom offers a BEng (Hons) in Chemical Engineering. The program will give you the practical experience you need to operate in a range of industry sectors, learning in a research-informed, multidisciplinary environment. The tuition for international students is £19,160. The program is 3 years full-time. The University also offers a 4-year version of the program which has a ‘sandwich’ placement year.

Hofstra University in the United States of America offers a BS- Industrial Engineering degree. The tuition for international students is $23,225.

Job Outlook and stages of career development

Employment opportunities for process engineers are expected to increase by 12% by 2028 due to an increase in medical and scientific research. New developments in technology and automotive manufacturing will see a surge in process engineer hiring.

  1. Process Engineer is an entry-level position that most engineers begin in.
  2. However, a senior Process Engineer has vast experience in a particular field of process engineering, for instance, chemical processing. They usually occupy management roles in large companies, leading a team of other process engineers.
  3. The Process Product Engineer focuses on improving the manufacturing process to save money for the company.
  4. The Project and Process Engineer leads a group of other engineers on a large-scale project. They integrate process engineering skills with project management skills.
  5. The Lean Engineer uses the “Lean Manufacturing Methodology” to reduce waste and improve manufacturing processes.
  6. The Process Automation Engineer focuses on developing complex automation programs fro manufacturing processes.
  7. The Continuous Improvement Engineer focuses on improving the existing manufacturing processes, minimizing waste, and maximizing production capabilities.

Testing Process

Where Can a Process Engineer Work?

  • Food & Beverage Industries
  • Chemical Industries
  • Paper & Pulp Industries
  • Plastics & Rubber Industries
  • Metals & Minerals Industries
  • Ceramics, Glass & Cement Industries
  • Utilities Industries
  • Power Generation Industries
  • Water & Wastewater Industries
  • Pharmaceuticals Industries
  • Nuclear plants
  • Insurance firms

Salary

According to salary.com, the average Process Engineer salary in the United States is $68,524 as of March 26, 2020, but the range typically falls between $63,627 and $74,615.

According to glassdoor.com, the average salary for a Process Engineer in the United Kingdom is £41,937.

Nuevoo.ca estimates the average Process Engineer’s salary in Canada as $80,000 per year or $41.03 per hour.

Related Careers

  • Manufacturing Engineer: Manufacturing Engineers design and operate the manufacturing systems for a product. As a Manufacturing Engineer, you will choose the best technologies and processes to manufacture it, plan and design the factory that will produce the product and manage the running and maintenance and continuous improvement of the manufacturing process.
  • Mechanical engineer: Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.
  • Quality engineer: A quality engineer makes sure that engineering and manufacturing processes are performed appropriately using the right tools, materials and processes. A very vital part of the job involves designing the business’ quality standards and comparing processes against those criteria.

Lab

Postgraduate Options for Process Engineers

Master in Process Engineering offered by ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The program builds on in-depth knowledge of core areas in mechanical and process engineering with mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, and bioengineering such as thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, mass and heat transfer, materials science, control systems, and product development. The tuition for international students is £1,196 per year.

Master of Process Engineering from Offenburg University, Germany. The program equips students with advanced knowledge in chemical and thermal process engineering, biotechnology or food technology. They also receive training in the intercultural competencies that are essential qualifications in process engineering’s increasingly multicultural environment. The tuition for international students is £1,500. The pace is full-time (3 semesters).

Master’s Degree Programme in Sustainable Chemical and Process Engineering from the Åbo Akademi University, Finland. The program helps students gain deep knowledge of chemical engineering and have a unique opportunity to take part in future developments in this field. Individuals that enrol will gain top-level expertise for work in the chemical and process industries as well as in scientific research. The tuition for international students is €12000 per year.

Process Engineering

Professional certifications

Certified Manufacturing Engineers certification (CMfgE): Earning this certification requires a lot of time and effort. The benefits are also going to be present throughout your career as a Process Engineer. To earn your CMfgE certification, you need a minimum of eight combined years of manufacturing-related education and work experience (a minimum of four years’ work experience).

The Certified Manufacturing Engineer exam is a four-hour, open book and open notes exam. It consists of about 180 multiple-choice questions from the recommended study material. The price of the examination is $520.

Center for Chemical Process Safety Professional Certification CCPSC: To earn this certification, you’ll go through an assessment based on educational and career experience and a rigorous examination.  Successful CCPSCs must then maintain their knowledge and expertise through continuous participation in professional development activities.

While the certification alone is not enough to determine the competence of an individual for a job, it can be valuable input for those seeking to evaluate the professional qualifications of an employee or candidate. You will first pay an application fee of $150, and if your application is accepted, you pay $250 for the examination.

Six Sigma Certification

Six Sigma: Management and Strategy Institute (MSI) provides Online Certification of Management and Business Skills for individuals who wish to advance their knowledge in business-related fields. They specialize in Six Sigma certification programs like Six Sigma Lean Professional (SSLP) which is designed to give the student a solid understanding of both Lean and Six Sigma principles. You will also learn how to effectively work with Lean principals in a manufacturing environment.

The Six Sigma Lean Professional is a mid-level certification.  This means that it may not make you an expert on all facets of Six Sigma or the Lean manufacturing process. However, this professional development course will teach you Lean Manufacturing principals and the basic skills needed to function as a Lean professional within your company even with minimal knowledge on the subject matter.  Many executive jobs today require that their employees have at least a basic understanding of Lean Six Sigma. The price of the training material and the test is $195.95.

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