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What is a Process Engineer?

  • A process engineer standing outside in front of a piping installation.

Process Engineers are responsible for designing, implementing, controlling and optimizing industrial processes, especially continuous ones within the chemical, petrochemical, agriculture, mineral processing, advanced material, food, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological industries.

In this article, we’ll explore process engineering in more detail, as well as the tasks carried out by process engineers and how you go about becoming one.

What is Process Engineering?

Process Engineering provides the chemical or biochemical processes and equipment that are used to turn raw materials into an end product and is an essential part of the manufacturing industry.

Process Engineers create, set specifications, develop, implement and monitor this equipment or these processes as part of the manufacturing system. Within pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing, the processes involved can be chemical or biochemical.

Process Engineering is at work during all stages of the manufacturing process. These engineers can be designing innovative processes and equipment for a new facility or they can be involved in the modification and optimization of equipment and processes that are already in place.

As a result, Process Engineers work with people all across the manufacturing system including R&D, production staff, management and even customers.

What Does a Process Engineer Do?

A Process Engineer is responsible for developing, installing and monitoring the equipment and processes that turn raw materials into an end product. As such, their job can be extremely varied.

In larger companies, Process Engineers may specialize in a niche area but in smaller facilities, a Process Engineer can be responsible for a huge variety of tasks.

These tasks can include:

  • Research and development of new equipment (this can include design responsibilities)
  • Monitoring of equipment – including regular testing and ensuring maintenance tasks are carried out
  • Completion of documentation to show and ensure compliance with both internal and external regulations and protocols
  • Oversight of processes and working to maintain optimization of the production line
  • Assisting Process Technicians in troubleshooting in the event of a problem
  • Data collection, interpretation and report writing
  • Presentation of data and reports to senior colleagues and management
  • Installation of new equipment
  • Risk assessments of the equipment and processes being used. Of course, this refers to staff safety and safety within the plant, but this can also extend outwards to include things such as the environmental impact
  • Continual evaluation of equipment and processes to ensure both efficiency and quality remain high
  • Budget responsibilities
  • Use of simulation software in the development of new processes

Watch this Video on a Process Engineer’s Role!

To hear more about the work of a Process Engineer from someone in the role, check out this video from the About Bioscience website, produced by the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research (NCABR).

Becoming a Process Engineer

Typically, a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in a related field (such as engineering, chemistry or material science) is required. Management experience or business qualifications with accompanying engineering awareness or experience can also provide a route into these positions.

The ideal skill set for someone moving into process engineering includes:

  • Excellent communication skills – working with people across the manufacturing process, they have to be able to manage people well and communicate new ideas effectively
  • Calm under pressure – must be able to troubleshoot at an advanced level. If a problem is delaying manufacturing, they must be able to come up with effective working solutions quickly
  • Commercial awareness – usually working within strict time and budgetary constraints
  • Critical/logical thinking – have to locate problems, and then think of those problems from a variety of perspectives to assess the best solution
  • Excellent computer skills – IT is an essential part of this role, uses include simulation software, design software and reporting
  • Analytical skills – responsible for analysis and interpretation of data into charts, diagrams, and reports
  • Negotiation skills – vital if charged with budgetary or schedule management
  • Creative thinking and excellent problem-solving skills – have to be able to solve problems in a new way, seeing past what is established and create a new way of doing things

Switch to Process Engineering in the Pharmaceutical Industry

If you already work as a Process Engineer and want switch sectors into the pharmaceutical or biopharmaceutical industry, take the first step with our 30-week academically accredited Certificate in eBioPharmaChem conversion course.

For more information on currently available Process Engineering roles within the pharma space, head to our jobs boards and select Engineering or Engineering Projects in the “Jobs by Category” menu. We currently have jobs boards for Ireland, the UK, and Philadelphia, USA.

How Much do Process Engineers Earn?

For information on typical salaries for this role, check out our Salaries Page.

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