Process Engineers are responsible for designing, implementing, controlling and optimizing industrial processes, especially continuous ones within the chemical, petrochemical, agriculture, mineral processing, food, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological industries.
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for chemical/process engineers was $108,770 in May 2019 with projected job growth of 8% from 2016 to 2026.
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 a continuous 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.
Process Engineers work in Process or Continuous Manufacturing – takes a formulation or recipe of ingredients and blends them together using a chemical reaction, heat, cold, fermentation, etc continuously or in a batch into a final product which is usually a liquid, powder, gas or solid. (Think turning milk into baby formula, oil refining, gasoline, plastic, casein, cheese, butter, paint or pharmaceutical manufacturing,)
In a process manufacturing factory, you typically find, piping, pumps, tanks, flow valves, steam valves, temperature gauges, boilers, vessels, reactor vessels, crackers, distillation columns, heat exchangers, boilers, steam pipes, autoclaves, clarifiers, decanters, fluidised dryers, Program Logic Controllers (PLCs) PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) Controllers, etc,
Production and Manufacturing Engineers work in Discrete Manufacturing – machines and or assembles (screws, bolts, welds, glues, rivets) individual pieces into a distinct product often on an assembly line. (Think car assembly – Telsa’s production line for its electric cars, shipbuilding, cell phones, computers, airplanes, syringes, medical pumps, scalpels, pacemakers, etc)
In a discrete manufacturing factory, you typically find, assembly lines, conveyor belts, U shaped assembly areas, machine tools, CNC machine centers, CNC lathes, stamping presses and dies, robots, welders, pick and place (SCARA) robots, injection moulding machines, packing machines, air-powered assembly tools, painting and finishing areas, etc.
For some people, Process Engineers and Chemical Engineers are synonymous. For others and depending on the country you are in, a Process Engineer is a KIND of chemical engineer that designs manufacturing plants, which can do everything from recycling plastics to making jam. Here the emphasis is not on doing new chemistry. Instead, they focus on applying known chemical reactions to designing, maintaining, and improving manufacturing plants. There is more emphasis on mathematics and physics (specifically fluid mechanics) than chemistry, so they work more with mechanical engineers.