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What is a Process Technician?
Process Technicians work in a process or continuous manufacturing environment and operate equipment, monitor the machinery and document results in strict adherence to protocols. Process Manufacturing uses a chemical reaction or blends ingredients continuously or in a batch into a final product which is usually a liquid, powder or gas.
Process Technicians are involved in all stages of the manufacturing process in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industries, less so in medical device manufacturing. They often work within a clean-room environment.
Some Companies Might Call This Role…
- Chemical Process Technician
- BioProcess Technician
- Cleanroom Operator
- Chemical Plant and System Operators
In the Medical Device Manufacturing Sector where the emphasis is more on discrete manufacturing they might be know as:
- Manufacturing Technician
- Manufacturing Operator
- Production Technician
Process Technician Salaries & Job Growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 report on “Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing”, process technicians (also referred to as chemical plant and system operators), earned an average wage of $24.29 per hour and an average salary of $51,970 per year.
Check out our salary guide for Process Technician salary information for “Euro” and “Dollar” salaries local to you.
Let’s now take a closer look at the details of the role of a Process Technician.
What Does a Process Technician Do?
Process Technicians are involved at all stages of a manufacturing process. The role requires individuals to follow strict internal protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as well as following current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP).
There is a large amount of responsibility given to individuals within these roles. Any deviation from these practices or any mistake made could have serious repercussions, resulting in potentially unsafe defective products or expensive destruction of batches.
They often work within a cleanroom environment so personal protective gear (including masks, clothing, footwear, and gloves) is required. This is both for their own safety and to maintain the integrity of the product by avoiding contamination.
A Process Technician will typically be responsible for a single specific step in the manufacturing process. Their job is to know this process in great detail as they will be responsible for identifying when the process is deviating from the norm and taking action to correct it or involve senior members of staff if/when they are not able to correct the problem.
They are also responsible for keeping any equipment in good working order – this involves regular inspection, cleaning, servicing and maintenance.
A key feature of the role is to maintain accurate and clear documentation that proves that these processes are being carried out in accordance with both internal and external regulations.
It is important that procedures are followed, but it is also important that it can be shown and proved that procedures were followed.
A Process Technician may also be responsible for the gathering of data from their process and reporting it to senior staff members (typically a Process Engineer).
Process Manufacturing vs Discrete Manufacturing
Process 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, general anesthetic, plastic, cheese, butter, paint or pharmaceutical manufacturing,)
In a process manufacturing plant, 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, conveyer belts, etc,
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 electric cars, ship building, cellphones, computers, airplanes, syringes, medical pumps, scalpels, pacemakers, etc)
In a discrete manufacturing plant, you typically find, assembly lines, U shaped assembly areas, machine tools, CNC machine centers, robots, welders, pick and place robots, injection moulding machines, packing machines, air-powered assembly tools, painting and finishing areas, etc.
What Duties Does a Process Technician Have?
The specific duties of a Process Technician can change dramatically depending on which stage of the manufacturing process they are involved with.
Tasks and responsibilities that are common to many Process Technician roles are:
- Monitor and operate the equipment in accordance with operational instructions
- Perform inspection, cleaning, and maintenance of the equipment in accordance with operational instructions
- Maintain Equipment and Batch Logbooks
- Regular review of the production schedule
- Strictly follow the internal SOPs and external regulations
- Strictly following health and safety procedures and protocols
- Document routine manufacturing processes
- Report data to senior colleagues
- Quick and effective diagnosis and troubleshooting of routine or minor problems
- Awareness of when to involve senior staff in more complex problems
Other examples of duties carried out by Process Technicians at particular points in the manufacturing process include:
- Monitoring any variables within the process and making adjustments when required
- Cleaning spills
- Sterilising equipment
- Measuring and weighing materials
- Mixing chemical reagents
- Start up or shut down of machinery
- Reporting when maintenance or repairs are necessary
For a look at the role of a Process Technician as described by someone actually in the job, check out this video from the About Bioscience website, produced by the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research
How Do You Become a Process Technician?
Some roles require a BSc in a science-related subject. Most, however, only require an associate degree/diploma in engineering, science or related field or vocational training through an accredited institution.
And in some cases, a high-school or equivalent qualification along with the right aptitude and skills is sufficient. Employers typically provide the training needed to complete the tasks specific to each job role as necessary.
If you’d like to retrain for a process technician role within the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, check out the following steps;
STEP 1, take this Conversion Course into Pharma to retrain for starter level roles such as:
- Process Technician Some companies call this role: Chemical Process Technician, BioProcess Technician
STEP 2 If you want to progress your career beyond a starter role and beyond, then take our Certificate in eBioPharmachem program to get an academic qualification from the Technology University Dublin, Ireland and get better jobs with a higher salary. Typical roles;
- Quality Assurance Specialist
- Documentation Specialist
- Validation Technician – you work directly for a pharmaceutical company on ongoing projects.
- Validation Team Member – you work with an engineering consultancy firm on capital projects.
And with some experience
What Skills Do I Need?
The ideal skill set for someone moving into a Process Technician role includes:
- Attention to detail – there are often many steps involved in a process, must be familiar with the details of each. Must follow SOPs closely and must observe all features of the clean room environment thoroughly
- Alert – must be able to quickly identify when the process is deviating from the norm
- Calm under pressure – must be able to confidently address problems if they arise, take appropriate action and involve others when needed
- Numerical skills – there can be formulas to follow and numerical factors to consider when following protocols and procedures
- Good communication skills – written skills are important to ensure clear documentation and verbal and listening skills are important to ensure efficient transfer of information between staff members (keeping in mind that these might be high-pressure situations when troubleshooting problems)
- Good computer skills – much of the documentation of processes is done via computer systems
Process Technician Resume Tips
As with all resumes, it’s extremely important that you tailor your Process Technician resume to reflect the language used within the job advert. Where you have relevant experience or skills, use the words and phrases that the employer has used to describe them. Do not assume that someone will read similar wording and know what you mean.
Process Technician roles will typically be looking for the skills previously outlined:
- Attention to detail
- Calm under pressure
- Numerical skills
- Good communication skills
- Good computer skills
22 Other Types of Pharma Job Roles
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