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What Is Process Engineering?

Process engineering uses scientific principles to improve production processes.
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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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Process engineering is a branch of chemical engineering that focuses on manufacturing and industrial processes. Professionals in this field combine principles from physics, biochemistry, and mathematics to develop more effective production processes. For example, process engineering can be used to determine the best way to transform an existing restaurant into a franchise. This may include everything from raw materials sourcing to the type of accounting software used to track sales. It can also be used to evaluate different methods of harvesting and extracting peanut oil to achieve the highest quality product at the lowest price.

The field of process engineering is relevant to many industries. It is widely used in food and beverage production, and can also be applied to wastewater treatment and water distribution. Process engineers may also work in facilities that produce thermoplastics, pharmaceuticals, or cosmetics. Process engineering is also used in energy production. It helps firms discover the best ways to extract materials and transform them into fuel with minimal damage to the environment.

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Those looking to pursue a career in process engineering will often need to obtain a graduate-level degree in chemical engineering or a related field. While some universities offer process engineering programs, many students will be limited to chemical engineering or other broader fields. To find success in this industry, applicants should possess strong technical and scientific skills along with a sense of creativity. A creative eye can be useful for finding new solutions or techniques that may improve a manufacturing process.

Process engineers may work directly for industrial facilities, though some act as independent consultants. They can be hired to plan the construction and organization of a new facility, or to improve the processes and manufacturing methods at an existing plant. These professionals can also be hired to design or critique new equipment, or simply to write specifications and manuals to help guide current staff within a facility. The process engineer relies on experiments and scientific trials as well as existing data. He may use complex modeling software to evaluate different options within an industry or process.

The ultimate goal of process engineering can vary depending on the project. For some, the goal is to improve the quality and performance of the final product. For others, it is to maximize profit by refining the production process and improving efficiency. Some firms may use process engineering to improve relations along the supply chain. Finally, this process can help a facility improve safety or minimize environmental pollution during manufacturing.

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MrMoody
Post 3

@allenjo - I believe that some of the process engineering jobs emerge from within the industry you happen to be working in at the time.

For example, in the case of your friend, he got hired on as an engineer, and within the context of the oil industry he learned how different petroleum refining processes work. Personally, in that context I believe that a chemical engineer would have an edge, but it doesn’t matter.

The point is that after he got his foot in the door, he learned how processes worked and he could apply his engineering skills to improving processes in whatever capacity was needed by the company.

nony
Post 2

To me, the best example of process engineering is the business process engineering that Ray Kroc did in making McDonald's. It was basically a couple of restaurants that was started by the McDonald’s brothers, which was later bought by Ray Kroc and turned into a franchise.

Ray Kroc was a brilliant marketer and businessman. The McDonald’s franchise is a huge success, certainly far bigger than what he or the original McDonald’s brothers could have imagined.

Before reading this article I never would have called Ray Kroc a process engineer. But it makes sense, when you think about. An engineer thinks about transforming materials.

Kroc had to look at the food that McDonald’s made, and think of a way to mass produce it on an almost assembly line process, so that a Big Mac in Shanghai would taste like a Big Mac in Peoria. That’s business process engineering for you.

allenJo
Post 1

I have a friend who majored in industrial engineering. When I asked him to tell me what industrial engineers have to do, he said they have to become familiar with a wide variety of industries and learn how different processes work.

The article suggests that the process engineer is a branch of chemical engineering, but I would think that the industrial engineer could satisfy that role as well.

My friend is a case in point, as he works in an oil company and is involved in their manufacturing processes, although he has no background in petroleum engineering.

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