Process engineering is the technical discipline in charge of designing, planning and make the proper decisions for any industrial project to be executed following the established directives.
The processes are executed by the managers of each phase of the project. The process engineer is the one who defines how these processes are carried out, elaborates the procedures, carries out the plan that must be followed and, finally, supervises and controls that everything works properly.
Process engineering deals with the management and implementation of a project. It is the central element of the engineering project in its day to day: monitoring, follow-up, etc.
This field implies having the technical knowledge for the branch of engineering that is being applied in the project in question, but it also needs to possess other knowledge necessary to carry it out: negotiation, team leadership, purchases from suppliers or organization of the groups of jobs, just to mention a few.
Process engineering has different functions that we will now explore in detail:
It would be a reengineering work. There is an established process, which is working, but which can or should be improved. The process engineer has to determine which parts of the industrial process should be improved. He should investigate whether this modification is possible from a technical point of view and he also has to make an economic evaluation of the investment necessary to carry out those changes.
Flowcharts are graphic representations of the operation of a given process. In process engineering, they are the graphic expression of the development of the process in question.
The process consists of different steps, which are represented by a graphic symbol that includes a short description. All these steps are joined by arrows that indicate the sequence of steps.
In a visual and quick manner, any member of the work team can know at which stage the process is and what the next element of that process flow is.
It is a flowchart that represents an industrial process in which we have pipes and instruments. With this flowchart, the details of the direction and connection of the pipes, the location of the control equipment, the shutdown and ignition systems, etc., are represented graphically and schematically. It also contains the fundamental safety and operating instructions of the process.
The process engineer is responsible for developing and maintaining a list of all the equipment that is part of an industrial process that must be perfectly identified. Each equipment must have its own data sheet that contains its technical specifications: maintenance instructions, commissioning date, revision schedule, basic operating instructions, etc.
In processes where there are pipes and different storage elements, such as containers and tanks, it is necessary to define what capacity they should have, as well as the technical specifications of their construction: manufacturing material, measurements and volume, etc.
Dynamic equipment are elements of the process that are in motion, which are powered by some engine. For example, that refers to agitators, compressors, pumps and turbines. The process engineer must establish the necessary capacity, for example, in terms of power, flow or capacity, that such equipment must provide.
In an industrial process where fluids or gases are being handled, we will have control valves to regulate the flow and also act as a safety mechanism, so that they can be activated when there is a problem. It is the process engineering that must establish the measures and technical specifications of these valves.
A technical operation manual is a document that shows how a certain process works as a whole. It must contain as many subsections as there are phases in the process. The operation manual must be known and understood by all personnel involved in the process. It will also contain the necessary indications to consult, when necessary, some other document of the previously mentioned ones.