The demand for process control engineers has been on the rise lately. That may come as a surprise, since employers have needed these skills for decades.
Process control is a vital function of hundreds of industries that affect us every day. From water treatment, to food and beverage, to the pharmaceutical industry, these engineers are responsible for developing a process that is safe and consistent.
So why are we seeing more demand for these skills in recent years?
We broke down three causes for this trend followed by some ways educators can respond.
Our day-to-day activities are impacted by the work process control engineers do. They ensure our water is safe for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and farming. They monitor chemical and pH levels so our food and beverages taste and feel the same every time.
They create processes for acquiring and recycling water, oil, and gasoline.
They meet quality requirements for producing supplements and pharmaceuticals.
They design systems for creating paper, cardboard, paint, cleaning chemicals, and so much more.
Additionally, consumers are evolving. They demand more environmentally-friendly processes and waste treatment. There is a push toward renewable and recyclable materials.
And consumer tastes are creating a market for craft beverage and food products.
This opens the door for a new wave of process control engineers who can respond to the changing standards and demand coming from manufacturers and consumers.
Process control engineers are present for every step of the process, from designing, to monitoring, to troubleshooting.
A typical day in the life of a process control engineer could include…
Designing a system of valves, pumps, heaters, cooling coils, tanks and sensors.
Setting limits for temperature, timing, concentration, pressure, pH, flow and other variables at a precise proportion to keep the process running to standard.
Testing output and quality to make sure the process is meeting requirements.
Troubleshooting issues in the process.
All of this requires knowledge of equipment, programmable logic controllers, computer programs, chemicals, pipes, and sensors, etc. specific to that process. And each individual product has its own parameters unique to the manufacturer, requiring an even greater depth of expertise.
A good process control engineer is an asset to any employer. She will maintain safety standards, ensure consistent quality of products, save on raw materials, and design the most efficient processes.
Process control has evolved from a “black art” performed by so-called experts to an exact science.
Smart sensors, smart devices and analytic tools allow engineers to gather exact data. They can then push this through specialized algorithms that will improve processes.
This allows craft food and beverage manufacturers to develop unique products whose taste and texture are always consistent.
It allows smarter choices for equipment, variables and raw materials, making processes more eco-friendly.
And it saves the employer time and money by reducing cost of materials and production time.
Process control is an exciting career path that will continue to evolve. It’s an excellent option for students who want to help develop new and better processes, be an important part of how things are produced, and want to work with high-tech equipment and analytics!
A good process control engineer has to understand chemical engineering, control engineering and industrial control systems. They need to understand HMIs, PACs, VFDs, and PLCs. Training with industrial-grade software like SCADA, Foundation Fieldbus and Simulink are also valuable.
Click on any of the product photos below to learn more about them.
Training starts at a foundational level in high school. This Amatrol portable process control trainer is an excellent place to start.
Technical & Community College
Technical and community colleges should teach process control as a foundation for all engineering programs. Amatrol offers a range of full-size trainers for training level and flow, temperature, pressure and analytics.
DAC Worldwide has an excellent selection of cutaways & training systems to demonstrate specific topics within process control.
Universities should invest in process control research and analytic tools so students can perform data analyses as part of their training. TecQuipment’s line of control engineering products are the perfect solution.