Home / Blog / Engineering : An In-Depth Look at Process Engineering

Polaris got its start by offering high quality process engineering consulting services to clients eager to debottleneck their operations and increase their productivity. As a result, process engineering continues to be a pivotal service for us. Many companies and site visitors who could benefit from process engineering may not know to seek it simply because they are unsure what it is or do not fully understand it.

An Overview of Process Engineering

Process engineering is the discipline of engineering that focuses on design processes, operation, process control, and process optimization. Process engineering may focus on physical, chemical, or biological processes. When it applies systematic computer-based methods to the processes being studied this is referred to as process systems engineering. As a result of its wide range of applications, considerable potential value, and diverse methods, process engineering encompasses a very large array of different industries and sectors.

The Development of Process Engineering

Process engineering as a broad, general concept and practice has existed almost as long as mankind itself. Throughout the ages, people have naturally sought ways to improve the speed, efficiency, convenience, and output of whatever they happened to be doing. As a specific engineering discipline, process engineering draws its roots from the 1960s. In 1961 the ALChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) held a symposium series which first coined the term. By the end of the decade, in 1968, a textbook, Strategy of Process Engineering by Dale F. Rudd and Charles C. Watson was published.

Today, process engineering is studied throughout the United States and process engineering services are offered by numerous companies including Polaris. Process engineering is also a very active area or research, study, and application on the international level, in particular in the countries of the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, China, and Korea. Process engineering has effected positive change on a global scale.

Process Engineering’s Key Areas of Focus

Because process engineering has such a broad range of applications in so many different industries and sectors, the specifics of which exact things it analyzes and improves will vary. There are several broad areas which process engineering focuses on in just about all applications. These areas act similarly to subdisciplines of process engineering and some experts may specialize primarily in one or two areas but many experts can provide feedback about all four areas:

Process Design – Process design looks at the way the process in question has been designed and set up. It looks for ways to improve this design and structure and may utilize hierarchical decomposition flowsheets, attempt superstructure optimization, or study plants with multi-product batches. Poor, inefficient design and structure elements can then be removed and substituted with design components that optimize the system or stand in better synergy with other components parts.

Process Operations – Process operations looks at the way the process in question is being executed. It may incorporate real-time optimization or fault diagnosis in an effort to improve operations efficiency. It may also study the operation’s schedule and examine multi-period planning, and other relevant data. Operations deficiencies can then be correct while beneficial elements of operations can be emphasized and broadened.

Process Control – Process control concentrates on the reliability of the process. It often employs tools such as controllability measures, robust control, model predictive control, statistical process control, and process monitoring to name just a few. By improving control over the process more consistent, dependable results are gained.

Supporting Tools – Supporting tools in process engineering focuses on the ancillary tools and systems which help support the primary process. These tools may include things such as equation based process simulation, AI or expert systems, sequential modular simulation, global optimization, large-scale nonlinear programming (NLP), optimization of differential algebraic equations (DAEs), and mixed-integer nonlinear programming (MINLP). These supporting tools enhance the overall productivity and quality of the process.

The Benefits of Process Engineering

The benefits of process engineering are significant and wide ranging. They may include everything from debottlenecking certain key problem areas, improving production speed, eliminating unneeded steps from a process, making the process or system safer, and increasing the quality, consistency, and/or volume of output. By and large process engineering provides a way for industries to reduce their costs while increasing the overall efficiency of their processes.

The Industries Served by Process Engineering

Process engineering has an incredibly far-reaching impact and potentially holds promise for nearly any industrial or commercial business. It is also at the forefront of expanding what is possible in the sciences and technology sectors. Some particular industries served by process engineering include:

  • Chemical
  • Petrochemical
  • Refining
  • Food and food processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Mineral processing
  • Medical
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Biotechs
  • Biomedical
  • Textiles
  • Transportation

Polaris is proud of its heritage as a process engineering company. Process engineering is still one of our core areas of service and we are pleased to be able to offer consulting services that improve operations and productivity for our clients. Process engineering is a fast-paced, dynamic discipline that is continually evolving and pushing the envelope of what is possible. Our clients can rest assured that Polaris will continue evolving with it and will maintain its place as an industry leader in process engineering.

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