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5 Tips for Fresh Process Engineers

I received an email from a fresh engineer 7 days ago. After reading his email, I thought of answering his question inside my blog (off course for the benefit of other young engineers and those who'll be graduating soon).

The email message was something like the this:
"I'm Fahmi. I know you from your chem-eng blog. I want to ask for your advice. I just started working as a production engineer in an oleochemical plant in Klang. As a fresh graduate, I am a bit lost on what should I learn as an engineer. If possible, I want to know how you learn when you are a process engineer."

Well, the email stops there and after reading his email, I thought of responding immediately. However, due to certain constraint, I delayed responding to his email. Now, I'm going to share some of my experiences when I started working as a process engineer. Some of them might be OK for you to follow, while some others might not. Judge and justify them yourself.

1. Get to know everybody as soon as possible. When I first be a process engineer, I make sure I know all engineers, executives, supervisors, technicians, fitters, plant operators and event store clerk as soon as possible. Why? Simply because I'll be dealing with them all the time throughout my daily job. At least you know their name and create a common interest with them. This will ease and create good relationship with them. However, do not be too close with your down line manpower. There's a reason for this which I'll cover some other day (please remind me if I forgot).

2. Get to know the process of your plant. This is very important because you are a process engineer and you need to know the detail of the processes in your plant. First of all, you need to get the PID diagram of your plant. Identify and learn the lines, pumps, valves, heat exchangers, tanks and other important units in the PID diagram. Then, go to the plant and trace the lines and compare it with the PID diagram. If it is difficult for you to trace the lines (pipelines), ask a supervisor or plant operator to help and guide you. This is also the reason why I provide tips #1. The job will be easier if you know the right people to help you. As for me, I was assiged to traced each and every valve in my plants. In order to do that, I need not only to trace the lines but also identify all types of valves in the plant. There are basically hundreds of valves installed in the plant. It was tough but after the exercise, I was able to trace the lines, process and know all type of valves.

3. Learn everything as fast as possible. This is very important and is too much to elaborate. You need to be able to pick up everything you learn from your manager, other engineers and executives. Don't be shy to ask from your supervisors, plant operators, technicians and fitters. They have the skill and knowledge that you don't have when you first enter the plant. Learn from all of them. Integrate what they know with what you've learn during your degree. Create and maintain a log book to record everything that is important. Avoid remembering because you might forget. Another way of learning is by asking to the suppliers or vendors. They are the expert of the product or service that they are selling. Hence, don't be shy to asked from them. They'll provide technical information that is important for you. I've done this a lot of time and I appreciate their explanation and teachings. Some times, suppliers / vendors will offer in house training for you and your colleagues. At the end of the day, if you are able to perform your duty as a process engineer smoothly, effectively and efficiently, you'll get good reward from your boss...

Being a process engineer, you need to be able to prepare and produce reports to be presented to your superiors. Understanding the report and preparing them is crucial. Normally, you have various types of reports to prepare such as daily report, monthly report, costing report, meeting minutes reports and others. So, make sure you prepare good report.

4. Understand the politics in your workplace. This is very important. You need to know how things are going on in your plant/factory. This is very subjective and not thought in any chemical engineering text book. You need to get the information and knowledge from various people in your organization. That's why point #1 (above) is vital. Some companies have a culture which will blame somebody else for any errors occuring and this is not healthy. Some other cultures are professional and will accept responsibility of any problem.

5. Communicate properly. This is very important as a process engineer because you'll receive instruction and also provide instruction to your supervisors and plant operators. You need to possess good communication skills to ensure all mesagges and directions are conveyed correctly. Delegate your jobs to your downline with clear cut informations. What we practice in our plant is to have an instruction recording book. Every shifts should refer and sign the book to ackhowledge that they read the instruction. This is different from the quality and recording books. If they have problem comprehending the instruction, they should call us for further clarification. Failure to receive and provide correct instruction will lead to massive errors which will make your life misserable in later stage. So, please, ensure you communicate properly.


Those are just 5 tips for me to share for the time being. I never asked anybody for the tips. I figured them myself and I compile it (in this post) for the benefit of new process engineers. I'm glad that I managed to know everybody and learn lots of thing quickly. Being a successful engineer is critical for your career development. In later stage, you'll get promoted as a senior engineer before becoming a manager. If you are lucky, somebody (head/job hunter) will search you because they know you are an engineer with such a great caliber and offer you better remuneration.

Some of you might want to share your experiences as a new process engineers. If you have something, please share it with us in the comment area or by shooting me an email.

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posted by zaki yamani @ 12:38 PM,


At Sunday, May 17, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lagi satu, (penting jugak).

Jangan terpedaya dengan godaan kad kredit. Nampak macam remeh tapi akhir sekali prestasi kerja akan merosot dan mula lah nak lompat kerja.


At Sunday, May 17, 2009, Blogger alzack said...

King hammid...

Hmm... ok...can consider that la...
but that is more towards financial planning mahhh....but it's ok...because we never learn those thing in school...

At Monday, May 18, 2009, Blogger Manfenix said...

Dear Admin. Chemical Engineering World:

I have a blog that includes all resources for food production, underpinned
by branches of science and technology of food, chemical engineering, etc..
The goal is the disclosure techno scientific understanding of all the
knowledge involved. I therefore ask their permission to reproduce articles
of his blog, citing of course, the source and author.
Mi blog is http://avibert.blogspot.com
email: manfenix06@gmail.com

At Monday, May 18, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the highlights

At Wednesday, May 27, 2009, Anonymous electric actuators said...

i appreciate the tips! great blog.

At Thursday, July 16, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

quote from tip 1:
However, do not be too close with your down line manpower. There's a reason for this which I'll cover some other day (please remind me if I forgot).

why not?
these are the people who do the actual work
these people know the plant like the back of their hand


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The Author


I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!

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