Why You Need a Consulting Process Engineer: 3 Ways a Consulting Engineer Supports Your Company Goals
The process regulations, standards, and codes required of life science companies can be challenging to understand and apply to manufacturing operations.
Life science companies bringing complex therapies to market are under pressure to perform quickly and with fewer resources, making it challenging to find the time to interpret and administer the ever-changing requirements of the regulatory environment.
Cue the consulting process engineer, an outside resource who offers time, knowledge, and skills to provide specialized support to life science clients. Consulting process engineers bring value to process teams by providing resource alleviation, diverse industry and technology experience, and focused task handling.
What Is a Process Engineer?
Process engineers work primarily in life sciences, food and beverage, petroleum, and other manufacturing industries. They help to determine the steps an organization must take to design, build, and manufacture a product, starting with raw materials or information and ending in a finished product.
There are two types of process engineers within industries: organizational process engineers and consulting process engineers.
Organizational engineers are typically employed at operating companies and focus on the company’s day-to-day issues and improvements, optimize specific processes, and execute short-term projects.
Consulting engineers are usually employed at engineering design companies and focus on the customer’s project or tasks by applying specific technical and project experience.
We’ll explore the value a consulting process engineer can bring to operating clients.
What Does a Consulting Process Engineer Do?
Consulting process engineers work for an engineering firm, such as Gannett Fleming. They provide specialized and focused task handling, from process improvement projects at an existing facility to designing a new manufacturing campus.
Consulting engineers are familiar with industry-wide regulations, standards, and codes and have worked with multiple clients and industries throughout the U.S. and, in many cases, globally. They also share their experiences working with new technologies and engaging in sound design and engineering practices.
Most consulting engineers participate in industry standard groups that establish product and operation requirements. Belonging to professional organizations and committees such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Bioprocessing Equipment (ASME-BPE) or the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) provides consulting engineers with the updates they need to provide long-lasting designs. ASME-BPE encourages familiarity with biopharmaceutical equipment design and construction. ISPE connects technical specialists, engineers, and suppliers to share pharmaceutical knowledge, including new technology understanding and best practices.
3 Ways a Consulting Process Engineer Supports Your Company Goals
Consulting engineers apply innovation and expertise to systems and methods to help companies perform more efficiently. Here are three ways that consulting engineers bring value to the industry.
1. Provides Resource Alleviation
In medium- and long-term projects, in-house resources often can be tied up for design and execution, limiting the resources available at the site to manage day-to-day operations and resolve process upset conditions.
Whereas operating engineers lead day-to-day issues and short-term projects of six months or fewer, consulting engineers can handle long-term projects of six months to several years. Consulting engineers resolve site production issues by allowing the operating engineer(s) to focus on immediate issues and thereby minimize impacts on day-to-day operations.
When a company needs to split its operating engineer’s time between production and projects, the result can be delays, production downtime, and decreased employee satisfaction. A consulting engineer fills the gap by providing production and project support, allowing the operating engineer to resolve the delays and improve employee satisfaction.
The job market demand for process engineers is high. A search for open process engineer positions on LinkedIn shows approximately 80,000 results. As more engineers approach retirement age, the demand will grow.
Establishing relationships with qualified candidates and completing the onboarding process can take months, creating lag time before new employees become functional. Given the high demand for resources and time, organizations must prepare to balance project and production goals.
2. Brings Experience With New Technologies, Vendors, and Industry Standards
Consulting engineers bring the experience of new technologies and trusted suppliers. From minor equipment modifications to a new facility design and construction, this outside knowledge can help teams become more efficient and creative. Understanding new technologies can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to assess reliability. Consulting engineers apply their experiences with other projects to interpret the latest information and ensure the company meets its goals.
Consulting engineers leverage supplier relationships to ensure the client is dealing with trusted suppliers by asking questions, such as:
- Do they deliver on time?
- Do they provide sound technical solutions?
- Do they have adequate support staff?
- Is it challenging to work with them?
These insights only are gained by working across multiple organizations and projects.
Knowledge sharing between the organization and the consulting company increases project or task efficiency by creating effective solutions without rework. Changes and rework created later within a project or task are more expensive to incorporate as the timeline progresses. Consulting engineers are familiar with industry standards and can provide solutions that meet critical regulatory requirements.
3. Provides Specialized and Focused Task Handling
Life science process consultants can be experts in designing and operating purified water systems, bioreactors, automated inspection machines, or other specialized life science production steps. Clients can create hybrid teams with organizational process engineers using consulting engineers to balance and improve site skill sets and knowledge.
Different challenges arise in the production environment compared to the project environment, underscoring the value of allocating resources. For example, planning weeks of downtime to incorporate a design in an active production environment is challenging when equipment or a process step is critical, and the consulting engineer must quickly resolve issues.
In a project, some design decisions take careful and planned reviews that can take weeks to months, which is time that needs to be budgeted in a production environment. Using their vast experience, a consulting engineer will develop a detailed plan to obtain equipment, materials, and trade support to minimize the impact on production.
The graphic below shows how organizations can assemble teams using the three I’s: internal, integrated, and independent teams built with or without consultants. The ideal team formation can be determined by assessing the project size, complexity, and the organization’s available resources.
As a former organizational engineer, I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact of consulting engineers on organizations and their processes. Check out my Employee Spotlight to learn more about my journey from an operating company to an engineering firm.
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