A lead process engineer is primarily responsible for analyzing and improving the way new chemicals or products are made and tested. The engineer may carry out studies, evaluate design options, and produce solutions to workflow or product problems which are both safe and optimized to company and legal standards. Many lead process engineers may also work directly with individual members of a company to enhance development and the overall workforce.
Both industrial engineering and human labor aspects are important to a lead process engineer. Working on these two elements of manufacturing helps to ensure the safety, quality, and efficiency from concept to final product. With an increasing focus on eco-friendly solutions and socially responsible companies, a lead process engineer may also need to consider solutions which are safe for the public as well as minimize pollution. Quality control standards are carefully monitored by local and national law in most areas, as well as by company management. It is important for a lead engineer to comply with these strict standards while moving the workflow effectiveness forward.
A lead process engineer may spend time in an office analyzing data and compiling it into reports, but he may also spend a great deal of time on the production floor. First-hand observation is very important when attempting to identify problems with the current system. A typical tour of the floor may include speaking with laborers and machine operators to find if they have any concerns or complaints, as well as inspecting machinery or overseeing chemical testing.
Once the engineer has gathered and organized enough data, he may easily find areas which need improvement, and can discuss solution possibilities with management. Sometimes new equipment or training protocols may be required to implement solutions and enhancements, and both options may require some new training for each worker affected. New projects, equipment, and training protocols are closely supervised by a lead process engineer who ensures it is all done correctly. At times, the engineer may even be the one providing training to the employees on how to correctly and safely handle new equipment.
In most places, the minimum requirement to become a lead process engineer is a bachelor's degree in mechanical or industrial engineering, or even physical sciences. Many aspiring engineers may begin as interns or assistants for two to three years before being considered for a lead process engineer position. Once accepted for the position, an engineer may also be required to pass a regional or national exam before being allowed to work independently. Strict standards for this career help to ensure that only highly qualified individuals are in charge of chemical safety.