Process operators, or technical process operators, are obsessed with facilitating smooth-running production processes. Process operators know how production lines work and the necessary operational procedures that need to be implemented to keep the processes running. They are also technically savvy and can fix minor process issues themselves, with an eye for continuous improvement.
Since production lines are primarily automated partially or fully through computers, process operators are responsible for actively monitoring and managing them. If an issue arises, process operators are quick to act, make repairs as needed or adjust the process to keep production on track until a permanent solution is found.
Common responsibilities in the job description of a process operator include ensuring the overall efficiency of process performance, inspecting processing equipment for quality issues, maintaining processing equipment, overseeing, and guiding fellow process operators or technical staff, collecting data, and reporting on processes, and participating in or providing trainings on safety procedures. Process operators are also responsible for guaranteeing that the products being processed meet specific requirements. This means they regularly gather samples for analysis in a lab to determine product.
Specifically, a chemical process operator will focus on managing and improving production processes that use hazardous chemical substances. Chemicals may include paints, fertilizers, cosmetics, some pharmaceuticals, and similar materials.
With the increase in automation of production processes, the job outlook for process operators, technical or chemical, are great. Most often, they can find employment in industries such as manufacturing (of any product imaginable), oil and gas processing, mining, technology, pharmaceuticals, and beyond.
In pharmaceutical manufacturing for instance, a process operator would need to adhere to strict safety and health regulations to produce high-quality medicines. In the paper manufacturing industry, a process operator may need to manage the process of turning the raw material of lumber into a refined paper product.
Common process operator responsibilities
- Monitoring, controlling, and adjusting processes to meet specifications;
- Documenting process flows, temperatures, and pressures on all processing equipment, as relevant;
- Troubleshooting and solving issues in processes in a timely manner;
- Inspecting product quality and identifying faulty equipment;
- Maintaining inventory of chemical process supplies or for other processes as needed;
- Supervising team members involved in processing flow;
- Coordinating successful processing shutdowns and startups as needed;
- Ensuring that all required safety precautions, and health and environmental regulations are followed;
- Performing routine and preventive maintenance on processing equipment;
- Maintaining a clean work environment;
- Attending training classes as required.
Qualifications for process operator
Process operators should have at least a technical or trade certification related to production processing or engineering, computer technology, or related.
A Bachelor’s degree in Engineering or similar field is advantageous, particularly if pursuing a career as process engineer.
Additional supporting skills and experience include:
- At least 2 years’ experience in a similar role;
- In-depth knowledge of production and processing systems;
- Technically savvy with knowledge and experience using the latest computer systems for process and production management;
- Solid understanding of general processing maintenance procedures and techniques;
- Being physically capable and available to work in demanding environments;
- Investigative by nature and willing to solve process problems quickly;
- Having excellent written and verbal communication skills;
- Being well-organized and having the ability to prioritize tasks.