A major concern for most industrial facilities and plants is efficiency and one of the most common efficiency-related problems is bottlenecks. A bottleneck occurs when a particular segment of production grinds to a much slower pace than the processes that come before and after it. Thus it is the bottleneck that is ultimately inhibiting production. Let’s take a look at some of the major strategies process engineers use to remove bottlenecks.
Process Engineers Evaluate the Full System
When confronting a production bottleneck process engineers evaluate the full production system not just the bottleneck itself. This is important because it provides much needed context that can in turn point to a solution or reveal related problems that may be exacerbating or even causing the bottleneck. Process engineers also have the benefit of a fresh perspective compared to plant managers who may be so used to doing things a certain way or having things set up a certain way, that they are blind to alternatives that could ultimately lead to much greater efficiency.
Process Engineers Analyze the Scope and Depth of the Bottleneck
Some bottlenecks are more serious than others. For example some bottlenecks may be relatively easy to fix just by making a minor adjustment in the overall process, or making an operational change. Other bottlenecks may require more intensive resolution strategies such as fully replacing or upgrading equipment or bringing on additional equipment or manpower. First understanding the scope and depth of the problem is essential for coming up with solutions and offering viable alternatives to the company.
Process Engineers Provide Guidance for the Deployment of Resources
Process engineers are also able to use sophisticated modeling techniques to provide guidance about the best way to deploy company resources to get the most return on investment and see the most improvement in the bottleneck. For example it could be that two or three different actions are determined that would yield improvement; however, that does not mean that the three options are equal in cost, time frame, and scope of difficulty to implement. Process engineers can help companies determine the best route to take.
Process Engineers Consider the Process Design
When looking for specific debottlenecking solutions process engineers will consider the process design itself. It could be that the process was designed inefficiently to begin with or that it was developed at a time when technology or company resources were more limited. Often relatively simple and minor tweaks to the overall process design can have significant effects on productivity.
Process Engineers Examine Process Operations
Another important factor to consider is that process design is different from process operations. The design refers to the way the process should work, compared to the operations that refers to the way the process is actually executed. It could be that operations aren’t fully meeting the promise of the design for a number of different reasons.
Process Engineers Improve Process Control
Process control refers to the consistency and reliability of the process. It may be a well designed system that is well operated, but it could still be vulnerable to external factors that compromise its reliability, consistency, and overall performance. Process engineers can identify these weaknesses and provide guidance for how to address them.
Process Engineers Utilize Ancillary Tools and Technology
To accomplish these goals process engineers rely on a range of sophisticated ancillary tools and industry technology. These resources combined with the experience and expertise of the process engineer can yield outstanding results that dramatically improve efficiency, cut costs, or enhance product quality. Polaris is proud to offer industry-leading process engineering and consultancy services and we have a wealth of resources and expertise to draw upon.