Production or industrial chemists typically work in plants that manufacture products formed from chemical reactions, such as pharmaceuticals, oil, cosmetics and fertilizers. They conduct laboratory research to find effective ways to optimize production processes, improve production safety and product quality, and reduce environmental pollution. Production chemists can also find job opportunities at research and development facilities.
Using the Key Skills
Competent production chemists have strong practical laboratory skills. When studying the chemical properties of a finished product, for instance, they must be able to set-up and operate a variety of laboratory equipment and systems, many of which are technologically sophisticated. They have a keen eye for detail, since making slight errors when during experiments can lead to inaccurate results. To assess industrial chemical processes, detect inefficiencies and develop effective solutions, production chemists rely on their analytical and complex-problem solving skills.
Optimizing Chemical Processes
Production chemists help establish the most cost-effective methods to produce product. When a pharmaceutical manufacturing company wants to manufacture a new drug, production chemists may conduct tests to determine the chemical composition of the raw materials. They use this information to determine the proportions in which the raw materials can be mixed to increase drug yields while maintaining product quality. If a chemical reaction along the production line takes a long time to occur, the chemist uses expertise to devise a solution, such as inducing a suitable chemical catalyst.
Controlling Environmental Pollution
Manufacturing plants rely on production chemists to maintain environmentally sustainable production activities. If a petroleum plant emits toxic fumes into the environment, chemists may collaborate with petroleum engineers and environmental chemists to identify chemicals for use in the treatment of the poisonous fumes. When the plant orders chemical products, such as acids, for use in the manufacturing process, production chemists tests them to ensure they meet the plant’s quality specifications. Other duties include supervising and training chemical technicians and preparing purchase requisitions for laboratory supplies.
Aspiring production chemists need relevant experience and education to get the job. Many chemists begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and finding work as laboratory assistants in industrial settings. They then obtain a master’s degree in industrial chemistry to qualify for employment as production chemists. Members of the American Society of Chemists have access to professional development resources, such as education workshops. Production chemists can pursue a master's degree in production or manufacturing management to become industrial production managers.