Differences Between Process & Manufacturing Engineers

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At first glance, the two jobs (process engineer and manufacturing engineer) appear similar. However, process engineering is more specialized, and that specialization begins in the undergraduate programs. A manufacturing engineer may elect to go into any industry, but process engineers target such industries as food, chemical and pharmaceuticals, and are unlikely to end up in automotives or aerospace. The distinction is somewhat blurred by industry’s loose use of the word “process.” Still, the jobs are fairly distinct from one another.

Scope of Process Engineering

Process engineers work chiefly in process manufacturing, wherein raw materials undergo some change--chiefly chemical or biochemical change. A few of those industries include food, fuel, energy, pharmaceuticals and clean water processing.

The word “process” can also refer to a production process. Lean manufacturing principles refer to improving a production process, but that process may be at a discrete manufacturer, which produces single units of some durable good. Painting an automobile is a production process, which involves several steps.

Scope of Manufacturing Engineering

Manufacturing engineers work across industries. They may be involved in process manufacturing, or discrete manufacturing. Some examples are automotives, apparel, consumer packaged goods, furniture and appliances. This is sometimes called “industrial engineering” or “manufacturing and industrial engineering.”

Responsibilities of Process Engineers

A process engineer scales up a process from laboratory to production scale. The engineer will design equipment, install control systems, upgrade the processes and factor in environmental and health protection.

Responsibilities of Manufacturing Engineers

Manufacturing engineers plan, design, set up and optimize a manufacturing process, whatever the industry. They are responsible for designing efficiency, cost-effectiveness, environmental and safety controls into a process.


The jobs appear similar, but process engineering is more specialized. Thus, manufacturing and industrial engineering programs are plentiful. A quick check on the website Education Portal identifies 49 programs, from such universities as Boston University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and the University of Texas. It does not have a category for Process Engineering, but has several for such process engineering specialties as plastics and petroleum. Such degree programs might also be called something like Chemical and Process Engineering.