Process control design is an engineering function that creates manufacturing systems to produce finished products. The practice designs processes by integrating functions or steps into an overall system. These systems may be designed through intuition or analysis. Some of the goals of process control design include improved product quality, cost efficiency and automation.
Each manufactured product usually requires that several raw materials be combined or processed. Part of a process control design team's responsibilities is figuring out the steps that will result in the desired finished product. Steps must be arranged in a way that makes sense and produces a streamlined and synchronized process.
Besides figuring out how to arrange steps, a process control design team also needs to figure out how to use different machines and mechanical resources to perform those functions. For example, a potato chip manufacturer might design a system that uses conveyor belts to transport washed and sliced potatoes. The conveyor belt dumps the potatoes into vats of heated oil that cooks the product for a specified amount of time. Cooked chips are released from the vat to a salting and seasoning machine before being placed into a bag.
A process engineer might design manufacturing systems by intuition, analysis, or a combination of both. Process control design is sometimes based on an engineer's knowledge, experience and gut feeling about what automated processes will result in an optimum level of efficiency and quality. Most manufacturers monitor the quality of their products through batch testing and are able to pinpoint what steps in the process may be leading to inferior production results.
An examination of the particular step or steps involved in the system design may reveal that the parameters need to be slightly modified. Too much product might be cooked at the same time, resulting in uneven temperature or product deformation. The temperature settings may be too high given the amount of product or the cooking step may need to be moved to a different place in the process. In addition, there might be new technological advances that could improve the quality and efficiency of a certain step.
Design based on intuition is a bit trickier to pinpoint. Some engineers may experiment with different hunches before they get it right. They may use the process of elimination to determine what works well and what should be eliminated. A process control design team may have enough accumulated experience with the manufacturing process that they just "know" what will result in efficiency and quality.