Welcome to the latest in a series of AIChE blog posts profiling process engineers, a diverse group of professionals spanning multiple industries and regions. In this series, we profile process engineers who work in a wide range of fields, including petrochemicals, pharma, bulk chemicals, food, or any process-intensive industry.
Are you a member and process engineer interested in being profiled? We’d love to hear from you via this volunteer opportunity. Please also check out our online discussion group specifically for process engineers. You can find out about these initiatives and join our efforts by visiting https://www.aiche.org/processengineering.
This month, we introduce you to Thomas Hendrich, who works as a process engineer at Bonumose, an early-stage food manufacturing plant. He discusses the path that led to his career in process engineering, overcoming future challenges, and the importance of his work.
Tell us a bit about your work as a process engineer.
I currently work at Bonumose, which has the potential to be the first manufacturing plant for making tagatose, a healthy rare sugar, from plant starch. I am responsible for constructing standard operating procedures (SOPs), ensuring all our operators are well trained on new processes, and optimizing aspects of the process for additional scale-up in the near future.
I think it will be incredibly rewarding to look back a few years from now and see various instructions in SOP’s as well as techniques being used to optimize the product that I helped to create and put in place.
Why did you become a process engineer?
I wanted to become a process engineer because I think it’s fascinating to be able to create a product out of raw materials. I discovered my passion for process engineering in my undergraduate organic chemistry lab. While it was challenging, it was also exciting to learn about the process of combining various chemicals to create different products.
Problem solving is also a big part of process engineering. My transport phenomena class uncovered my enjoyment of problem solving. I liked the challenge of spending a few hours on one hard problem that could be four or fives pages long and the satisfaction of getting it right the first try.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in your role as a process engineer?
Due to the plant currently being under construction, I have only run into some minor challenges. However, one that I anticipate will be very challenging in the future is the optimization of the process once the plant is up and running. This will be the first scale-up plant of an entirely new process, so we are all expecting that we will run into issues that we may or may not have anticipated. However, encountering various problems and coming up with new ways to solve them is what makes being an engineer exciting. Although challenging, once we succeed, it will be a very rewarding task to have completed.
How is your work as a process engineer critical to your particular job assignment or industry?
My current role as process engineer with Bonumose is critical for the startup of a brand new food ingredient manufacturing plant. The process is based on green chemistry, and it will be set up to utilize waste starch from adjacent markets. Success at this plant will be a great example for the continued adoption of green chemistry processes in the industry.
What do you think is most important about what you do as a process engineer?
Bonumose has the ability to make a healthy and rare sugar. This is incredibly important because this product has the potential to significantly increase public health by providing an affordable sugar alternative. Additionally, Bonumose is pursuing green chemistry. We hope to set the standard for the industry.
At Bonumose, we are in the process of starting up a new manufacturing plant. Specifically, in my role, I am laying the ground work for the SOPs as well as the optimization of the process. The design of this process will be taken and implemented at future plants around the nation. I think it will be incredibly rewarding to look back a few years from now and see various instructions in SOP’s as well as techniques being used to optimize the product that I helped to create and put in place.
Process Engineer Perspective Talks (PEP Talks)
AIChE is launching a new series of virtual presentations called Process Engineer Perspective (PEP) Talks, which will feature perspectives of process engineers on topics relevant to other process engineers. Join us every second Thursday of the month to get to know your fellow process engineers. Attendance is free.