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---1 Nature of Work and Necessary Skills

Food engineering is considered a specialized field of engineering. In general, engineers are trained in the application of scientific principles and mathematics in order to provide economical solutions to technical problems; usually fulfilling a social, commercial, or similar need.

Product design and development are typical activities that an engineer may be asked to perform. The engineer must specify the functional requirements of the product, design and testing, and final evaluation to check for overall efficiency, cost, safety, and reliability.

Overall, these principles may be applied to product design, no matter what the product is (a machine, a food, a chemical).

Engineers may also work in testing, production, or maintenance areas, supervising production in factories, determining the causes of component failure, and testing manufactured products to maintain quality. Costing and scheduling to complete projects are other typical duties of an engineer. Some engineers may go on to become managers or sale persons. The sales engineer's background enables him or her to discuss technical aspects and assist in product planning, installation, and use of equipment. A supervising engineer can be responsible for major components or entire projects.

Food engineers use computers extensively to produce and analyze products, processes, or plant designs, to simulate and test how a machine or food system operates, and to generate specifications for foods, machinery, or packaging. Food engineers may also use computers to monitor product quality, safety, and to control process efficiency. Food nanotechnology, which involves the ability to control or manipulate the product at the atomic scale, is introducing innovating principles into product and process design.

Seventeen engineering specialties are covered in the Federal Government's Standard Occupational Classification system and in engineering in general. Food engineering is recognized by professional societies such as the Institute of Food Technologists, American Society of Agricultural Engineers, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

---2 Academic and Industry Preparation

Table 1 A Typical List of Courses for An International B.S. Program in Food Engineering

Food Engineering B.S. Program: an International Example Mathematics I, II, III Food Analysis Physics I, II Food Biotechnology Chemistry Heat Transfer Organic Chemistry Product Development Computer Science Milk and Milk Products Thermodynamics for the Food Industry Mass Transfer Food Chemistry Meat Processing Transport Phenomena Fruits and Vegetables Processing Numerical Methods Cereal Processing Human Nutrition Quality Assurance Food Technology Food Plant Design Microbiology Design of Experiments Food Microbiology Differential Equations Other electives Biochemistry Probability and Statistics Other Electives and Laboratories


Table 2 Chemical Engineering; A Curriculum (US) Example Freshman Year First Semester Second Semester 2-Engineering Disciplines and Skills 3-Chemical Engineering Tools 4-General Chemistry 4-General Chemistry 3-Accelerated Composition 3-Physics with Calculus I 4-Calculus of One Variable I 4-Calculus of One Variable II 3-Arts and Humanities Requirement or 3-Arts and Humanities Requirement or 3-Social Science Requirement 3-Social Science Requirement Total: 16 hours Total: 17 hours Sophomore Year First Semester Second Semester 3-Organic Chemistry 3-Organic Chemistry 4-Intro. to Chemical Engineering 1-Organic Chemistry Lab 4-Calculus of Several Variables 4-Intro. to Ord. Diff. Equations 3-Physics with Calculus II 4-Fluids/Heat Transfer 3-Arts and Humanities Requirement 3-Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics I Total: 17 hours Total: 15 hours Junior Year First Semester Second Semester 3-Molecular Biochemistry 3-Physical Chemistry 1-Physical Chemistry Lab 1-Physical Chemistry Lab 3-Unit Operations Lab I 4-Mass Transfer and Separation Processes 3-Engineering Materials 3-Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics II 2-Basic Electrical Engineering 3-Emphasis Area 1-Electrical Engineering Lab I 3-Arts and Humanities Requirement or 3-Arts and Humanities Requirement or 3-Social Science Requirement 3-Social Science Requirement Total: 16 hours Total: 17 hours Senior Year First Semester Second Semester 3-Unit Operations Lab II 3-Process Dynamics and Control 3-Process Development, Design, and 3-Process Design II Optimization of Chemical Engineering Systems I 1-Chemical Engineering Senior Seminar I 1-Chemical Engineering Senior Seminar II 3-Chemical Reaction Engineering 3-Industrial Microbiology 3-Emphasis Area 3-Emphasis Area 3-Arts and Humanities Requirement or 3-Social Science Requirement Total: 16 hours Total: 13 hours 127 Total Semester Hours

--- Table 3 Mechanical Engineering; A Curriculum (US) Example Freshman Year First Semester Second Semester 2-Engineering Disciplines and Skills 2-Engr. Graphics with Computer Appl. 3-General Chemistry 3-Programming and Problem Solving in Mechanical Engineering 3-Accelerated Composition 4-Calculus of One Variable II 4-Calculus of One Variable I 3-Physics with Calculus I 1-Physics Lab. I 3-Humanities/Social Science Requirement 3-Humanities/Social Science Requirement or 3-Social Science Requirement or 3-Social Science Requirement Total: 16 hours Total: 16 hours Sophomore Year First Semester Second Semester 5-Statics and Dynamics for Mech. Engr 2-Basic Electrical Engineering 2-Mechanical Engineering Lab. I 1-Electrical Engineering Lab. I 4-Calculus of Several Variables 3-Engineering Mechanics: Dynamics 3-Physics with Calculus II 3-Foundations of Thermal and Fluid Systems 3-5-Science Requirement 4-Intro. To Ord. Diff. Equations 3-Numerical Analysis Requirement Total: 17-19 hours Total: 16 hours Junior Year First Semester Second Semester 3-Mechanics of Materials 3-Heat Transfer 3-Thermodynamics 3-Fundamentals of Machine Design 3-Model. And Analysis of Dynamics Syst. 3-Manufacturing Proc. And Their Appl. 3-Fluid Mechanics 3-Advanced Writing Requirement 2-Mechanical Engineering Lab. II 3-Statistics Requirement 3-Arts and Humanities Requirement or 3-Social Science Requirement Total: 17 hours Total: 15 hours Senior Year First Semester Second Semester 3-Mechanical Engineering Design 1-Senior Seminar 3-Control and Integration of 3-Internship in Engineering Design Multi-Domain Dynamic Systems 2-Mechanical Engineering Lab. III 6-Arts and Humanities Requirement or 3-Social Science Requirement 6-Technical Requirement 3-Technical Requirement Total: 14 hours Total: 13 hours 124-126 Total Semester Hours


As a specialized professional, the food engineer may obtain his or her skills mainly through a university degree or industrial experience. Several universities across the United States offer a formal academic training in food engineering. Agricultural engineering departments are the common avenue to becoming specialized in the engineering aspects of food processing. However, it’s not uncommon to have graduates in food science pursue the engineering specialization also. In fact, it’s a requirement that food science students take a course in the principles of food process engineering. However, food scientists generally lack rigorous training in applied mathematics, such as the use of differential equations to solve heat and mass transfer problems, plant design, or simulation of systems.

Internationally, food engineering training may be obtained through colleges of agriculture, chemical engineering departments, or schools of applied sciences. International degrees obtained through engineering programs, that also offer traditional engineering degrees such as chemical or mechanical, probably are the most similar to the typical US degree, especially in regard to mathematical training. Table 1 shows a typical course work program to obtain an engineering degree specializing in food engineering. Tables 1.2 and 1.3 show typical course work in chemical and mechanical engineering, respectively. Comparison among the three programs concludes that the major academic preparation difference lies in the specialized topics or areas of the fundamentals of food processing and food microbiology. Other areas such as food chemistry, applied mass and energy balances to foods, or food unit operations, can easily be learned from a general engineering degree such as chemical engineering. The mechanical or electrical engineer would have to receive training in mass balances and unit operations in order to adapt to the food engineering area.

Bachelor's degree programs in engineering typically are designed to last four years, but many students find that it takes between four and five years to complete their studies. In a typical four-year college curriculum, the first two years are spent studying mathematics, basic sciences, introductory engineering, humanities, and social sciences. During the last two years, most courses are in engineering, usually concentrating in one specialty, such as food engineering or biotechnology. Some programs offer a general engineering curriculum, students then specializing on the job or in graduate school.

Some five-year or even six-year cooperative plans combine classroom study and practical work, permitting students to gain valuable experience and to finance part of their education.

---3 Work Opportunities for a Food Engineer

All 50 States and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called Professional Engineers. This licensure generally requires a degree from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accredited engineering program, four years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a State examination.

A simple internet job description survey about job opportunities for the food engineer reveals some of the necessary skills that companies, universities, or government agencies are looking for in an engineer.

---3.1 Job description sample 1

The Process Design Engineering Manager has the engineering responsibility for root cause analysis and correcting "process issues" within a beverage, pharmaceutical, or food plant. This includes existing plant opportunities and new state-of-the-art solutions to process packaging in a high-speed plant. It’s important that the candidate is able to demonstrate, with examples, his or her strength in visualizing complete projects at the conceptual stage.

---3.1.1 Specific accountabilities include

• conducting fundamental research related to optimization of a process and product;

• independently designing and performing laboratory testing directed at problem solving with commercial scale-up capability;

• planning and executing medium-term research and development activities of moderate to complex scope; and

• demonstrating technical competence in several areas of food related chemistry and engineering practice.

---3.1.2 Specific skills and qualifications include

• Ph.D. in Food Science or Food Engineering;

• expertise in areas of natural organic polymers, carbohydrate chemistry, physical science, food science, and food process engineering;

• ability to apply scientific/engineering theory in the execution of projects related to process or product development;

• sound problem solving and project leadership skills, with emphasis on designing or conducting laboratory testing and pilot-scale simulations;

• ability to conduct literature searches and compile comprehensive, clear sum maries of findings;

• working knowledge of applied statistics and statistical design of experiments; and

• good oral, written, technical, and general communication skills.

---3.2 Job description sample

----2 Essential functions

• Develop written policies and procedures for the organized and profitable development of new meat products. Such procedures should have distinct mechanisms for the timely completion of:

° new product concept approval,

° development,

° shelf life testing,

° package design, and

° final product approval.

• Follow concepts identified by sales and marketing:

° work closely with sales,

° marketing,

° quality assurance,

° operations,

° finance,

° purchasing, and

° engineering to develop new meat products that meet internal and/or external specifications.

• Develop and implement cost reduction products to improve operating ef? ciency and maximize profitability, and

• Write project protocols, collect and analyze data, and prepare reports.

---3.3 Job description sample 3 This position will manage the engineering functions needed to support manufacturing, R&D, quality assurance, and logistics.

The Project Engineer will manage contractors and in-plant personnel in the completion of capital projects, as well as managing the capital plan.

---3.4 Job description sample 4

----- Food engineering research

This facility is a high-speed/high-volume, 24/7 operation that is currently going through an expansion. This position will support the production of newly developed products and current production lines, purchase and install new equipment, upgrade existing equipment, and develop efficiency improvements.

Working in a team-based manufacturing environment, process engineers lead, develop, and execute solutions to improve process system performance and product quality. Serving as a dedicated technical system resource, process engineers also lead problem-solving and problem-prevention efforts directed at current and future processes and products, assure that new product and process tests and start-ups are designed and executed effectively, and develop and direct training in system operations.

---3.4.2 Requirements

A B.S. in Engineering (Chemical, Mechanical, Electrical, or Food Engineering preferred), and 4-8 years of process or packaging engineering experience in a food, consumer products, pharmaceutical, chemical, or other continuous process manufacturing environment, are required. Strong technical skills are essential, including a demonstrated understanding of unit operations, analytical methods, and statistical process control, as well as troubleshooting skills.

Fgr. 1 General flow in a food processing plant

-----1.3.5 Job description sample 5

Our client seeks a process improvement engineer with food manufacturing experience for their dynamic company. In this role, you will analyze new product formulations and pilot plant productions and provide recommendations for process flow modifications, equipment modifications, operations changes, and new equipment requirements. You will define issues, collect data, establish facts, and draw valid conclusions as well as manage teams to ensure effective transition from product conception to full-scale production.

This position requires a degree in engineering and five or more years of work experience. Of this work experience, three years must be within the food industry. Experience in product development is desired. Experience as a process engineer, production manager, production supervisor, or research and development engineer is highly desirable. Up to 50% domestic travel is required.

Based on these job descriptions, the following engineering key words were found with major frequency in descending order: engineering, development, manage, design, analysis, concept, solving, and scale.

These key words can be compared to knowledge and skills to be taught at universities offering engineering degree majors, including food engineering. Take the following, For example:

• Students specializing in food engineering learn to apply engineering principles and concepts in handling, storing, processing, packaging, and distributing food and related products.

• Students specializing in agricultural engineering integrate engineering analysis and design with applied biology to solve problems in production, transportation, and processing of agricultural products. Agricultural engineers design machinery, processes, and systems for managing the environment, nutrients, and waste associated with productive plant and animal culture.

Fgr.1 demonstrates a general flow diagram illustrating unit operations or processing steps typical of a food processing facility. The knowledge and skills of a food engineer can be applied in an integrated approach or in a more specific way, such as heat transfer in heating and cooling operations.

As food is received into the food processing plant, it may be in a liquid or solid form. If it’s a liquid, one of the primary considerations may be its classification as a Newtonian or non-Newtonian liquid, therefore the field of rheology should be part of the knowledge base of the food engineer. Rheological studies may provide the necessary information to the design of mixing machinery, piping, and even cleaning and sanitation of tubes and pipes used in transporting a fluid from one location to another.

Dehydration and evaporation of foods involve heat and mass transfer. The food engineer, with his or her knowledge in the theory of diffusion, mass, and energy balances, would be capable of designing processes, equipment, and even costing in feasibility studies.

--4 Engineering Jobs


Table 1.4 Employment Distribution by Engineering Specialty Total, All Engineers 1,449,000 100% Civil 237,000 16.4 Mechanical 226,000 15.6 Industrial 177,000 12.2 Electrical 156,000 10.8 Electronics, except computer 143,000 9.9 Computer hardware 77,000 5.3 Aerospace 76,000 5.2 Environmental 49,000 3.4 Chemical 31,000 2.1 Health and safety, except mining safety 27,000 1.8 Materials 21,000 1.5 Nuclear 17,000 1.2 Petroleum 16,000 1.1 Biomedical 9,700 0.7 Marine engineers and naval architects 6,800 0.5 Mining and geological, including mining safety 5,200 0.4 Agricultural 3,400 0.2 All other engineers 172,000 11.8


Table 5 Percent Concentration of Engineering Specialty Employment in Key Industries, 2004 Specialty Industry Percent Aerospace Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 59.6 Agricultural State and local government; 22.6 Biomedical Scientific research and development services; 18.7 Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing; 15.6 Chemical; Chemical manufacturing 27.8 Architectural, engineering, and related services 16.3 Civil Architectural, engineering, and related services 46.0 Computer hardware Computer and electronic product manufacturing 43.2 Computer systems design and related services 15.0 Electrical Architectural, engineering, and related services 19.6 Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and 10.8 control instruments manufacturing Electronics, except Telecommunications 17.5 computer Federal government 14.4 Environmental Architectural, engineering, and related services 28.9 State and local government 19.6 Health and safety, State and local government 12.4 except mining safety Industrial Machinery manufacturing 7.8 Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 7.1 Marine engineers and Architectural, engineering, and related services 34.5 naval architects Materials Computer and electronic product manufacturing 14.3 Mechanical Architectural, engineering, and related services 18.1 Machinery manufacturing 13.4 Mining and geological, Mining 49.9 including mining safety Nuclear Electric power generation, transmission and 36.1 distribution Petroleum Oil and gas extraction 47.4


According to a 2004 distribution of employment in an engineering specialty survey by the Department of Labor (Table 1.4), the top four engineering positions are civil, mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineering. Assuming food engineering is included under agricultural engineering, the 0.2% attributed to agricultural engineering falls as the last specialty. Even chemical engineers, who may also be included as doing food engineering work, are not at the top as are the civil or mechanical engineers.

Mechanical engineering may be considered one of the most flexible engineering specialties, allowing engineers to find jobs in industry across the board, being food or non-food related.

Industries employing the most engineers in each specialty and the percentage of occupational engineering employment in the industry are given in Table 1.5.

It’s apparent that agricultural (and food) engineers are mostly employed by state and local government agencies. In addition, the survey does not reflect the influence of the food industry as an important or key industry hiring engineers.

--5 Future Opportunities

The food processing industry may be facing a challenge by consumers and health care government agencies to provide "healthy foods," which can contribute to decrease the obesity problem in the United States and around the world. Designing such foods may become a critical factor for the food industry in general in order to expand markets and profitability. It may be necessary for food engineers to work more closely with molecular nutritionists in order to design the so called "medical foods." Food biotechnology and food nanotechnology and their applications to food safety are areas where food engineers may find new opportunities.

--6 Conclusions

Overall, it appears that food engineering as specialty engineering is becoming more an area of training on the job by the food industry than a strict requirement by food processing companies. This may be the reason why some universities began to modify their curricula by decreasing the number of food engineering related courses and changing to areas considered "hot," such as biotechnology, bioengineering, or biomedical engineering.

Non-food engineers, such as mechanical, electrical, or chemical desiring to work in the food processing industry may always receive the necessary training on the job or through the abundant professional development workshops. Many universities and consulting groups offer this type of training. Basic food microbiology, food safety, food quality, and food processing would be a good knowledge base for non-food engineers.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Engineers at

Food and Drug Administration at

Clemson University

Institute of Food Technologists

Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey

Next: U.S. Food Regulations

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