Recently, we caught up with Paula Kearney who is head of our BSc in Process Technology programme. She gave us insight into the biopharmaceutical process technology industry. And we're sharing what we've learned with you!
Paula has over 27 years of experience within the pharmaceutical & biopharmaceutical industry. She worked in MSD Swords, Ipsen Beaufour and Gerard Laboratories. She has gained experience in both drug substance and drug product manufacturing. She held senior laboratory roles in both the microbiology and analytical services fields. She progressed her career into Quality Systems and then to Learning and Development. She now designs and delivers bespoke training programmes for the industry. Paula also lectures for Griffith College Dublin and TUD.
What is a Process Technician?
Process technician is a broad term and job description. Depending on the specific industry, they may have a wide variety of responsibilities. A process technician works in a manufacturing environment. They operate equipment, check machinery and document data while following protocols.
What Do Process Technicians Do?
A process technician’s role in the biopharmaceutical industry encompasses many duties. They work at all stages of the manufacturing process. One process technician may work upstream operations while another may work downstream operations. Some might work in controlled environments, like restricted access barriers.
Many industries hire process technicians and for each industry, the end goal will vary. In the Medtech industry, a process technician's role is to produce a quality medical product that meets the required standard.
Process technicians’ responsibilities are important. They keep systems of operations and all equipment in excellent working order. Technicians work alongside a team of others to complete a larger manufacturing process. One technician is usually responsible for only a single step in the process. That way, they know their task in great detail. They can identify any errors that may arise, too. They will also know what to do to correct those errors or involve other senior technicians if they cannot do so.
Another responsibility for this role is to keep up with accurate documentation. Process technicians need to communicate clearly to show the process is conducted correctly.
What is Process Manufacturing?
Process manufacturing combines ingredients with a chemical reaction. Those reactions can involve using heat, cold, or even fermentation. The process uses a chemical reaction to produce a final product. That final product is typically a powder, gas, solid, or liquid.
In the biomedical industry, process technicians often focus on producing biomedical products. Some products include novel drug delivery devices, regenerative medicine, and even 3D bioprinting.
A pharmaceutical process technician produces specific medical drugs for patients’ treatment plans. These process technicians may produce drugs like injectable medicine or oral tablets. The prescriptions you have picked up from a pharmacy are all made by process technicians!
Why Should I Work in the Industry?
Biologics manufacturing has grown in Ireland over the last 10 years. It has accounted for over €10 billion in investments.
In that time, new biologics manufacturing companies have come to Ireland. And many existing companies are diversifying their activities. They are moving from "small molecule" chemical-based production towards "large molecule” biopharmaceutical medicine.
And this sector in Ireland is set for even more expansion. This is due in part to the significant R&D investment the industry has received in recent years. Ireland's biopharmaceutical industry will only continue to grow. This is thanks to large investments and a secure place in the Irish economy. And new growth means new jobs created. The demand for new talent as a process technician has never been higher.
What are the Career Opportunities in the Area?
There are endless career opportunities in the biopharma and MedTech industries. In fact, Ireland now counts as the third-largest exporter of global pharmaceuticals. With large investments made to the industries, Ireland now hosts over 85 (and counting) of the top global pharmaceutical companies.
And as the industries continue to boom, organisations are looking to fill positions. While there are a wide variety of jobs out there, some career opportunities include:
A production operator handles manufacturing equipment. The ultimate goal is to make sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently. In the biomedical industry, technicians will focus on producing medical equipment. As a pharmaceutical process technician, you may focus on producing medicines for the public.
A maintenance technician will be in charge of maintaining, servicing, and repairing equipment. A career as a maintenance technician in the biomedical industry will work on medical equipment.
Manufacturing Team Leader
This role requires an expert in process manufacturing for a specific product. These team leaders will manage and motivate a team of process technicians to make quality products.
Process Improvement Specialist
Specialists review and analyse various process manufacturing procedures. From their data, they will make recommendations based on your expertise for improvements. They may observe other technicians and read quality reports. And they may problem-solve to make processes more efficient.
Quality Assurance/ Quality Control
Technicians check to make sure quality systems are implemented correctly during process manufacturing. They will conduct audits to make sure the operating systems and products are up to standard.
Regulatory compliance specialists make sure organisations are following industry standards, regulations, and laws. They will review standard operating procedures and create and enforce new compliance plans. They may also handle risk management.
A training specialist will work with other incoming technicians. They will train them on appropriate standard operating procedures. And they will help them master the various responsibilities of their new role.
Top Medtech companies in Ireland are always looking for people to fill process technician roles. Pfizer, Vistakon, Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific are all looking for process technicians.
How to Become a Process Technician?
If you’re ready to start your career as a process technician, you will need to take the appropriate steps! We’re explaining more about how to open the door for a process technician role in the BioMed industry.
What are Process Technician Responsibilities?
The roles and responsibilities of a process technician can vary from one job to the next. Not to mention, responsibilities change for each specific stage in the manufacturing process. But, common process technician responsibilities include:
- Knowledge of contamination, sterile processing and clean
- Monitoring and operating equipment in line with standard operating procedures
- Performing inspections, cleaning, and maintaining the equipment in line with standard operating procedures
- Maintaining and reviewing logbooks
- Reviewing the manufacturing process schedule
- Strictly adhering to the internal standard operating procedures of the organisation
- Strictly adhering to any external standard operating procedures and regulations
- Strictly adhering to health and safety procedures and regulations
- Document current routine manufacturing processes
- Report data and analyses to senior process technicians
- Diagnose and troubleshoot minor problems in your role
- Diagnose and troubleshoot minor problems in your role
- Diagnose and troubleshoot minor problems in your role in the manufacturing process
What Salary Can I Expect?
The average annual salary for a process technician in Ireland is between €30,000-€50,000.
How Can I Develop my Skills for a Role in the Area?
Our BSc in Process Technology gives current pharmaceutical professionals the opportunity to up-skill for the biopharmaceutical industry. It also allows those from other sectors to transfer their skills into this industry.
This is a blended course, as it's completed online and in-class. The course is designed to give students a stimulating, positive and enjoyable environment. And it gives students the opportunity to broaden and enhance employment prospects. This will give students the skills to pursue opportunities in Ireland's biopharmaceutical industry.
This course delivers the specific skills required for both pharmaceutical and biologics manufacturing which includes:
Aseptic and sterile manufacturing
- Cell culture
- Upstream and downstream processing
- Drug substance production
- Media and buffer preparation
- Good lab practice (GLP)
- Molecular biology
- Protein characterisation
- Bio-organic chemistry
Soft skills include communications, teamwork, problem-solving, and influencing skills. These are essential for all roles. You will learn how to master all these process technician skills within your courses.
What Are The Requirements?
For most jobs, A two-year degree or a post secondary certificate in a science-related field is necessary. But, many process technician requirements include a higher diploma.
Many employers also give necessary training on the job. Organisations know on-the-job training is necessary to complete specific responsibilities.
To be able to apply to our BSc in Process Technology programme, applicants must have a QQI Level 6 Higher Certificate (120 Credits). These credits will need to be in science, engineering or a related discipline. Those with previous experience in the industry may apply through an APEL process.
For higher levels, we also offer a Masters programme in Medical Device Technology & Business.
And for those who are looking at a career as a process technician, we have a certification programme. You can learn more about receiving your process technician certificate here!
The industry for process technicians is growing quickly. And a role as a process technician is an excellent career path for you to take! Ready to start your process technician career? You can find out more about upskilling in process technology here!