Equipment selection during process design is a critical aspect of chemical engineering and requires engineering judgment and subjective analysis. When educating chemical engineering students in the selection of proprietary equipment during design, the focus is often on the types of equipment available and their operating characteristics. The selection is based on flowcharts or tables of properties that eliminate alternatives. In general, any analysis of the sensitivity of the choice made is neglected. In this paper, the use of a multi-criterion decision analysis (MCDA) was evaluated as a framework for teaching equipment selection to engineering students. This framework allows the equipment types and properties to be discussed, a rigorous methodology for selecting equipment to be developed, and the sensitivity to changing circumstances to be illustrated. The paper discusses the background to MCDA, its application to the teaching of equipment selection, and the benefit of the approach. The course structure, examples and methodology are also discussed. The difference in the learning experience it brings to the students is detailed.
It was found that the use of MCDA as a framework for teaching the selection of equipment was very successful. In particular, the importance of two aspects, the development of an institutional memory, and the importance and utility of sensitivity analysis, became evident. It is believed that the MCDA approach is particularly appropriate for the teaching of hard- problem design-type courses.