My problem isnt chapter numbering
my problem is process numbering in the chapters
in chapter 2.1.3 for example I define a process and number the steps 1 thru 8
then in chapter 2.1.4 I define a different process and while when I work on the individual chapter the numbering for this process is correct as 1 thru 7, but when I combine all of the chapters together the first process will numbered correctly, and the next process will start at 9 as in the above examples, and then the third process will start at 16 etc etc
this requires a long review and edit
Word is carrying across some auto-numbering method at the "process level".
Doing what it should be doing: i.e., when you combine "Chapter 2.1.3 and 2.1.4, word sees it all now as just one chapter. Sort of a new Chapter 2.1.3.
If you turn on/show the hidden formating marks you may be able to see the applicable "marks". Very helpful in figuring out how Word believes the formating is to be with respect to breaks, headers, footers, paragraphs, indents, etc..
That said, you need to go into Word Options - Advanced. There are controls in there for auto-numbering etc. that you can adjust within your document. You might, for example, change the process auto-numbering to take place withing the paragraph level.
Make a backup copy of your document and then work with the controls. Cannot make a specific suggestion per se as I do not know your overall document design and scheme. Will be a bit of trial and error anyway, I think.