One of the great successes in process manufacturing has been alarm management. As the industry shifted to computer-based control systems, they were quick to understand the dangers posed by the rise of mismanaged alarms. Best practices in alarm management, industry acceptance and an industry standard for the process industries quickly emerged.
Alarm principle documents were created in-house by operating companies and transparent alarm management systems and alarm rationalisation efforts were established. A set of standards was created, and they were used extensively. They’re now employed all across the process sector to maintain alarm systems updated.
Going forward, companies have created secured master alarm databases and management of change (MoC) procedures for alarm management service-related changes. From the operations console through engineering and management, the necessity of good alarm design and alarm management system is acknowledged in the industrial process culture today. This also includes the basic principles in accomplishing these. This is how business is supposed to work.
Despite this progress, the job of alarm management is not yet over. Alarms have a life cycle that demands some maintenance and auditing on a regular basis. Many companies are unclear about how to proceed after surviving the initial challenges. They are hesitant to repeat alarm rationalisation, as the five-year audit cycle recommends, but they do want to ensure that their accomplishments and benefits are everlasting. This article gives ten suggestions for resolving this issue and defining a course for long-term alarm management.
Top 10 Tips to Improve Alarm Management
Tip #1: Identifying the Owners for Every Alarm Including Highly Managed Alarms.
Owners should be identified for all alarms, not just those that are well-managed. Some alarms are “highly managed,” as was recognised in the early days of alarm management – mainly particular safety, environmental, or mechanical integrity alarms. With the passage of time, the process industry has understood that all alarms require the presence of an owner and an MoC. Assigning alarm owners permits alarms to be managed in large part by their respective owners without requiring the complete alarm management team to gather.
Tip #2: Alarm Rationalisation (AR) Do Not Necessarily Mean Extended Meeting
Long AR meetings can be reduced or even eliminated in a variety of ways. While having the complete team in one room to analyse every alarm can be beneficial, many people now believe that it should be a one-time transaction due to the increased availability of huge teams of high-demand professionals. To keep the results evergreen, we’ll have to make do with the results of that endeavour, as well as various best practices. Mini-AR meetings connected with process modifications, project AR meetings incorporated in project scopes, and continuing (weekly) metric-driven alert bad-actor remediation techniques are examples of these best practices.
Tip #3: Operators Have a Veto Power
There’s a concept known as “good to know.” If there is no specified action for the operator to do, there should not be an alarm in the first place, according to an early alarm management maxim. However, operators in the room will frequently argue that some alarms are important to be aware of, even if no urgent action is required. Alternatively, certain alarms are so troublesome that they should be removed regardless of their intended purpose, because the alert will be silenced or defeated (in some way), or it will become a nuisance. In such circumstances, it’s up to the engineers to come up with a better solution by recognising a different type of alert or using one of the various alarm design tools and techniques available, such as filtering, delay, dead band, dynamic alarming, and so on.
Tip #4: Alarm Priority is Twice Severity of Consequence and Once Time To Respond (TTR)
Since the severity/time matrix has long been a staple of alarm management, it frequently adds more ambiguity than usefulness. Alarms are prioritised by operations and engineering professionals based on the severity of the probable repercussions. They want to know and respond quickly in potentially high-severity situations. When it comes to alert priority, this technique is a direct translation from severity to top priority. Regardless of the time, it is less unclear, takes less time during AR and more accurately reflects operations’ safe instincts.
Tip #5: Alarm Rationalisation (AR) Isn’t About Removing Alarms
One of the most important aspects of alarm rationalisation has been the assumption that one of the key goals is to remove (delete) programmed alarms. Many individuals today recognise that this is incorrect. Alarms are set based on the requirements of each process, with no predetermined quantities. Whenever it comes to excessive alarms, the number of alarms that occur is more relevant than the number of alarms that are configured.
Tip #6: Get an Alarm Configuration Procedure Document
Control system and alarm design consistency are one of the most important operational and engineering aids. The company alarm principles document might define guidelines (or standards) such as alarm design for routine level controllers or safety function pre-alarms. As the guideline document expands, the number of alarms that need to be individually reasoned decreases. This allows firms to focus resources on the alarms that demand specific attention, resulting in greater consistency and efficiency.
Tip #7: Combine Knowledge of Design Conditions
Every alarm rationalisation analysis should also include knowledge about constraint boundaries and historical trends. This is the information required to arrive at effective alarm settings rapidly. Alarms are typically designed to envelop design conditions or prevent constraint limits from being exceeded. If a historical pattern of actual values shows that such a setting isn’t available without occasionally becoming a standing alert, mode-based alarming may be required.
Tip #8: Strengthening the Value of the AR Results
Give access to those who require it at the time they require it. While AR finds the relevant alarms, settings, and priorities, it also creates useful data such as potential consequences and operational replies. Make this information available at the operations console, preferably with a single click on the alert itself within the control system.
Tip #9: Integrating Metrics and Ongoing Remediation Practises
Even if an initial AR has not been completed, deploy metrics and continuous bad-actor remediation methods. Without an initial AR meeting, consistent metric-driven repair techniques can eventually lead to a healthy alarm system and reach Level 4 or Level 5 performance.
Tip #10: Alarm management Accounts for Operational Stability and Efficiency More the Safety
Safety systems, not alarm systems, are ultimately responsible for ensuring safety. Alarm management development is frequently hampered by the belief that it must be unduly rigorous. In other words, applying a more comprehensive safety system evaluation to alarm management, results in unrealistic resource demands, given the large number of configured alarms in many facilities. While process hazard analyses and safety systems may dictate some alarms, alarms are mostly used to improve operational effectiveness. As a result, it is virtually the best treated, recognising the limited resources available and the actual role of alerts in operation.
To date, the image of an unpleasant lengthy alarm rationalisation meeting has arguably best-reflected alarm management practice. That stage is basically passed in the industry. The following factors can be used to create an effective and efficient alert management approach in the future:
- Continuous bad-actor remediation and automated metrics
- Integration of the control system (bring AR results to operators in context)
- A paper that should cover the majority of alerts as a guideline.
- Ownership of all the alarms.
Consider alarm management as a technique for improving operational efficiency.
Related Blog: What is Alarm Management and Why is it Important?