Making Your Alarms Actionable
Improving Process Industry Alarm Systems
Alarms are a key aspect of having operators and management understand upsets in an industrial process. In many systems alarms fail in this core function as they are not actionable. The operator may not respond to an alarm condition because the system’s message is absent, unclear, or incorrect. This has the potential of being catastrophic leading to emergency shutdowns, and even injuries or death. Overcoming these difficulties and complying with standards can be overwhelming if you do not have the expertise in how to manage and design effective alarms. ACE follows the ISA-S18.2 Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries standard to identify, rationalize, design, implement, operate, and maintain your alarm system.
BROAD EXPERTISE AND PROVEN SOLUTIONS
Alarms Require a Lifecycle Approach
Are you beset with alarm floods, chattering alarms, stale alarms, meaningless alarms? Does the operator ignore the alarm summary screen because it is always pages long? If so, your alarm system needs a redesign. The ISA-S18.2 standard presents a lifecycle approach to the design of the alarm system. It requires not only a thoughtful, systematic approach to designing alarms, alarm priorities and alarm actions, but a continual review of the changing nature of alarm systems. ACE can help guide you through this process to create a more effective alarm system and establish the life-cycle approach to operating and maintaining your alarm system.
Actionable Alarms are Effective Alarms
Many alarm systems today have alarms simply because they were available in the control system and did not cost anything to create. These alarms require no action by an operator and consequently condition the operator to ignore the alarm system. To have an effective alarm system, you need to ensure each alarm is actionable. The process of rationalization examines each alarm to determine its consequence, set its priority level, and define operator action. ACE has the expertise to guide your team through this process to create effective and actionable alarms.
The Right Documentation Rigor
Documentation needs to accurately reflect the alarm system to be useful for operations and maintenance personnel. Without the right documentation, you cannot maintain your alarm system or adhere to the principles of the alarm management life cycle. ACE works with you to provide the right documentation rigor for your system, whether it is a small system documented in spreadsheets, or a large system that leverages a specialty documentation package.
Trust (but Verify) Your Alarm System
Did the improvements you made change the nature of the alarm system? Is your alarm system keeping up with your control system changes? Without data you will not know. An effective alarm reporting system is key to understanding your system. It will provide you with the data to determine the bad actor alarms, the frequency of alarms, long-standing alarms, and other key alarm performance indicators.
Protect Your Investment
After committing the time and resources to rationalize and design your alarm system, care must be taken when modifying or expanding your system. If you do not protect your investment, unapproved changes will slowly reverse your hard work and degrade the system’s effectiveness. Creating an Enforcement Strategy is key to the long-term health of your system. ACE works with you to design and implement an approach to maintain the alarm settings you have approved, whether it is a manual system with password privilege or an automated database which tracks, reports, and enforces your alarm settings.
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