Alarm Management

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Alarms are a major challenge to the processing industry, you can’t function without them and you can’t function with them! Alarms are required to bring an operator’s attention to a pending consequence which could involve harm to people, damage to equipment, processing errors impacting production, quality and cost, and may impact the environment. Hence, the alarm is designed to prevent these consequences. For the alarm to work effectively it must have a known response from an operator, and the operator must have sufficient time to respond to the alarm mitigating the consequences that the alarm is preventing.

Unfortunately, alarms are generated by instruments that fail, which generates thousands of false alarms overloading the operators view to all the alarms, alarms often have a domino effect which floods the alarm summary and prevents operators from responding to urgent alarms.

The industry has developed five Key Performance indicators to help companies evaluate their alarm systems performance. The five categories are listed below, however, the EEMUA 191 document and the ISA 18 standard refer to these indicators in more detail with more solid data to help analyze your alarm systems performance.

  • Overloaded
  • Reactive
  • Stable
  • Robust
  • Predictive
  Overloaded Reactive Stable Robust Predictive
Average Alarms >100 10-100 1-10 1-10 <1
Max Alarms >1000 >1000 100-1000 10-100 <10
Flood Periods >50% 25-50% 5-25% 1-5% <1%
Ease of use Difficult; Unusable in upset Useful; Unusable in upset Reliable; less useful in upset Reliable at all times Stable at all times


UCDS helps customers move to Predictive Operation at a pace that is suitable to their needs, no matter where they are starting from on the KPI list.


Gap Analysis

UCDS provides a service to inspect a customers Life-Cycle Model of how they initiate alarms, rationalize them, maintain them and follow the recommended International, ISA and Industry Recommended Practices for alarm management.

We examine the alarm performance and rate it against a more detailed list of KPI’s then provide a plan to help customers get to operating stance or a road map to get to Predictive.

We examine the measuring and recording techniques and the reporting mechanisms to track alarm performance.

We identify configuration issues and the management systems to maintain a good alarm methodology.

We do a thorough gap analysis of your alarm philosophy and identify missing sections based on the International Standard or any gaps within a section of the philosophy. If you don’t have a Philosophy, we have a quick track plan to deliver a philosophy which meets today’s standards.


Development or Enhancement of Alarm Philosophy Document

UCDS provides a service to deliver a solid alarm Philosophy Document within a week. We start by conducting a three-day workshop at your site and educating your stakeholder what industry and the Standards requires should be within the Philosophy document. We identify site specific variables such as alarm colors, alarm sounds, etc. The last two days we go through page by page updating our template to your specific needs and requirements. At the end of the week we deliver a comprehensive Alarm Philosophy to the site with roles and responsibilities defined.


Alarm Rationalization Procedure

Based on the Philosophy, we develop an Alarm Procedure which clearly defines the methodology for completing an Alarm Rationalization project. The procedure addresses the Life-Cycle Model and guides the individual team members through their Roles & Responsibilities and guides them on how to complete a rationalization project. This is extremely important and re-enforces the workshop, so everyone understands the rules defined in the Alarm Philosophy. We also provide wall posters to reinforce workflow and follow defined methods such as how to prioritize an alarm based on Risk Assessment.


Master Alarm Database

A lot of companies do not have a comprehensive Master Alarm Database, so we provide an excel spreadsheet that can import your alarm data from your automation system or data historian and make it available for the rationalization team to review existing data points and add missing information required for the rationalization and documentation requirements defined in the philosophy.


Alarm Rationalization

Many companies do not have the resources or expertise to complete a thorough rationalization project.

UCDS provides a qualified alarm chairman and documentation secretary to fill in the database. We can offer full service or a short period to train your personnel how to do it correctly and qualify them for the roles of Chairman and Secretary. Additional tools can enhance the rationalization process and we can educate your staff and get examples of how these other tools can speed up this process and save significant manpower hours for your rationalization teams.


Dynamic Alarm Management

Once alarms are stable, you can start applying advanced alarm management techniques and a UCDS team member can guide your team through some of the more advanced solutions, which focus on reducing alarm floods during shutdown or trip conditions.


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