Plant Alarm Management and Analysis

It’s almost like a Friday here in the US as we head into the 4th of July Independence Day weekend. Let’s end the short week with a YouTube video on alarm management by Emerson’s Kim VanCamp.

In the 8:25 YouTube video, DeltaV Analyze, Kim opens by describing the importance of managing plant alarms and the 2009 ratified alarm management standard, ANSI/ISA 18.2. The key measure for how well a plant manages its alarm is the incoming alarm rate, defined as alarms per 10-minute increments.

At 0:59 in the video, he shows how the typical plant’s performance lags the 18.2 standard as well as the EEMUA 191 best practices. The standard also addresses what constitutes a “good” alarm—one that alerts operators for an abnormal condition and be a condition that requires the operators to act. Alarms that do not satisfy both these criteria are nuisance alarms.

At a little over 2 minutes into the video, Kim shows how the DeltaV Analyze software application can help to improve alarm management. It provides continuous alarm system performance monitoring to help identify problem alarms and performance versus benchmarks such as the 18.2 standard.

In his demonstration, Kim shows how to drill down by plant area and/or timeframe to analyze the source of problems. Reporting is available to share key performance indicators and overall alarm performance over a shift, a day, or other configurable time frame.

The Wikipedia page on alarm management also provides a very nice background and links to additional references to help you in your alarm management improvement process.

Update: Kim reminds me to make sure you know about the Alarm Help video too.

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  • Jonas Berge

    Another important aspect of alarm management, apart from PROCESS alarm management, is DEVICE diagnostic alarm management. Emerson pioneered device diagnostic alarm management with “PlantWeb Alerts” in field devices and DeltaV version 6 back in 2002. Before PlantWeb Alerts, device diagnostic alarm management was an “all or nothing” deal. Either you give the operators all device diagnostic alarms, or none. Clearly ‘all’ result in alarm flooding, so soon they were disabled and nothing went to the operators – no early warning. Moreover, all device diagnostics regardless of severity or criticality had the same priority, so daily maintenance and turnaround planners had a hard time using diagnostics for planning. PlantWeb Alerts provide the ability to rationalize device diagnostics alarms, just like EEMUA191 and ISA18.2 suggests for process alarms. PlantWeb Alerts thus enables a small amount of selected device diagnostic alarms from critical devices to go to the operators, thus preventing device alarm flooding, while providing an early warning of process upsets that could result from device failure. Similarly, maintenance planners get a prioritized list of device diagnostics alarms, so they can tackle severe problems in critical devices first, thus improving scheduling. Subsequently, the renowned NAMUR user group created the NE107 recommendation which is very similar to PlantWeb Alerts. Subsequent to that, DeltaV version 12 now supports NAMUR NE107: http://www2.emersonprocess.com/siteadmincenter/PM%20DeltaV%20Documents/Whitepapers/WP_Configuring_FF912_Alarms.pdf

    The NE107 “status signals” (icons) can also be seen in Emerson device “dashboards”; indicating if the device is good, failed, need maintenance, or is out of service.

    I covered this topic in my Emerson Exchange 2012 paper #1A-1910 “Intelligent Device Management Best Practices -Incorporating Device Diagnostics in Daily Maintenance” which was based on this guideline:
    http://www.eddl.org/DeviceManagement/Pages/DeviceDiagnostics.aspx#Institutionalizing

    Standardization for the work processes to deploy and use intelligent device management is being done by the ISA108 work group:
    http://www.isa.org/MSTemplate.cfm?MicrositeID=1528&CommitteeID=7281
    NAMUR NE107 and ISA18.2 are mentioned in every meeting

    This is similar to what Emerson already does with the INSTALL-IMPLEMENT-INCORPORATE programs for AMS Intelligent Device Manager

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