Alarm Management

6 July, 2018 | Blog

Marc Tardif

Marc Tardif

Technologist, Optimization and Advanced Control Expert

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Optimizing the performance of your alarm system can improve plant security and reliability as well as operator productivity.

Many plants record an average of 6,000 alarms per day, per console (source: Solomon Associates). Ideally, this number should be reduced by a factor of twenty, according to the Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association (EEMUA) and the International Society of Automation (ISA). Given that health, safety and environmental concerns-not to mention productivity and profitability-depend on a clear understanding of plant performance, the need to reduce daily alarm counts is evident.

There is also a need to improve production with fewer people due to the growing shortage of engineers and a retiring workforce. Combined with increasingly rigid regulations, automation and reporting are not only desirable, but necessary.

Alarm management and rationalization

An underperforming alarm system reduces operator efficiency and affects plant security and profitability. Inefficiencies are often caused by incorrect configuration or inappropriate thresholds. Alarm management is more than simply reducing the number of alarms; it is also meant to help operators react more efficiently by using the right information at the right time. Alarm management and rationalization consists of using methods and processes to determine, document, design, supervise and maintain control over the alarm system. Since programming makes it easy to add alarms, it is common to observe too many nuisance alarms.

BBA expertise combined with an alarm management software tool can allow you to:

  • Eliminate all nuisance alarms and reduce operator stress
  • Prioritize alarms to improve process control and plant security
  • Minimize alarm overload to prevent incident escalation
  • Prepare your plant for new insurance regulations and security procedures
  • Use technology to manage alarms in an easy and sustainable manner

Some numbers

Average alarm rate < 6 alarms/hour/operator
Peak alarm rate < 10 alarms/10 minutes
Flood time < 1%
Standing alarms < 10 alarms (average)
20 most frequent alarms < 50% of the total
Priority distribution High << Medium << Low

Steps for a successful project:

  • Actual performance assessment and benchmarking
  • Drafting an alarm philosophy document, which identifies the plant’s rules and concepts, such as priorities, roles, responsibilities, change management and goals
  • Rationalization (eliminating problems and configuration review)
  • Changes (programming and configuration to remove nuisance alarms) and review information displayed for operators
  • Continuous improvement (performance assessment)
  • Sustainable results (integration of alarm management in best practices and day-to-day management)

Sample reports :


Why overload your operators? Rigorous alarm management and rationalization are possible with a minimum of effort and investment.

To learn more about alarm management, read our blog article ‘Everything You Need to Know About Alarm Management‘.

This content is for general information purposes only. All rights reserved ©BBA


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