Optimize Alarm System Performance

22 June, 2021 | Blog

Marc Tardif

Marc Tardif

Technologist, Optimization and Advanced Control Expert

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An underperforming alarm system reduces operator efficiency, personnel and facility safety, and profitability. Inefficiencies are often caused by incorrect configuration or inappropriate thresholds. So, effective alarm management helps:

  • Eliminate all nuisance alarms and reduce operator stress.
  • Provide operators with relevant information to help them take informed action in a timely fashion while optimizing process performance.
  • Correctly prioritize alarms to improve process control and plant security.
  • Minimize alarm overload to prevent incidents from escalating.
  • Prepare the plant for new insurance regulations and security procedures.

There’s also a more pressing need to improve alarm management because of increasingly rigid regulations and fewer employees as a result of corporate downsizing and labour shortages.

Alarm management and rationalization

Alarm management is more than simply reducing the number of alarms; it’s also meant to help operators react more efficiently by using the right information at the right time. Alarm management and rationalization use all methods and processes to determine, document, design, supervise and maintain alarm systems. Since programming makes it easy to add alarms, it’s common to have too many nuisance alarms.

Measurement Ideal
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 management philosophy document, which identifies the plant’s key rules and concepts, such as priorities, roles, responsibilities, change management and goals
  • Rationalization (eliminating problems and configuration review)
  • Corrective actions (programming and changing the configuration to remove nuisance alarms) to ensure the information provided to operators is useful and relevant
  • Continuous improvement (performance assessment and identifying problem cases)
  • Maintenance (integration of alarm management in best plant practices)

 Sample reports :

So, why overload your operators? Making a plant safe through rigorous alarm management is possible with minimum effort.

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

  • Eliminate bad actors and reduce operator stress.
  • Correctly prioritize alarms to improve process control and plant safety.
  • 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

DO YOU HAVE A SIMILAR CHALLENGE?