Alarm management is more than just rationalization

by Bill Fester on June 24, 2016

in Chemical, DCS, Industries, Paper, Pharmaceutical, PLC, Power, Refining, Systems

DuPont’s global alarm management leader, Nick Sands, walks Stan and Greg through the elements of ANSI/ISA-18.2-2016, “Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industry.”

By Greg McMillan and Stan Weiner

Stan: I remember the alarm panels in the good old days of analog controllers. You had to be selective as to the type and number of alarms because there were so few windows available due to cost and space. Each alarm demanded a specific action and was well documented. “First Out” sequences were common, so the operator knew the initiating event. Then the DCS came along, and we now had Lo-Lo, Lo, Hi-Hi, Hi and deviation alarms sitting there with default settings. They were waiting to be set. In the process of doing so, the configuration and process engineer started to come up with creative uses when the real thought should have been how not to use them.

Greg: Suddenly, our control rooms went from 60 alarms to 6,000 alarms. I tried to make alarms smarter, but the pervasive problem required much more than an ad hoc interest. I remember being impressed in a benchmarking visit to an even bigger chemical company that their goal was to make the alarm system smart enough to give the operator a single alarm identifying the root cause of the incident. Of course, we did not get details on the methodology and degree of success, but this started us thinking.


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