Increasing Alarm Management Effectiveness and Reducing Risk

By Mark Sen Gupta


Alarm Management EffectivenessAlarm and safety systems form critical layers of protection around hazardous processes to reduce the risk to business, personnel, and the environment. With numerous standards, regulations, and best practices in place, industrial organizations increasingly turn to software solutions to improve alarm and safety system management. Honeywell Connected Industrial recently briefed ARC on their new Alarm Performance Optimizer, which is part of the Honeywell Forge Alarm Management suite of applications. As the process industry’s leading supplier of alarm management solutions, Honeywell has worked to simplify the alarm and safety system management lifecycle. Alarm Performance Optimizer is the culmination of years of effort, and supports the following functions:

  • Supports adherence throughout the organization to the optimized corporate alarm philosophy.
  • Reduces the resource burden of alarm rationalization activities to create and maintain a performant and trustworthy alarm system.
  • Promotes collaboration and provides guidance to resolve issues faster.
  • Automatically aggregates and analyzes alarm data across the enterprise for quick identification of issues.

Industry Continues to Wrestle with Alarm Management

Alarm management concepts are over thirty years old. EEMUA finalized and released its first alarm management Alarm Management Effectivenessguidelines (Publication 191) in 1999. Since then, ISA and IEC have also released guidance and standards, and all of these standards and guidelines include recommended KPIs. The benefits gained from good alarm management are well documented with regards to reduced downtime, reduced abnormal situations, and better product quality, all of which impact the bottom line, reduce risk, and increase safety.

Proper maintenance ensures optimum alarm system performance. Unfortunately, the inability to maintain the system results in higher alarm rates, out-of-date alarm response documentation, and increased risk of an abnormal situation. With the health of any alarm system being dependent on each process alarm at each site being configured and maintained as per standards and regulatory guidelines, end users have begun to centralize the alarm management process. These enterprise-wide alarm champions, responsible for the adherence to corporate alarm philosophies, must now effectively maintain tens of thousands of alarms across multiple sites.

Based on data from “Alarm Management for Process Control: A Best-practice Guide for Design, Implementation, and Use of Industrial Alarm Systems” by Dr. Douglas Rothenberg, the average site experiences alarm rates from eight to ten times higher than the acceptable industry standards. Honeywell’s own observations of customer alarm systems and processes indicate sites average only 60 percent adherence to the corporate alarm philosophy.

Proper Maintenance Takes a Lot of Effort

Alarm Management EffectivenessMuch of the lack of adherence to alarm standardization has to do with the amount of effort required to address the alarm system. Honeywell’s experience and observations of customer alarm systems and processes indicate that alarm rationalization activities address only 80 alarms per day on average. A decent size location could have 20,000 tags. If each tag only had one alarm, that’s about 250 days full workdays of effort with multiple employees engaged, but most tags have more than one alarm. This is a huge undertaking for an organization with multiple sites.

Many sites also have multiple systems sourcing alarms, and each must be maintained. These systems may be manufactured by different vendors. This can present a challenge to collecting the data across an organization to evaluate, manage, and maintain the different alarm systems. Affecting change in such an organization requires coordination with multiple stakeholders who may not be co-located.

Alarm Performance Optimizer Empowers Improvement

The stakes are high, and the effort is worth it. According to the ASM Consortium, industry claims reposted to insurance companies for equipment damage amount to $2.2 billion each year. Abnormal situations cost between $100 thousand to $1 million per plant per year.

Alarm Management Effectiveness

According to Honeywell, the Honeywell Forge Alarm Management Suite will allow end users to reduce alarm counts by as much as 80 percent. This allows operators to respond to abnormal situations as much as 15 percent faster. Personnel can execute root cause analyses up to 60 percent faster, enabling solutions to be put in place sooner and reducing risk faster.

Alarm Management EffectivenessThe solution allows alarm champions to centrally assess the health of each site’s alarm system against the corporate alarm philosophy, identify areas of underperformance, follow guided recommendations and insights to improve, and streamline alarm rationalization activities. With the time constraints on available resources, this solution allows users to optimize the time they have by automating actionable information creation from the data. By connecting to existing Honeywell Forge Alarm Management deployments at multiple sites, end users can leverage their existing investments to derive further value. Deployable on an organization’s business network, Alarm Performance Optimizer can connect to the existing Honeywell Forge Alarm Management Documentation instances at multiple sites to enable additional capabilities.

The enhanced tools to streamline the end-to-end enterprise alarm management lifecycle enable Alarm Performance Optimizer to provide alarm management champions with the means to identify and resolve alarm system health issues across their entire enterprise with increased efficiency, resulting in:

  • Increased consistency in adherence to the corporate alarm philosophy.
  • Reduced cycle times to perform alarm rationalizations.
  • Reduced operator console alarm loads.
  • Improved operator response times.

One major pain point Honeywell wants to address with the solution is the amount of effort required to perform alarm rationalization. By taking inputs and learnings from customers and alarm management experts worldwide, Honeywell designed an experience that should help not only accelerate the alarm rationalization process, but also enable easy collaboration with alarm experts across the company to achieve benefits faster.

The company says some of the key capabilities of the alarm-centric interface include:

  • Data filters based on various parameters.
  • Ability to select and order columns as required, as well as pin any mandatory columns.
  • Multiple user-friendly options for editing alarm parameters, such as inline, multi-row, copy-paste and drag-drop editing for quick changes or call up of a detail display to perform more complex changes for single or multiple tags.

Looking forward, Honeywell expects technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to enhance alarm management analytics. The company believes expectations are moving from a predominantly reporting driven, retrospective manual analysis approach to a near real-time interactive experience, where systems do the heavy lifting. Applications that interpret massive amounts of data using trained models, and provide recommendations and insights that close the loop are in development, and these types of autonomous alarm management systems will be distinguished by two distinct outcomes that they deliver:

  • Reduced alarm load for the operator using smart analytics and alarm reduction techniques.
  • Prediction, insights, and advisories to an operator on the future occurrence and resolution of complex abnormal situations, well before they materialize through a traditional alarm system.


While there are some corporations that have excelled in the area of alarm management and operator effectiveness, far too many end users have yet to address the decades-old alarm configuration issues institutionalized within their control systems. Alarm rationalization is not only the gateway to a more efficient notification system, enabling an operator to trust that an alarm requires their action, but it is also a tremendously resource-intensive endeavor. Honeywell’s attempt to address this key impediment to alarm management progress can reduce internal barriers that prevent companies from addressing the problem in earnest. This allows manufacturers to reduce risk more easily. Alarm Performance Optimizer also allows companies to maintain the gains achieved through the rationalization effort more easily. In an environment where profit is getting squeezed and public scrutiny is heightened, manufacturers should seek solutions that provide these advantages.

Follow this link to learn more about Honeywell’s Alarm Performance Optimizer.


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Keywords: Honeywell Forge, Alarm Management, Alarm Performance Optimizer, Safety, Dashboard, Analytics, Downtime, Operator Effectiveness, Human Factors, Rationalization, Risk Reduction, ARC Advisory Group.

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