Alarm Management Applications

ARC has been conducting research related to alarm management applications for over two decades.  Based on this knowledge, ARC analysts have developed a comprehensive set of criteria to help you select the best alarm management solution available in the market.

Overview

The complex nature of manufacturing coupled with the large investments in assets by operating companies in the process industries make the need for automated process control greater than ever.  A key function of process control systems is to advise the operating personnel as to when a process variable or calculation is at or beyond a limit.  A crisis emerged when the ability to easily configure alarms in the modern DCS reduced the cost of adding a new alarm to a system essentially to zero.  The dramatic proliferation of alarms that followed made it almost impossible for operators to see critical alarm data.  In too many instances, this resulted in incidents and unplanned downtime. 

Alarm management is needed to ensure that operators are not presented with nuisance alarms or ones that obscure important events that requires the operator’s immediate attention.  Alarm management continues to be a key issue in process plants, driven largely by the need to conform to current standards and best practices like ISA 18.2, EEMUA 191, and IEC 62682.  The primary goal of these standards and practices is to develop a continuous improvement approach to alarm management and ease the alarm burden on operators so they only see the information they need to see, particularly during process upsets or other abnormal situations.

However, adherence to standards and best practices is not the only issue end users face today.  Advanced alarm management solutions have been available on the marketplace for many years now.  As a result, many end users now need to migrate to a new alarm management application as their older ones become obsolete.  In many cases, users are using this as an opportunity to improve their alarm management philosophy and implement some of the newer aspects of these solutions, such as dynamic alarms that can change in lock step with the dynamically changing state of the plant.

Alarm management is more than simply adjusting process alarm limits.  It is as much of a work process change as it is a technology.  However, implementing the wrong technology can frustrate the necessary continuous improvement work process that is inherent with modern alarm management systems.  Many suppliers are now offering improved tools that help decrease the time and effort necessary to implement solutions and achieve a sustainable continuous process improvement program.  Many new alarm management applications, for example, are being made available as cloud-based applications, which can significantly reduce time to deployment, risk, and overall lifecycle cost of an alarm management solution. 

Beyond the ability to efficiently manage the alarm management lifecycle, many end users consider dynamic alarming or mode-based alarming to represent the pinnacle of operational excellence in alarm management.  With dynamic alarming, the state of the alarm management changes to adapt to changes in the process.  This is particularly valuable in transitional plant states like startup and shutdown, where conditions in the process might set off alarms configured for steady-state plant operations.  An empty pipeline, for example, could be a perfectly normal condition at startup, but not during normal operations. 

Strategic Issues
ARC has been researching the alarm management market for over two decades and we know the issues:

  • Making alarm management part of the continuous process improvement culture
  • Conformance to alarm management standards and best practices like ISA 18.2 and EEMUA 191 guidelines
  • Impact of IIoT and cloud technologies on alarm management solutions
  • Alarm rationalization: removing useless alarms, nuisance alarms, and standing alarms
  • Alarm philosophy development
  • Situational awareness and improving the role of the operator in processing alarms effectively
  • Dynamic alarming approaches
  • Automated operator guidance and embedded alarm response manual capabilities
  • Management of Change (MoC)

This ARC Selection Guide will help you select an alarm management solution for the future.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

  • Scope
  • Industry Trends
  • Regional Trends


Partial List of Selection Criteria Topics

  • Business Factors
  • Support Services
  • Domain Knowledge
  • Long Term Potential of Vendor Platform
  • System Functions and Features
    • Architecture
    • Technical Factors
    • Advanced Features
  • Service Requirements
    • Project
    • Lifecycle

Suppliers of Alarm Management Software

Next Steps and Recommendations

For More Information

For more information on this technology guide or to discuss how we can help you, please contact us.

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