As you sit down at your desk each morning to open your email, you are immediately met with a barrage of alerts that went off since you left the previous day. Some have been responded to, some have been ignored or silenced, some you are not responsible for. Buried in these notices is a critical alert that needs your attention. The struggle is real. When it comes to alarm management, what matters to your team the most?
At the foundation of any predictive alarms system lies the Alarm Philosophy document, which supports the entire weight of success for the Alarm Management Lifecycle. Within its pages lie the base objectives and definitions, the policies and procedures to meet the objectives, and lastly, the process to verify key operational metrics and implement changes exist.
While it may seem a little too “become one with nature,” defining the alarm philosophy in a document will give your team and your operational technology consultants a clear objective of how the alarm management will be set up. The philosophy document acts as the destination that all action items will need to align with to be on that specific road.
Knowing the overall health of your system’s components as well as the consequences of failure will be key to writing the alarm philosophy document. With Casne, you will first define and prioritize alarms, define operator responsibility, and define management of change. These definitions will be the foundation
Defining Alarms and Priority Level
When working with Casne Engineering to create your alarm management, we will work with you to consider your facility at a holistic level before dialing down to the specifics. Once we know what is important, we can guide your team through the process of designing the alarming system.
Not all alarms are at the same level of importance. If all alarms are important, then none of them are. The first part of the philosophy document is to define on agreed terms. This starts with the foundational terminology of the difference between an alarm and an event. We look at all of the alerts a facility is getting and identify those alerts as alarms or events. We guide our clients to think of events as an abnormal situation that does not require immediate attention, while an alarm as a situation that requires a response.
Once there is a clear understanding of what is categorized as an alarm, we define the response for different priority levels of alarms. We work with our clients to categorize alarms into one of three categories: message, warning, and critical. An alarm that is categorized as a message is to make team members aware of an event, but there is no action required. A warning is an event that needs attention, but not immediately. Finally, a critical event is when something needs immediate attention. By categorizing the alarms, we can reduce the alarm flooding your operators experience.
These are some questions to consider as you prepare to meet with us:
- What is considered an alarm in your industry?
- What are the specifications of an alarm?
- When does the alarm operate?
- When does the alarm clear?
- How long does a system have to be at the set point before alarming?
- How long does system have to be in the correct zone before it clears
- What are the visual cues
Defining Operator Responsibility
Alarm events trigger action...but action by whom? When an alarm happens, your team begins a defined procedure. Whether the procedure is efficient or not, we want to know. Together we will review the different procedures assigned to the different alarms. Knowing the strengths and pains your operation team experiences will help us create a unique solution. It’s important to share the visual, messaging, audible alarms and the actions taken after receiving the alarm. Those processes can be coded into the system.
We want to know the specifics of what is working and what is not. As we define the processes, share the current processes that are inefficient. These inefficiencies can be alerting everyone in a facility instead of a specific group, all alarms alerting the same way, and unclear responsibilities the operator should take when certain alarms sound.
As we are developing the operator responsibilities in the alarm philosophy document, we are developing the areas that will need our support with either training or instrumentation. Candid conversations lead to meaningful solutions.
Another area we will cover is an alarm’s escalation path. When an alarm is not responded to in a specific amount of time, who needs to be alerted? Going back to our Notre Dame Cathedral scenario from our last blog, who should have been alerted when the guard did not get to the top in time to assess the scene. Having levels of escalation will also help determine the severity of certain alarms.
Come prepared to answer the questions:
How should the alarms look when issued to an operator?
What are the roles and responsibilities to certain alarms?
What action will operators take when an alarm sounds?
What is the alarm escalation path?
Defining the Management of Change
Processes and procedures are not set in stone. As your team and systems change, the alarm philosophy document will need to change as well. Consider, however, a kitchen filled with too many cooks each trying to put their spin on the family recipe. It often ends with takeout.
A clear process for how changes in the philosophy document and the included procedures will ensure that when change occurs it is documented and shared accordingly.
Alarms can change for a myriad of reasons: new equipment, restructure of floor plan, aging equipment, changing industry standards like green initiatives, and new opportunities are just a few. The change management lays out the steps your team will take when these changes occur. For one of our clients they had a committee that reviewed the changes that need to be made and voted on them. We worked with our clients to support the creation and maintenance of the review board, allowing the process to stay active.
Come prepared to answer the questions:
What is your facility’s method of change management?
What is the change management of alarms and its maintenance?
How often will your system be audited?
While the philosophy document takes time to create, it’s what we identify as “going slow to go fast.” Understanding your system, operations team, goals, and pain points will ensure that our support will leave you with a plan that brings you peace of mind. Casne Engineering provides all the necessary solutions for your operational technology needs. We bring over 40 years of success in professional engineering and technology integration services for major utilities, process industries, and critical facilities. Our team of capable engineers and technologists develops and supports engineered solutions using the best of breed products and technologies. Contact us here to discuss your operational technology needs.