Alarm management is a crucial aspect of operational technology (OT) systems, as it helps to prevent major incidents and maintain the smooth running of processes. However, alarm optimisation projects can often become large and complex, leading to significant costs and long implementation times.
1. Start Small
One of the main reasons why alarm optimisation projects become large is because they are often approached in a big-bang manner, trying to resolve all alarm-related issues in one go. This can lead to a large number of alarms to be managed and tuned, resulting in a complex and time-consuming project. To avoid this, it is advisable to start small and focus on specific areas that have the most critical impact. For example, select a limited number of alarms and work on optimising them first, before expanding to other areas.
2. Conduct an Alarm Audit
To determine the best approach to optimising alarms in your system, it is important to conduct a comprehensive audit of your current alarm management processes. This audit should include a review of the alarms generated, their frequency, and their impact on the system. This information can then be used to identify areas where improvements can be made, and to prioritise the specific alarms.
3. Engage the Right People
Another reason why alarm management projects can become complex is that they often involve multiple stakeholders, each with their own priorities and objectives. To ensure the success of an alarm project, it is important to engage the right people and ensure that everyone is aligned on the goals and objectives. This could include operations, maintenance, and engineering personnel, as well as subject matter experts who can provide valuable insights and feedback.
4. Implement Prioritisation Framework
In order to avoid getting bogged down by a large number of alarms, it is important to implement prioritisation framework. This could be based on factors such as the criticality of the process, the impact of an alarm, and the frequency of occurrence. By prioritising the alarms, it becomes easier to focus on the most critical ones first, reducing the risk of getting overwhelmed by a large number of alarms. Introducing rule-based approach where-ever applicable also helps reduce the complexity and make an impact on overall alarm system.
5. Use Alarm Analytics
One of the key benefits of modern OT systems is the availability of data and analytics. Alarm analytics can be used to identify patterns and trends in alarm behaviour, which can then be used to optimise the alarm system. For example, it may be possible to identify alarms that are frequently triggered due to a single root cause, allowing the issue to be addressed and reducing the number of alarms generated.
6. Define Alarm Objectives
Before launching any alarm project, it is essential to understand the purpose of the alarms in your system. What are they designed to achieve and what are the consequences if the alarms are not acted upon? This will help you prioritise your efforts and ensure that the most critical alarms receive the most attention. We need to think about another factor, is this really an alarm, do we have actionable item for that – this mindset also helps us to reduce number of alarms and put those in events to reduce load and increasing operation team efficiency / productivity
7. Develop Alarm Management Processes
Organisations should develop and implement alarm management processes to help identify, prioritise, and manage the alarm load in their systems. This process should include procedures for alarm classification, prioritisation, escalation, and review. By having these processes in place, you can ensure that critical alarms receive prompt attention and non-critical alarms are managed efficiently.
8. Implement Alarm Suppression and Filtering Techniques
In order to reduce the number of alarms generated in your system, it is important to implement alarm suppression and filtering techniques. This can involve configuring your system to limit the number of alarms generated for a specific event, or to group related alarms together to reduce the number of alarms displayed. This can help reduce the number of non-critical alarms generated and improve the efficiency of your system.
9. Regularly Review and Update
Alarm management is not a one-time thing, but rather an ongoing process. As processes change and new equipment is introduced, it is important to regularly review and update the alarm system to ensure that it remains optimised. Regular reviews can also help to identify new opportunities and to ensure that the alarm system is aligned with the latest best practices and standards. This will also reduce the need for a large project in the long run.
10. Train Operators
Operators play a critical role in the effective management of alarms in OT systems. It is important to train operators on the importance of alarms and how to respond to them. Operators should also be trained on the alarm management process, and on how to prioritise and escalate alarms effectively.
Alarm management is a critical aspect of OT systems, but large alarm optimisation projects can often become complex and time-consuming. By starting small, engaging the right people, implementing prioritisation framework, using alarm analytics, and regularly reviewing and updating the alarm system, it is possible to avoid large alarm projects and ensure that the system remains optimised. Ultimately, this will help to prevent major incidents, reduce downtime, and maintain the smooth running of processes.