There are a lot of different factors you would need to consider before starting an alarm project, which will all have an impact on the project cost. Therefore, it is interesting to estimate the actual cost of an alarm system improvement project.
But first, why would you start an alarm project at all? As discussed in the article the cost of alarms: Alarms cost money. In fact, there is a cost associated with any alarm.
Typical Alarm Improvement Projects
Alarm System Improvement projects can vary in many ways, like all projects do. Alarm philosophies or subject matter specs will not be a part of the cost description we go through here.
When planning an Alarm Project, one needs to know that the project should be manned up with dedicated in-house recourses, as well as external expertise when needed, in order to be able to make decisions on changing the Alarm system.
These changes can be:
- Alarm texts
- Logic changes
- Limits and values
- Alarm layout, sound/visual (Light, colours etc.)
- Grouping & Hiding of alarms
- Alarm list configuration (Main Alarm list (Priority 1-2-3) to operators; Priority 4 to maintenance recourses).
- Automatic Alarm shelving on “out of service” equipment.
- Diagnose alarms on Fire & Gas systems (0-4 mA), (Dirty optics – Beam blocked – Detector Fault).
- Alarm response manual (ARM): What happen what will happen if you don’t take action – Operator response.
- Remove duplicates
- Remove not necessary alarms
- Activate missing alarms
In order to design a robust Alarm System, it is important to have an alarm philosophy that guides you to understand the important principles of the alarm system, makes good decisions, and follows the philosophy for what is an alarm, correct description, correct text, and correct information.
While going through an Alarm rationalisation project you will often discover additional errors in the system, like logic errors or other challenges that need attention and that could cause changes to i.e. logic changes, or revision of philosophies or specifications.
Such additional errors can be dealt with in another project or as a change in the project. Like all other projects, the complexity of an Alarm rationalisation project varies. The degree of variation and uncertainty depends on the type of system in question, among other factors.
Fire & Gas systems are usually easier to deal with than process systems, but within process systems there are great variations.
Important factors to implement a successful Alarm project
Experience show us the importance of facilitating well-prepared workshops. In the workshops the different disciplines are gathered, and changes are made with broad agreement.
In order to have good workshops and high quality of the decided changes, it is important to use recourses who have deep knowledge of the process.
This is why it is so important to release dedicated in-house recourses to participate in these workshops.
Additional reading: Why do some Alarm Improvement Projects fail?
As mentioned above, there are many factors that can impact the cost of an alarm project. One thing we often see that can have a negative impact on the cost is that the company does not allocate own resources to the project. It is often not a priority.
If it is difficult for our customers' employees to find time to participate in projects, workshops, and meetings, this most often leads to time frames being blown, which again leads to higher project cost.
Of course, size and complexity will have great impact on cost. The number of configurated alarms matters the most.
Additionally, the different complexity of alarms will matter, like simple digital signals or more complex analogue process values and regulated signals.
It is not possible to create an easy formula for calculating the cost of a project, but it is possible to indicate a span where one can narrow down on one side, high or low-end, which can give you an indication you can use in a budgetary situation.
Cost of a typical Alarm Improvement Project
As discussed, the complexity in alarm projects varies, where Fire & Gas systems are the fastest to implement, and process control systems are far more complex.
Our experience is that most projects include a mix of complexity. Of course, the numbers of configured alarms and equal alarms matters.
However, we have seen that over time, the time-consumption for each configured alarm is in most cases between 8 to 10 minutes per alarm in a typical alarm system with 10.000 alarms.
From this we can assume that if you have an alarm system with 10.000 alarms you will need to budget between 1400 to 1800 hours for the full Alarm rationalisation project.