Many plants have performed some type of alarm response analysis and have had mixed results. Some plants have reported the number of alarms weren’t reduced as hoped (some have even increased) and they still had high ratios of alarms-to-controllers. Other plants have found that similar process units were alarmed completely differently by separate groups of operators.
Most configuration problems result from a lack of oversight of the configuration process and insufficient analysis of the resulting configurations. Configuring plant alarms is a somewhat subjective process that involves people with different experiences and perspectives of plant operations. Left unchecked, these differences manifest themselves in alarm configurations that do not follow predefined alarming philosophies/guidelines and inconsistent alarming across similar types of processing units. The inconsistencies degrade human performance and result in higher rates of operational error, especially for those operators that must work across multiple plants.
A key to overcoming these inconsistencies in plant alarm configuration is better oversight of the process. This should include ensuring that alarm priorities follow alarm criteria, comparing similar processes for alarming consistency, and ensuring that the end configurations are approximate, general industry-best-practices. Inconsistencies are fine, as long as they are small in number and explainable. If you would like more information about alarm configuration oversight, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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