Why Choose TiPS?

LogMate is the most reliable, proven software solution since 1990

    • Leadership Participation in Alarm Standards Committees
    • Dedicated Alarm Management Focus
    • Comprehensive Alarm Management Software Solutions
    • Adaptable Services Model
    • Flexible and Extensive Software Connectivity Portfolio
    • Broad Industry Experience

Introduction to Alarm Management

 

Case Study - Invista pic 1

Alarm Management protects workplace, communities and shareholder investment. The Texas Gulf Coast region is home to over 350 refineries, chemical plants, power generation and other process industry production facilities. These facilities are located in close proximity to a population of over seven million people living in rural areas, small towns and major cities like Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Port Lavaca, Galveston, Victoria, Beaumont, and Houston. In addition, these facilities impact sensitive environments such as the Laguna Madre waterway, Sabine National Refuge, Padre Island, and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

To meet the obligation of protecting this region, plant operations and automation professionals have to be innovative and diligent.  To keep up with the changes to production processes, government regulations, community, & environmental safety standards, it is critical that these workers are converting alarm data into information and using the information to optimize plant performance.  This case study is about consolidating and delivering information to key stakeholders.

What Triggered the Initiative

Case Study - Invista pic 1The Site Process Hazards Teams identified many critical safety alarms which required an Administrative control (Operator actionto mitigate. Over the years these alarms had been ‘mingled’ into the multiple variety of Distributive Control Systems and the site needed a way to bring these alarms into one database which could flag the selected alarms and create the necessary reporting.

How Consolidation was Achieved

Multiple processing areas managed by a variety of basic control systems utilize specific data output connections to bring data into a module that parses or maps data into a centralized database structure. Specific ports address the unique output of each control system. Databases are isolated to the degree required by operations and administrators grant access according to policy.

Who Gets Access to Historical Data?

“If it moves it can be measured, and if it can be measured it can be changed” – Doug Pratt. Operational excellence and implementing alarm management is about positive long lasting change.

Case Stusy - Invista pic 2 At this site there are over 200 emails within the report distribution list. Reports are assigned to individuals on a need to know basis. Automated reports, each with their own targeted audience, prompt stakeholders into action. With access from the plant network, users can conduct their own analysis and measure performance relevant to their respective areas of responsibilities.

The engineers with responsibility for those business units have a vested interest in the outcome of any issues related to the design and function of alarms. They are the “stakeholders” in the alarm management process. Each stakeholder should feel that they have the ability to voice a need or raise an issue that potentially involves the alarm system. Each stakeholder should be asked to participate in the decisions addressed by the alarm management process.

What Consolidation has Enabled

Commitment to safe and reliable operations logically requires addressing critical safety alarm activations. Consolidating the data has enabled stakeholders across the site to receive standardized critical safety alarm reports every morning for group discussion.

Cast Study - Invista pic 3Personnel who utilize the data to maintain facilities processes don’t have to worry about digging into a software program to get the information they need. The administration of the program and the Microsoft SQL database is also centralized. The site shifted the burden of database maintenance and “system health check” notices to a dedicated group within the automation staff. Although individual users can conduct their own data mining and analysis, reports sent to the site are handled by an administrative team. Peter Drucker – “What gets measured, gets managed”. Consolidation of data and site reporting gives managers assurances that important things are getting measured.

The LogMate Alarm Activity Analysis module assesses alarm and event data collected from the connected control systems. It is a statistical view of the historical activity of the facility and is designed for ease of use; analysis is as simple as “point and click.” Every element needed to run an analysis is available on a single screen.

Designed around industry best practices, the Alarm Activity Analysis module includes eight tools to support any alarm management program from low-hanging fruit alarm remediation to a large scale, site-wide project to ongoing optimization.

A common software platform is used to create master alarm databases for each of the sites control systems. Process engineers enhance MOC processes related to alarm selection, creation and design using one infrastructure tool that can be used for a variety of control systems.

Operational Impact

Bringing data together made the big picture clearer. The difference of the before and after pictures for operations and the alarm configuration were significant. The following were the starting conditions: 

  • • The control room was noisy and annoying with hundreds of alarms per hour adding pressure to an    already tense environment.  
  • • Incident reviews limited to paper searches and slowed by a lack of data.
  • • Nuisance activations of critical safety alarms triggered unnecessary activity.
  • • Alarm floods led to the unplanned upsets.
  • • Inconsistent alarm design practices led to process problems and time consuming rework.

 

Case Study - Invista pic 4Delivering data from all the control systems eliminated wasted motion. Information supported informed decisions and quick action. The long term archive and reports from the archive changed the environment:

  • • Alarm-related discussions took place at the start of the day and were supported by LogMate data.
  • • Troubleshooting was faster and easier, especially after floods; incident timelines characterized with alarms and operator actions
  • • Operator changes are monitored easily. Changes can be categorized and reported upon.
  • • Timely corrections to alarm settings reduced the decibel levels in the control room
  • • Operators, engineers and managers took notice of alarm performance metrics related to       frequency and alarm state duration
  • • Safety critical alarms were provided a glaring spotlight and automated daily reports insured all key stakeholders got involved.
  • • After initial alarm management procedures were augmented, a rate that is more or less around 20 alarms per hour allows operators to focus on running the plant at levels which optimize production. Rate has improved since the initial efforts.
  • • Designing alarms that were in compliance with the site alarm philosophy became faster.

 

In summary, data visibility and accountability for maintenance were increased. Console operators attentiveness increased as their sensitivity to fewer alarms was increased.

Financial Performance Impact

Case Study - Invista pic 6Although worker, community and environmental safety are the primary concerns, shareholder investment is never far from the picture. Eliminating one unplanned outage can pay for all the investment in implementing alarm management procedures at a plant. At this facility, unplanned outages used to be more of a problem. Delivering information to skilled engineers has reduced the risk for a shutdown at this site.

The site contributes a major portion of global output of key intermediate chemical products. This site has a significant revenue contribution goal to the parent company. Any disruptions in production can significantly impact supply chains across the world. The cost in lost product related to an unplanned outage at a large chemical facility can run into the US$100,000 per hour. The manpower costs may seem small compared to the outage but overtime rates, subcontractor fees, equipment replacement cost are still oppressive.

For this site a plant shutdown was the trigger for investment with an alarm management program. Compared to the financial outlays of an unplanned outage, the costs of supporting software platforms, alarm management principles training, rationalization projects, annual alarm management lifecycle task execution is truly minuscule.

The financial pain of an unplanned outage can go beyond the plant fence line. Downstream supply chains can be disrupted. Contract provisions can kick in which negatively impact the bottom line. In extreme cases disruptions can open the door to competition taking away business.

A skilled workforce and the abundant supply of natural gas in the region are important factors in making this site ideal for critical corporate business objectives. This site cannot accept unplanned outages as the “cost of doing business”. Automation staff can’t control the market or how the plant is configured but can pursue operational excellence and positively impact on the bottom line.

Don’t Mess with Texas

The initiative of the automation staff to pursue operational excellence for the alarm system resulted in a corporate award and considerable recognition of the achievement across the enterprise. Although there are existing LogMate licensees within the enterprise, other sites are now pursuing the same path as this site.

Case Study - Invista pic 6Because of their obligations to coworkers, surrounding communities, environment, and shareholders, automation professionals take alarm systems seriously. In Texas, living near the place they work means plant personnel probably work near where they hunt, fish, and recreate. There is a real tie to the great outdoors. Even newcomer engineers to the region are eventually imbued with this Coastal Plains legacy. At this site “Don’t mess with Texas” is more than a catchy slogan.

 

David P. Garcia, TiPS Inc.
Kelsey R. Wright, TiPS Inc.