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What is Alarm Management?

For those not involved with industrial process control or hospital environments, alarm management may be an unfamiliar term.

Industrial manufacturing of goods or energy requires complex computer systems to monitor and control its processes. You most likely pass many of these facilities in your car on the way to work; electrical power plants, pipelines, chemical plants, oil refineries, pharmaceutical production or packaging, food production, paper mills, building automation, water and wastewater services, just to name a few. Although automation and computer applications are important to control these processes, ultimately we need humans to make sure everything is working as intended.

We call these people who make sure the processes do their intended job ‘operators’. These operators use computer monitors (even a wall full), cell phones, or other smart devices to keep a vigilant watch to make sure nothing goes wrong. On a small scale we all do the same when we are driving our automobiles. We monitor our automobile instrument gauges to tell us our speed, engine statistics, tire pressure, and in more sophisticated cars, we can monitor our navigation or tell us when we are too close to the car ahead of us. We use a steering wheel, gas pedal, brakes, and turn signals to make sure we get home safely. Another example is an airplane pilot. Their cockpit is full of gauges, displays, switches, dials, etc. to control the plane. Knowing what is happening around us and understanding what it means is called situational awareness.

All processes need adjustments and sometimes processes do not work as expected. The operators keep watch and make adjustments as needed to make sure the process runs safely for the people and the environment, and help the company deliver quality products on time to be profitable. When any part of the process has the potential to become dangerous, risk environmental harm, or stop working, an alarm is given to the operator as a visual and/or audible indication of an abnormal condition that requires a timely response.

Alarm management is making sure the process alarm system works as it is intended. The generated alarm should give enough information to describe the problem and give enough time to resolve the problem before bad things happen. LogMate, the TiPS alarm management solution, does just that.  LogMate collects and monitors real-time event data from any process computer and provide tools to identify areas where the alarm system needs improvement. In addition, LogMate can read the alarm system configuration and provides a database to justify the alarm and provide documentation to support the alarm existence and configuration. These process systems are complex, usually from thousands, to tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of alarms that can be generated.

Alarm management does not apply to just manufacturing facilities, it can be applied to anything that provides notification of an abnormal situation requiring someone’s attention. Hospitals and medical facilities, for example, use the same alarm management principles. The processes in this case are our own bodies! Hospital medical monitoring equipment keeps tabs on our health statistics, and keeps track of medicine or oxygen entering our bodies. When we feel uncomfortable (abnormal) while in the hospital, what do we do? We generate an alarm with a call button to ask the medical professional for assistance. If the medical monitoring equipment detects an abnormal heartbeat or breathing, then the equipment can notify someone to take action before an undesirable situation occurs.

At TiPS, we released the first alarm management tools in 1990, before industry best practices were conceived. Our vision is simple: to help customers have safe, environmentally-friendly, and efficient operations by providing scalable, easy-to-use, real-time alarm management solutions that exceed industry best practices. We are honored by the thousands of customers who have used TiPS LogMate to help make their processes safer and more efficient.