Intelligent Alarming Leverages Industrial Internet of Things to Reduce Risks and Costs

Aug. 11, 2016
From geo-awareness capabilities to proactive analysis, modern alarming technologies use connected systems layered with new apps to help eliminate alarm noise and confusion while driving the right corrective actions.

What’s the biggest challenge on the plant floor? According to a recent GE survey, managing alarms is still the biggest challenge.

But today, every organization can manage alarms. With intelligent alarming and the Industrial Internet, companies can send the alarms that matter, when they matter, to the right person. Engineers and operators can receive prioritized alerts with instructions, helping them react to and resolve alarms quickly.

With geo-intelligence, companies can deploy alarms to an operator, engineer or manager based on physical location. As an example, an engineer is standing on Floor 4 in front of a mixer and an alarm goes off related to a machine on Floor 1, which is 25 minutes away. Does it make sense to deploy the alarm to that engineer? A geo-intelligent HMI/SCADA system can determine that a colleague is standing 100 feet away from the machine in alarm and instead send the signal to the closest engineer for faster, more efficient response.

By adding geo-awareness to alarming, companies can make intelligent notifications possible and deploy alarms in a geo-context. The right information finds the right person in the right location, which is drastically different from the traditional SCADA world and drives faster action.

In addition to deploying alarms based on location, today’s HMI/SCADA also can filter alarms to increase efficiency. According to analysts, 75 percent of all alarms are noise, and many companies want to examine their systems and reduce the number of alarms. Even with these good intentions, integrators and in-house engineers often need to add new alarms—creating a seemingly unending cycle of alarm creation and reduction.

As a result, companies are forced to accept that there will always be a certain level of noise from alarms, and operators must know what to pay attention to and what not to pay attention to. A problem arises with temporary staff operating machines or new operators coming on board. The temporary or new personnel don’t have the experience to filter through the alarm noise and make sense of it.

With intelligent alarming fueled by the Industrial Internet, companies can take all of the raw alarms in underlying systems and apply a level of analytics to them. Modern HMI/SCADA systems can deliver the right alarm, perhaps even a derived or intelligent alarm, to mobile devices rather than simply transferring confusing raw data.

Furthermore, fourth-generation HMI/SCADA can add a layer of proactive analysis to deliver predictive intelligent alarming. Today’s technology isn’t just about delivering the right information after an event has happened; it is also about delivering information before a catastrophic issue occurs and preventing it from taking place.

Consider temperature monitoring on a piece of equipment. If the temperature exceeds the upper control limit, an alarm is activated. Traditionally, an operator would now react to the alarm. Analytics have made it possible to evolve from being reactionary to predicting when the event will occur and taking steps in advance.

As an example, a food manufacturer can monitor the temperature data point, put an analytic on it and predict the temperature based on a statistical model. The company can push an alarm to an operator to ensure that action is taken faster before a batch is ruined.

This applies to other industries as well, such as pharmaceutical with multimillion-dollar batches of product, as well as maintenance events on discrete equipment. The application of predictive knowledge, delivered as an intelligent alarm in a geo-aware context, is far-reaching and offers new possibilities for consistently optimized operations.

Enabling Smart Operators
Today’s HMI/SCADA is not just monitoring and visualization with alarms rolling in. For operators, HMI/SCADA is their decision support system and alarm management is critical.

Here are two golden rules to think about:

  • Don’t allow technology to complicate the operator experience.
  • Use technology to improve the operator experience and manage alarms for greater efficiency.

With just a glance, operators should be able to recognize which information requires their attention and what it indicates. You can enable smart operators with intelligent alarming for faster alarm detection, greater understanding and improved business outcomes.

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