Too Many Alarms? It's Time for SuperSCADA!

Alarm Notification

What’s the biggest challenge our customers face on the plant floor? Ding ding ding—that’s right, managing alarms. 

Last week, we held a webinar for customers on how to increase operator productivity. We polled the audience about their greatest challenges. Here was the list of possible responses:

   Too many alarms
   Not enough operators / budget
   Errors during manual processes
   High turnover of workers / lack of skills
   Complexity of processes
   Regulatory requirement

“Too many alarms” is still the biggest challenge!  I thought high turnover of workers would win with so much of the experienced workforce retiring. Btw, regulatory requirements came in lowest.

But, too many alarms as the overwhelming answer? Sure, alarms were a challenge with traditional HMI/SCADA systems, but let’s face it—every organization can manage alarms today with modern technology.

Today’s SCADA is not just monitoring and visualization, with alarms rolling in. According to GE SCADA expert Prasad Pai, most SCADA systems are still configured as HMIs—a display to indicate status. However, for operators, a SCADA is their Decision Support system. If viewed that way, your SCADA should be the foundation of an efficient operation.

What can you do today? It’s time to call on the power of your SuperSCADA and end those alarm problems! 

Here are three ways your mild-mannered SuperSCADA can help you, right now:

  1. Use analysis tools to reduce the number of alarms that occur. Your GE HMI/SCADA has logging and analysis capabilities to not only help you reduce the number of alarms but also to deliver on business goals. As an example, one of our pharmaceutical customers used his iFIX system to reduce costs for his business by $5 million a year—and that was seven years ago. 
  2. Drive response on the alarms that matter. With GE software, you have task management capabilities, allowing you to trigger the right actions, at the right time, by the right person, in the right place based on alarms. That’s a lot of “rights”—are you using this capability?
  3. Leverage HMI/SCADA design best practices. How old are your screens? Be sure you are using the latest in standards for screen design to improve situational awareness. Also, learn about the standards for categorizing alarms.

There are many other techniques for managing alarms. We’ll make more information available to you, including how to understand the challenges that overwhelming alarms aggravate. For now, 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 today should be able to recognize which information requires their attention and what it indicates. If you are a GE HMI/SCADA customer, you already have a SuperSCADA. You can enable smarter operators with faster alarm detection and understanding today.

Want to learn more? Click here to see what’s part of GE’s HMI/SCADA. And, if you’re not sure where to begin, reach out. GE has been in this business and knows SCADA—we’re here to help. We might bring you the best SuperSCADA technology, but we want YOU to be the superhero in your business, delivering phenomenal results, every day.

Alicia Bowers

Alicia Bowers believes that automation software can help industrial organizations overcome many challenges, including retiring workforces, global competition, and tightening regulations. She has published in industry magazines, ranging from Food Manufacturing to Hydrocarbon Engineering, and is the recipient of a MESA Outstanding Contribution Award. Connect with Alicia on LinkedIn.

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Alicia, successful Process alarm management is vital to the survival of any manufacturing plant. My view however is the following : If there are too many alarms, then either to thresholds for these are set too low, or there are genuine faults in the operation of said plant. If the latter is true, then my belief is that the source not the resultant should be treated. Agreed, modern day software diagnostics can greatly enhance operator effectiveness, but again I would say that in a plant where alarms are sounding frequently, then the cause of these needs to be rectified.

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