I've never divorced and remarried my lovely wife of 29 years, but I imagine I now have something in common with those who have reconciled with their spouses after a long hiatus. I first joined the Control editorial staff in 1993 and was its editor in chief from 1997 to 2003, when I was drawn away to pursue other interests. (You can read more about those and how it will shape our coverage in the January issue.) Now I'm back after a decade at large, and it's amazing how much the process automation landscape has changed. Sort of. Like I imagine it would be coming back to your spouse.
One thing that doesn't seem to have changed much is alarm management, the subject of a recent Google+ "hangout" of sundry automation editors with representatives of Honeywell. The company's alarm management expert, Kevin Brown, said he has studies showing that our industries lose $10 billion dollars every year due to ineffective alarm management, but it's hard to get plants to give it more than passing attention.
Even the companies that buckle down don't stick to it. "End users see the problem and do a program, get results, but then slip back," Brown said. As a result, plants present their operators with as many as 4,000 alarms a day. It's no wonder that, too often, a critical problem slips by them to become a full-blown incident.
Brown asked us why alarm management doesn't get enough attention and what could be done about it, but we were just a bunch of editors "hanging out" (at least one of whom was not wearing pants), so I don't think we were much help.
I'd appreciate hearing about alarm management in your plant…if you're good at it, how do you keep it up? If not, what's stopping you? Log in and comment or if that's too public, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.