Book Review—Alarm Management for Optimum Performance

An entertaining read—packed full of practical insights of value to users and systems developers.

If you are involved in process control—whether it is in a refinery or on board the ‘digital oilfield’ then you should read the new book from the ISA, ‘Alarm Management: Seven Effective Methods for Optimum Performance’ by Bill R. Hollifield and Eddie Habibi of People and Asset Solutions (PAS) of Houston.

Operator action required!

Alarm Management is an entertaining easy read crammed full of information and insights. For instance, in Chapter 4 ‘the most important chapter in the book,’ an alarm is defined as a means of alerting an operator that action is necessary. Control systems manufacturers have made alarm systems so easy to deploy that they are often used inappropriately. Examples of inappropriate use are telling the operator stuff that is ‘nice to know,’ that the system is ‘working normally’ and so on. Alarm Management provides real world examples of how default alarm set ups can produce spurious information—or worse, how alarm logic, even in mildly complex situations, can combine to ‘obscure and interfere with the operator’s understanding of events.’

Programmer action required!

Alarm Management describes advanced process control and the ‘digitization’ of work processes as ‘the most significant breakthroughs in process automation.’ Unfortunately, all this has had an unintended consequence—information overload for the operator. Moreover, lack of interoperability between layered applications and a compartmentalized focus have created a silo effect and a ‘confusion of systems and applications.’


Alarm Management calls for a ‘breakthrough’ in automation technology and offers some thoughts on how this could be achieved. Chapters on alarm graphics and a sample alarm philosophy cookbook round off this timely book. More from

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