From an industrial perspective, like in processes where increased radiation or rise in the gas level may lead to potential disaster, alarms play an important role of alerting the operators to avert the untoward incident.
Today we will be exploring how much benefit can be achieved if the concept of alarm is utilized in process management and execution.
Production is... not only about production
A lot of things need to happen besides the production activity itself, for a plant to function in a proper manner. Subsidiary functions, like procurement, maintenance, logistics, R&D & quality control should be working in a synchronized and well controlled manner.
Modern MES applications can connect the whole production process with the subsidiary functions..
- MES allows users utilizing data from the production process and from the enterprise to better execute their jobs,
- the system allows top management shaping up the operation and process to meet market needs,
- it helps managers at the plant level modify processes and activities to cater to changes initiated through top management,
- it enables operators and plant personnel to execute changes and improvements by providing them information for the current changes made which in-turn triggers more improvement.
The answer is: the Alarm Management System.
An alarm management system should stay true to its name and cause alarm in case an untoward incident is detected. However it would be better if the untoward incident is detected by the MES before it happens and the alarm thus caused completely prevents the incident from happening.
Let’s consider procurement activities. In most modern plants the pursuit of Just-in-time management is rampant and top managers want to limit the stock of raw material and consumables to the bare minimum limits.
If production for a particular item gets increased in a particular shift, causing a particular reagent ‘X’ to be consumed in a higher than usual amount, the MES should detect this by cross referencing the consumption of reagent X with the current stock held.
The Alarm Management System should immediately cause an alarm message to be sent to requisite personnel and if the MES is capable of integrating with the SCM, the alarm signal should go to the concerned vendor as well. Furthermore, the MES may be configured to keep re-sending the alarm at regular intervals until the stock is ordered or the supplier acknowledges the demand thus made.
In the above scenario, chances of personnel taking action and replenishing the required material increase drastically.
Any best-in-class alarm management system should target three main deliverables:
- to inform requisite parties,
- to guide them to take action,
- to follow-up and ensure the correct activity has been performed or escalate the matter to a level where the necessary action is taken.
Configurability is a key to successful alarm management
Modern MES applications are configurable and thereby allow users defining scenarios which should be considered as alarm worthy and also the actions which should then be triggered through the system.
The granularity with which Alarm Management System can be implemented would depend both on the knowledge of the process owners and the capability of the software vendor. In a complex manufacturing environment there might be hundreds or thousands of material types, parts, consumables and assemblies being used to produce an array of similar or dissimilar products.
An ordinary MES application would at best be able to detect a shortage and inform the operator on the floor. A more proactive MES would be considered more granular in its approach to Alarm management. The key here is to allow notifications to be raised based on defined set of rules for each and every possible event and item type.
The best alarm systems would be those which allow users to prevent mishaps and not just detect them. The ability of MES to capture events and analyze them, coupled with the alarm functionality to notify, and ensure required tasks are performed, can help save modern plants a lot of money in down-time, delay and damage losses.