Alarm management challenge 5: Keeping an overview and finding specific alarms

This challenge is very much interconnected with the challenge of how to cope with too many alarms presented earlier in this article. If the amount of information presented by your alarm management seems already overwhelming, you will be surprised how lost you would feel in an alarm flood without proper filtering mechanisms. For a truly effective and manageable alarm system, finding and displaying the most critical alarms is a key success factor.

zenon’s Alarm Management Solution 5: Advanced Filtering Mechanisms

zenon offers flexible and user-definable solutions to enhance operations such as alarm classes and alarm groups for the purpose of classification and prioritization. Alarm groups and classes in zenon are also defined globally and set independently of the variable limits or Reaction Matrix states. Therefore, it is possible to have a pressure transmitter with a High Alarm with a class of Warning and the same pressure transmitter with a High-High Alarm with a class of Critical.

In Runtime mode, individual colors of the alarms can be defined within the alarm groups or classes to give operators a clear indication from the Alarm Message List about the most important alarms to handle. Of course, filtering in the groups and classes is an integrated part of the zenon filtering concept.

When alarm classes are used in combination with zenon alarm areas, then the ultimate statistics and overview are provided to the operator. Alarm areas are abstracted so they can be used for a variety of purposes, but they provide detailed information about active, unacknowledged, and acknowledged alarms within a logic area. The figure below shows a simple example how alarm groups, classes, and areas can be used together to provide a complete overview of the alarm status of an entire production facility.

Alarm groups, classes and areas examples.

Alarm groups, classes and areas examples.

There is one additional attribute to the unique alarm concept in zenon, and this is the Equipment Model. The Equipment Model in zenon represents an ISA 88 and 95 model that allows for the linking of objects to a physical piece of equipment. In general, it is a structured, hierarchical tree view of equipment within a plant or facility.

Equipment model example in zenon.

Equipment model example in zenon.

The zenon variable which generated an alarm can be linked to one or multiple equipment groups. When this is utilized, it provides not only a connection of a variable to a piece of equipment for the operator, but will also provide a hierarchical alarm filtering mode. If we look at an example from a beverage bottling facility, the equipment model may be structured as follows:

In Runtime, if the operator filters on Line 3, all alarms that occur from any piece of equipment within Line 3 will be returned. If the operator filters alarms in the Runtime for just Line 3 filler, only the alarms generated from the Line 3 filler will be returned. As a result, the operator who is looking to troubleshoot or diagnose a problem can quickly and effectively narrow the results of hundreds of alarms to just the alarms relevant for their investigation.


Alarm management standards such as ISA 18.2-2009 and IEC 62682 are practical guidelines developed by industry professionals to implement and maintain an effective alarm management system. These standards are, however, just one piece of a larger equation.

Contact us to learn how zenon HMI/SCADA can help you convert these standards into reliable, dynamic, and effective alarm management solutions.

See “Alarm Management Challenge 4: Quality of Values and String Processing” here.

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