I spent quite some time talking to Steve Apple and Chris Wilson from TiPS Inc. (self-billed as “The Alarm Management Company”). We discussed the fact that there is a real paradigm shift (yes, there’s that awful word again) in operations management and that alarm management is the tip of the iceberg. Apple believes that Ian Nimmo is right when he says that a control room with busy operators is a control room in crisis.
Apple and Wilson pointed out their theory (to which I heartily subscribe) that alarm management is not a project. Like optimization in earlier years, they believe that “projectizing” alarm management simply brings back the decay curves common to early optimization projects. You know, the benefits curve would rise, peak, and then start to tail off, bringing the curve eventually back to the benchmark “zero.” So you’d have to hire the optimization company again, and the benefit curve would start to rise, eventually falling back. Companies got real good at timing the “optimization project” so they could stay at the peak of the benefit curve…
Of course, optimization is now seen as an operations paradigm, and, according to Wilson and Apple, alarm management should also be seen this way.
Apple pointed out that one of the other issues he believes is a fallacy about alarm management is the idea that companies cannot do alarm management themselves. That this is a “service” that automation companies should provide. He noted that the way to overcome the multiple decay curves in optimization was to make it part of the culture, part of the process. He suggested that this is also true in alarm management, and what better way to make it a viable part of the company culture than to implement it yourself? Very interesting question, that.
Apple and Wilson have some definitely interesting points. Now that they are partnered with ExperTune and with Invensys, TiPS should get even more “airtime” for their point of view.