Blog Post

A Process Control Engineers’ New Year Resolutions – Part 1

Dustin Beebe, ProSys

Many of us create personal New Year resolutions. Whether it’s losing a few pounds (or kilograms), giving up chocolate or exercising more, we define goals that we can measure ourselves by. At work, we often establish goals and stretch goals with the companies we work for. With either work or personal goals, our perception of the quality or value of them determines our resolve to stick with it. Here are a few goals that I think are worthy and an explanation of their importance.

Operational Awareness


  • Engineer process and equipment boundaries for safety, reliability and environment limits
  • Develop displays showing key process variables in relation to process and equipment boundaries
  • Organize displays into an effective hierarchy with easy-to-use navigation
  • Use display best practices to ensure abnormal situations stand-out


  • Address deficits in operator training
  • Build up process understanding and expertise quickly


  • Improve operator recognition of abnormal operating conditions that could lead to unsafe, unreliable or inefficient operations
  • Reduce environmental deviations
  • Safer operations
  • Increase equipment reliability

Operational Awareness is one area that good practices and qualitative goals are generally accepted, but not yet standardized. Operational Awareness ensures that the operator has the tools, capabilities and training to operate the process safely, reliably and efficiently. Alarm Management covers the alarm system, but Operational Awareness covers the entire purview of the operator.

The key tool the board operator uses to determine the process state are the control system displays (a.k.a - the operator interface). Having an operator interface that clearly illustrates the current process conditions against the operational boundaries brings the operators’ attention to areas that need focus. Developing a number of displays that summarize the key process variables against process boundaries show areas that need attention. Organizing displays into a logical display hierarchy allows the operator to drill to areas of need quickly and efficiently. Good training and documentation will help the operator troubleshoot the issue and maintain the process within predefined boundaries. Engineering safety, operational, equipment and environmental boundaries will provide a clear understanding of where equipment and the process can be operated safely.

Alarm Management

Goal: Dynamic Rationalization completed on all alarms
Reason: Ensure safer operation, avoid alarm floods and consequently reduce the likelihood of stress on the operators’ job and of onsite industrial incidents from occurring
Results: Meet all alarm metrics from ISA 18.2-2009 / IEC 62682

Alarm Management is one area where industry established a measuring stick by which we are all expected to surpass. ISA 18.2-2009 and IEC 62682 are well-defined and accepted across the industry. Metrics from these standards are being adopted in corporate and site-specific alarm management standards.

Making sure that all of your facility’s alarms have had a good dynamic rationalization is an achievable goal for the year. Making sure that each alarm has at least one defined consequence and response and presents itself at the correct time is critical. When this is done for every alarm in an operator scope of responsibility, all of the metrics fall into line.

Part 2: Optimization and Control