2013 was a good year for functional safety progress. exida Certification issued a record number of new product functional safety certifications in mostly every product category - valves, actuators, solenoid valves, PLCs, fire and gas sensors, process sensors, and components. The component category is one of the most interesting because it includes new microprocessors, integrated circuits, middle ware, operating systems, compilers, and even skid mount systems. It is clearly becoming a simple task for any system level designer to find IEC 61508 certified instruments / components so that safety integrity can be assured. Given the very weak “proven in use” justification documentation we have seen during IEC 61511 audits, it is a good thing.
Regarding Cybersecurity, many owner-operator companies have treated the threat very seriously in 2013. The number of site audits has increased substantially. This is a good sign as safety can be thwarted by weak cybersecurity. The credibility of an attack is recognized. While it may be true that these are considered a “rare event,” the consequences are as significant as any functional safety event.
Failure data analysis also improved in 2013 as exida was able to receive a considerable amount of field failure data from chemical and petro-chemical companies through our SILStat data collection software. We combine this data with our field failure warranty data records and conventional owner-operator data sets. Overall we are quickly heading to over 100 BILLION unit operating hours of recorded field failure data, primarily in the process industries. All this data helps us generate far more accurate predictive failure rates for new products and helps us recognize failure probability modeling improvements. The recent modeling improvements include maintenance capability and more accurate proof test coverage. Both of these factors can impact results by an entire SIL level. The days of using simplified equations are long over for anyone who wants good PFDavg and PFH numbers for a SIF.
The discipline of alarm management took some significant steps toward maturity in 2013. A new international standard on alarm management (IEC 62682) is nearing completion. Developed based on ISA-18.2, it is poised to help standardize alarm management practices around the world beginning in 2014. As a company we saw significant interest in our alarm management program; from alarm system performance benchmarking to alarm philosophy development and alarm rationalization, there has really been a shift in people’s understanding of what they need to do and management support to go do it. We have even seen Greenfield projects where the customer wants to perform alarm rationalization before the start-up of the system. Just imagine no longer needing to shut off your alarm system during startup because of alarm overload.
When I think of all these improvements, I get a good feeling. I hope you do as well.