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ON-CALL MANAGEMENT

White Paper

 

 

General information about on-call management:
Why setting up an automated on-call management ?
Information transmission, the lifeblood of on-call management
Information as full as possible
Information sent to the right people
Information transmitted at the right time
Automating the on-call management
Adapt to your data sources and alarms
The importance of controlling the flow of messages
The possibilities of a recall or escalation
Being able to send the acknowledge back to the source
The importance of ergonomic on-call schedule
The importance of a secure and customizable access
Don’t forget the redundancy !
Media to be used: phone, email, sms…
Reuse your existing infrastructure
Speech Synthesis
To go further, the possibility of remote control
Automated on-call management: the key questions to ask?

 


General information about on-call management:

 

To ensure a continuous production, a seamless service, a perfect quality at any time of day or night, there must be an organization which implies several teams of people handling, one after the other, the occurring events.

This is more commonly called the on-call  management.

The on-call management relies on a team of one or more persons (site manager, maintenance staff) or on external organization (gards, telesurveillance center).

 

Why setting up an automated on-call management ?

 

Whether dealing with a lack of staff, or optimizing human resources, or optimizing the quality of a production or a process, implementing an automated on-call management can be justified.

Today the productivity needs are becoming more important. Product and services quality must be perfect. For all these reasons a careful watch of each process and every level change is often necessary.

Assiduous monitoring requires significant human and hardware investments. To avoid having a full-time person to monitor a single process or a level, information and / or events transmission is mandatory.
This information transmission will enable the on-call staff to be more mobile, more efficient and will allow it to perform other tasks at the same time.

 

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Information transmission, the lifeblood of on-call management

 

The most important thing in on-call management is information.

Whether it is in a 24/7 production, monitoring levels, or in case fire outbreak, the transmission of information is essential.
This information must be:
- The most exhaustive possible
- Sent to the right people
- Sent at the right time

These three key points are used to achieve efficient and measured on-site intervention thanks to the information provided.

 

Information as full as possible

 

white paper2 Knowing that the water level has been exceeded or that an engine is stopped, is okay. But also knowing the status of a pump associated with the water level alarm or the status of the circuit breaker connected to the engine is better. With additional information you are able to gauge the urgency of the situation and respond appropriately.

 

white paper3Information sent to the right people

 

Nothing is more annoying than being woken up at night by an alarm that does not concern you. For each event, the transmission of information must be to the right people, depending on the time and date of occurence. Thus, an on-call schedule should be within reach.

 

Information transmitted at the right time

 

white paper4 Did it ever happen to get an alarm, rush on site to perform the fix and realize, once there, that everything was back to normal?
This is usually the case when level oscillates around an alarm threshold and then falls. Wait a while for the level to stabilize before sending an alarm ensures that the alarm actually requires action. This feature will thus limit measure errors.

 

 

 

 

Automating the on-call management

 

Controllers and software tools enable to automate tedious tasks.
Call different phone numbers in case of problems can be painful but easily automated.

Many PLCs or software can meet your needs.
But how to choose the one which suits you best?
Below are the major points to consider:

 

Adapt to your data sources and alarms

 

To change as little as possible your environment and work habits, an on-call management module must be able to adapt to your different sources of data and alarms. For the long-term preservation of your installations, the versatility of the on-call module to different protocols and equipments should be considered.

 

The importance of controlling the flow of messages

 

While sending an email or SMS can be easily automated, to ensure message is indeed received and acknowledged is much more complex. This is even more difficult that two types of acknowledgment must be handled:

  • The call acknowledgment:

The on-call person has received the message, but he does not want to take the alarm in charge.

  • The alarm acknowledgment:

The standby person has received the message, and takes in charge the alarms and all the related needed actions.

In case of no acknowledgment of call or alarm, a callback and escalation procedure must be possible.


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The possibilities of a recall or escalation

 

white paper6When the on-call management module is notified that the information has been transmitted correctly, it should set itself in standby mode.
As long as the alarm is ongoing and unacknowledged, the on-call module must re-call the on-call people to remind them that an issue is still ongoing and unsolved.
Your on-call management module should allow you to define an escalation procedure if the people who are on-call cannot be reached or cannot intervene.

 

 

Being able to send the acknowledge back to the source

 

Once the information is sent to the right person, it must acknowledge the alarm.
There are often many links in the return flow of an alarm acknowledgment.
The sensor, the PLC, the SCADA, the on-call management system, the on-call operator.
It can be tedious, at each level, where possible, to acknowledge the fact that the information has indeed been transmitted. An automated on-call management module should allow you to trace the acknowledgment back to the source of your alarm. This avoids several actions and also reinforce your responsiveness.

 

The importance of ergonomic on-call schedule

 

white paper7 Even with planned schedules, they are often subject to changes. A programmable schedule and easy changes are features to consider during the selection of the on-call management module. This ensures that the information is well transmitted well and to the right person.

 

The importance of a secure and customizable access

 

So that small schedule changes do not disrupt your entire on-call management, the ability to change the schedules should only be allowed for certain people who have the appropriate security permissions to perform these changes.
Some data is confidential?
You only want to give access to essential displays to your duty teams?

The on-call management module should allow you to set the level of access to which every person is entitled to use the on-call module.

 

Don’t forget the redundancy !

 

Of course when using an automated system, a failure can occur. Whether it is software or hardware.
Thus, system which can be redundant must be chosen. Redundancy should be possible at both software and hardware levels (means of communication).
Ideally, there should be two systems monitoring each other. Each system monitoring the tags to monitor, the media and the state of the redundant system.

Without redundancy, it is essential to increase the means of communication, SMS and email, for example, or voice message and SMS, or SMS, email and voice message.


 

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Media to be used: phone, email, sms…

 

Your on-call management module should allow you to use as many media as possible  in order to best adapt to your current on-call management and to your existing means of communication.

 

Reuse your existing infrastructure

 

The implementation of an automated on-call management module should be as smooth as possible. This in order to avoid the maximum work habits changes.
To prevent these changes and also to limit the cost of implementation of such module, reusing the existing communications infrastructure is the best approach.

Just as your on-call management solution must be able to retrieve any data from your different data sources, it must also be able to adapt to your existing infrastructure.

Usually the most commonly used media are:
- The voice call (Pros: very simple and easy to use. Cons: without VoIP, it needs a modem and the establishment of a dedicated telephone line).
- Email (Pros: No specific equipment needed. Cons: you have to be able to read the emails)
- SMS (Pros: alarms text history. GSM is widespread. Cons: modem and SMS subscription required)
Installing an on-call management module can also be the opportunity to put away aging means of communication and switch to the latest IT technology!


Speech Synthesis

 

The speech synthesis has a great advantage: the voice messages will be synthesized at the time of transmission of information.
You are then able to obtain up to date information with the latest known values by the system.
Speech synthesis is also interesting when your on-call management system can automatically retrieve the text labels from your applications.
The transmission of audio messages is immediate. There is no need to create special sound files any more.


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To go further, the possibility of remote control

 

When someone is on-call, there is a good chance it is not on site to perform the necessary action, following the receipt of information or warning message.
Some actions may be carried out remotely (closing a valve, launching a process, reboot a machine, setting a level...).
Check if your on-call management module or Scada system is able to perform such actions, remotely, automatically or manually after the alarm acknowledgment.

 

Automated on-call management: the key questions to ask?

  

Here is a summary of the key questions to ask when implementing an automated on-call management solution:

  • What are the data I want to monitor?
  • How many alerts I wish to have?
  • How will I send information back to my on-call management product?
  • What communication channels would I like to be notified?
  • May I reuse my telecom infrastructure?
  • How will I defined the on- call management?

 

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