Select the Right SCADA System
EP Editorial Staff | October 13, 2020
For many automated-manufacturing facilities, SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems are an essential component for monitoring and controlling equipment and processes.
SCADA systems gather and process data from networked devices and sensors to provide operators with an overview of their production process and equipment status. While SCADA is used for similar purposes across varying industries, not every system is the same. These tips will help you properly specify your next SCADA system.
One of the main considerations when choosing a SCADA system is its compatibility with your existing controls hardware or PLCs. This is generally not an issue with modern controls hardware from a single manufacturer. Compatibility issues typically arise, however, when using legacy controls hardware that doesn’t support modern communication protocols, such as OPC UA. Similarly, integrating with controls hardware of varying ages and manufacturers can also present challenges, as each piece of hardware may have different communication protocols. The simplest way to overcome these challenges is to select a SCADA system that offers a wide range of native drivers to ensure it works with any manufacturer’s hardware, regardless of age.
Another important aspect to consider when selecting a SCADA system is the potential operating cost. When evaluating SCADA systems, account for extra expenses such as training, technical support, upgrades, connections, and multiple users or clients. Some of these services are included in the base price, while other vendors charge additional fees.
Perhaps the most important tip for selecting the right SCADA system is to ensure your selection includes modern security features. Safeguards such as HTTPS secure access, secure remote connectivity via VPN, user access levels, and independent
security audits all help ensure your network and data will remain secure from external threats or malware.
While it may seem obvious that you should ensure the selected system includes all the functionality you need, there is more to this than meets the eye. For example, making sure the system can accommodate your application’s unique needs may require consulting with a systems integrator who has extensive experience and knowledge in your particular industry. Additionally, selecting a system that can connect to third-party programs allows exchange of collected data with ERP or MES systems. Useful features, such as large graphics libraries, customizable reports, multi-user collaboration, alarm management, and machine learning, can help further maximize your data and return on investment.
Finally, look to the future and select a system that will allow growth with easy expansion and upgrades. Ensuring the architecture of your system is robust enough to handle adding additional facilities or production lines is an often-overlooked factor that can lead to a bogged-down system with slow response times and constant outages. Overall, the system you select should have the ability to grow with the company and be adaptable to new technologies in order to keep your operations running at peak efficiency. EP
Learn more about control-system design and integration from Process Solutions Inc., Stanwood, WA, processsolutions.com.