SCADA Overview

SCADA is the operating system for your facility. SCADA is the operator’s primary tool to fulfill the manufacturing needs of your company and execute the plans from your MES system.

A well designed SCADA system will show your operators everything they need to know to run the facility. It will give them context and actionable information for any process anomalies, and stay out of their way when things are running smoothly. 

Operators have screens detailing the process, showing relevant setpoints, process values, and any alarms or warnings they need to be aware of. Because automation is best when it is boring, many operator interfaces will only highlight things when they are abnormal, giving operators critical situational awareness when they need to focus on fixing things before they hit crisis mode.

SCADA forms the backbone of your information systems, providing the connection to take data from your process equipment and PLCs and store it in historians and databases.

If you have any automation in your facility, you will want a SCADA system to get the most out of your investment, make your operators as productive as possible, and build the foundation for larger MES integrations.

What Is SCADA?

SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. It is the interface your people use to control you process. It provides the screens to monitor the process, configure setpoints, manage alarms, trends, and the overall health of the process. It allows you to:

  • Control your process; either locally at the facility or remotely from anywhere with an internet connection
  • Monitor, process, and store real-time data
  • Record events and look at trends
  • Manage alarms
  • Visualize your process in real-time

We get more in depth with our Acronyms Are Hard: SCADA

SCADA Building Blocks

There are two main reasons you need a SCADA system:

  1. Process Monitoring and Control
  2. Data Analysis

Monitoring and Control:

A SCADA system centralizes all of your process control operations. It connects to individual machines, PLCs, and any other systems you use to control your process.

Facilities that do not have a SCADA system would need operators to go look at individual machines to control and monitor the process. If any setpoints need to be adjusted, or any alarms need to be dealt with they may not be alerted immediately. This can be stressful in the best of times. In a critical situation, this could mean damage to equipment or injury as people work to figure out what is going on.

Imagine being able to monitor and control the entire facility from the comfort of  the control room. A single interface for an entire view of the process. Alarm notifications, setpoints, and data collection can all be leveraged to reduce the stress on your crew.

With a centralized system, you can even pull up the screens on your phone, get alerts as they happen, and see an identical view as your operators if they have questions.

Data Analysis :

While the system is being controlled, a process historian is collecting and storing data.  Using this data, you can monitor trends and dig into what the information actually means. From this point, you can start to make some to draw some conclusions and make basic business decisions to make your process better.

As an example, if your motors are showing a higher than normal amp draw that gets worse throughout the course of a shift, it might be time to do some preventative maintenance. If you find your compressors are cycling too often to supply air to the facility, you might need to check them, or get a larger unit. Being able to maintain and balance equipment operation will extend their lives will provide a quick ROI on the SCADA implementation.

Learn more about Process Historians in our Process Historian Overview.

Software Platforms

There are a lot of SCADA platforms to choose from, and we have extensive experience building and migrating different platforms. One of the most important factors in choosing a platform is to ensure that it grow and expand with your needs over time.  The three most common options we see are Inductive Automation’s Ignition, Siemens WinCC Open Architecture, and Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk. These are explained in more detail below. If you have other questions or are curious about other platforms, let us know!

Inductive Automation’s Ignition

Inductive Automation has taken the industry by storm with their novel pricing strategy: charge one price. It’s a beautiful thought, and not needing to count clients, tags, or PLC’s makes it easy to figure out what you need. The list of customers is impressive and includes Tesla, Amazon, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson and many more.

We have leveraged Ignition to produce some magnificent results. Corso is extremely proud to say that we are Premier Integrators and all of our controls engineers are Gold Certified in the latest versions of Ignition!

Read more about Inductive’s Ignition here.

Siemens WinCC Open Architecture

Siemens’ newest iteration of software has an Open Architecture flair. Happily, this allows for more customization and templating in the software than other versions, and clients specifically like the speed everything happens.

One of the conclusive reasons customers look at OA is because of the speed at which their process historian can collect data and the huge amount of data that the process historian can store. How huge? CERN, that place in Europe with the Large Hadron Collider that tries to create black holes? Yeah, they use OA.

The overall look and feel is very nice and many applications happily call OA their MES provider.

Corso is proud to be a Premier WinCC OA Integrator. We also completed the very first US-Based oil and gas project on OA.

Read more about WinCC OA here.

Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk

FactoryTalk is the king of the industry. Everyone likes to compare them to IBM of the 80’s and 90’s: no one ever gets fired for using FactoryTalk.

Historically, FactoryTalk has been a bit disjointed with their integration of purchased modules, but there are some interesting developments coming from them recently. Most people that look at FactoryTalk are facilities that use Rockwell Automation for hardware and are comfortable with Rockwell. Otherwise there are some people out there who have used FactoryTalk in the past and want to continue to use FactoryTalk, which is a totally valid reason.

We have a few FactoryTalk experts and we’ll get a few calls a year from people asking us to come in and save their integration or perform a migration for them because of our cross platform knowledge.  

Read more about FactoryTalk here.

Where To Start?

If you have gotten this far you’ve already gotten a good start. Whether you already have a SCADA system and are looking to upgrade the system, or are looking to implement a SCADA system for the first time, we can help you reach your goals. We have designed many SCADAs systems from the ground up,  as well as upgraded and/or replaced existing systems across all major platforms.

Ready to get started? Send us a message.

What to know more about SCADA? Check out Acronyms Are Hard: SCADA, and/or the DCS v. PLC/SCADA video.

Already have a SCADA system and want to get the most out of it by integration your process and business systems? Check out The Ultimate MES Guide.