We get asked all the time, “What is a SCADA system, and how does it work?” SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. It is a control system designed to collect, analyze, and visualize data from industrial equipment. We’ll provide you with a high-level introduction to SCADA, how it works, and how to get started.
If you’d prefer to learn about SCADA through a short video, check out our Tech Edge video right here.
What is a SCADA System?
A SCADA system is a combination of hardware and software enabling the capture of data within, and automation of, industrial processes. SCADA connects the sensors that monitor equipment like motors, pumps, and valves to an onsite or remote server.
SCADA System Hardware
Hardware such as Remote Terminal Units (RTU) or Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) serve as local collection points for acquiring sensor information, often while triggering actions of the connected piece of equipment via programed logic. In a SCADA system, the sensor information is gathered from this collection hardware by a computer commonly known as a “gateway.”
Gateways can come in various forms.
- Edge computers close to the source of the data can act as a gateway, processing the data on-premise before transferring to the cloud or central physical server.
- Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) are also able to act as a gateway in-addition to providing a touchscreen interface for machine monitoring and control.
- The server itself can act as both a gateway as well as the control center for your SCADA environment.
Once collected, that sensor data can either be acted upon directly through the use of SCADA software, or saved for later review. SCADA systems can help monitor and control these processes from the same location as the actions performed or remotely from a separate location.
Programmable logic controller in industry.
How a SCADA System Works
One of the major efficiencies of SCADA is the ability to monitor and control systems in your facility from multiple locations. Depending on the configuration of the SCADA control system, the state of your production processes can be viewed from an operator workstation overlooking the physical facility, a HMI located directly beside machinery, or even from the home of an employee.
You can also interact with a SCADA environment without directly interacting upon each event. For example, using logic-based rules, operators are able to designate the completion of certain actions when sensors detect abnormalities. Is the rotating bit on a plywood cutting machine vibrating excessively? The SCADA software can be programmed to power down the machine immediately and avoid causing further potential harm to materials or operators.
Facilities often choose a hybrid version of direct and automated control by creating rules that alert an operator to the abnormal operation. The operator can then make an informed decision on the appropriate next steps.
Who Uses SCADA?
By providing real-time visibility over the state of assets and operations, SCADA helps business owners and operators make smarter decisions, improve efficiency, and minimize downtime. A huge range of industries are using SCADA, including manufacturing facilities, oil and gas operations, and public utilities.
From wastewater treatment to power grid management, smart cities are increasingly relying on SCADA control systems to help monitor and optimize everything from traffic light patterns to public power consumption. When a city is able to see spikes in resource usage, such as public transit or electrical consumption, they are able to more quickly respond.
Cities are also able to optimize resources long term when repeated trends are recognized. Certain temperatures and humidity levels may directly correlate with citizens turning on their heating or cooling systems. The grid can then be prepared to increase electrical production and transfer as those conditions develop.
Modern factories monitor data from machinery sensors in order to predict maintenance, monitor output speed, and increase operator safety. If a piece of equipment becomes less efficient at a certain point in its maintenance cycle, it may be more profitable to perform maintenance actions more often to avoid a bottleneck in production. Without a SCADA system, it would be difficult to recognize such patterns manually.
One example of a SCADA system utilizing Ignition by Inductive Automation
Steps to Implement SCADA Solution
Implement SCADA solution with the following steps.
- Clearly define and understand what you want to monitor
- Determine what data you currently collect and how
- Add gateways to connect current data collection points
- Create new data collection points if desired
- Centralize your data to your intended monitoring location
- Map data in your SCADA software of choice
- Add visualizations of data and controls
- Define automations and rules
SCADA software then takes over to help you interact with your facility, alert you to issues, inform predictive maintenance and provide control over a handful, or thousands of pieces of equipment.
It may seem complicated at first, but the goal is essentially to connect the things you want to monitor and control to the location from which you wish to monitor and control them.
Integrated SCADA Software
OnLogic partners with the SCADA experts at Inductive Automation. They are the creators of the popular and powerful Ignition SCADA software. Our line of hardware with Ignition Edge software pre-installed can help you get up and running with a SCADA solution more quickly. We combine our reliable hardware designed for industrial environments with software specifically developed to streamline modern SCADA implementations.
With the amount of data being produced in modern industrial facilities, the opportunity for optimization has never been greater. The concept of collecting and acting on data isn’t new, but today’s SCADA solutions offer incredible insights and capabilities that were previously inaccessible.
If you still have questions about SCADA, feel free to add them in the comments or contact our team of experts.