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What is SCADA and How is it Used for Industrial Automation?

By ·Categories: Industrial IoT, Tech Explained·Published On: August 28th, 2020·6.9 min read·

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a combination of hardware and software used for industrial automation. SCADA allows users to:

SCADA systems allow companies to make smarter decisions, improve efficiency, and minimize downtime. SCADA is used across a variety of industries and is most commonly found in the following: manufacturing, automation, oil and gas, and wastewater.

SCADA systems work by connecting the local sensors, devices, and PLCs – which collect datasets, known as Tags – to an onsite server or remote/virtual machine. Data can be saved to a historical database so that it can be analyzed later. Users interact with the SCADA system locally to control processes through operator workstations, HMIs, or directly on the SCADA server.

SCADA Brings Visibility to Make Informed Decisions

A SCADA system brings more visibility to users to make informed decisions. For example, a plant supervisor at a soft drink bottling plant wants to be able to view all production lines, improve uptime, and reduce downtime based on the plants’ current performance. In order to accomplish this, they need tags from each station in the production process. With a SCADA system, the line supervisor would receive an alert when a filling station’s nozzle pressure has gone down by 20%, increasing cycle time by 5 seconds. The line supervisor can quickly send a technician out to replace the damaged nozzle and bring the line back up to normal capacity. Using a SCADA system, the plant supervisor was able to diagnose and fix the issue before it led to process bottlenecks in later stations or brought the whole line down due to a critical part failure.

Questions to ask when considering using SCADA

What am I looking to accomplish?

  • A SCADA system can meet a wide variety of needs, so it is important to define your project goals and KPIs from the start. Beyond Plant control and supervision, do you want to: Reduce costs related to maintenance? Reduce downtime? Improve plant reporting?

What machinery will I need to monitor in order to accomplish my objectives?

  • Am I installing new machinery or equipping existing machinery? Can I communicate directly with the machinery via an industrial protocol like Modbus TCP/IP or do I need to integrate PLCs to communicate with the machinery and sensors like Allen Bradley’s CompactLogix or Seimen’s S7 Series?

What type of industrial PC hardware will I need to deploy?

  • Do I need a computer that can run 3+ monitors in the control room for overall plant supervision? Do I need an all-in-one panel PC for an HMI so my production line operators can interact with machinery directly on the line? Do I need a rugged Edge computer with 4G LTE modem to send data back over MQTT from my field site?

Who are my stakeholders for this project?

  • Engineering, information technology, operations, and other relevant departments should be involved to ensure a smooth integration. 

Do I have the right people on my team to support a SCADA integration?

  • If this is your first time doing a SCADA integration your company might not have the necessary knowledge base to support it. Many end-users of SCADA systems work directly with an approved solutions integrator partner to help bring the experience to tailor a solution for your project.

Leveraging Ignition for SCADA

OnLogic has partnered with Inductive Automation to bring together hardware and software in a single package. Inductive Automation’s SCADA solution, Ignition, is a platform that connects all the devices on your plant floor. It is hardware-agnostic so you can use many different PLCs, databases, and PCs that you need. Ignition also has powerful built-in visualization and reporting tools so decision makers can make the right decision at the right time. Inductive Automation also has an integrator program, which presents the opportunity to work with certified integration specialists in your region to create a complete solution that is right for you, without needing to hire your own in-house specialist.

One of the inherent risks of IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) applications is that systems must  have an internet connection to function properly. Inductive Automation has solved this with their Ignition Edge software, a lightweight version of their Ignition gateway designed for use at the edge of your network. Ignition Edge allows systems to activate independently until a network connection is reestablished. There are a number of versions of Ignition Edge, the most common being: 

  • Edge Panel which allows you to run a local HMI autonomously from the rest of the network. 
  • Edge IIOT to facilitate data transfer via the lightweight MQTT protocol.
  • Edge Compute to utilize REST APIs, python scripting, or run Sequential function charts.

Which version or combinations of versions will depend on your project needs. Read more about our industrial automation solutions here and if you are ready to configure your own solution, check out your options here.

Ignition Ecosystem

How SCADA could be used for Oil and Gas Projects

Remote Oil Field MonitoringLet’s say you have 50 well sites for natural gas extraction. How much does it cost each time a technician’s truck rolls to update IT equipment at one of those sites? With Ignition Edge Panel, you can create a local HMI for your operators that doesn’t depend on a network connection. Ignition Edge IIOT allows you to send trending data back over MQTT via 4G LTE using a reliable, wide-temperature rated Rugged PC with integrated modem from OnLogic. With the ability to remotely monitor each site in real time, your techs can spend more time on critical maintenance and less on IT equipment upkeep. Ignition Edge is an investment that can free up time, resources, and manpower for other critical areas.

Why use an Industrial PC as part of your SCADA Solution?

One of the most common reasons we hear from customers considering industrial hardware is that they can’t handle the downtime caused by unreliable IT equipment. American Woodmark, for example, chose OnLogic’s industrial PCs to replace their existing desktop towers because of the time lost by vacuuming debris from CNC machinery out  the systems manually. Downtime dropped to less than 1% with this switch to a fanless solution build to perform in a manufacturing climate/environment. Learn more about the project and the benefits of fanless computing in this customer story.  

The deployment environments for SCADA projects vary as much as the industries they serve. OnLogic’s line of Ignition Edge solutions are tailored for SCADA deployments across a wide range of applications. We offer solutions that are resistant to dust, temperature, shock, vibration, and variable input power. Contact us to speak with one of our technical sales staff today to find your solution. Systems are built to order and tailored to your project, add an internal 4G LTE modem for remote communication, PoE+ ports to run a camera, or any other number of options available across our hardware platforms. Combine with Ignition Edge to further increase uptime, decrease downtime, and improve operational efficiency.

What about if I already have AWS Cloud services integrated as part of my enterprise technology suite?

OnLogic and Inductive have collaborated with Amazon Web Services to leverage the powerful tools that AWS can offer. Leverage tools like AWS IoT Sitewise, S3, and Kinesis to collect, analyze, and store data. Either sending back to Ignition for use in it’s powerful reporting tools or utilizing AWS analytical services to pull insights directly from the cloud. Learn more about AWS connected factory solutions and the Industrial Machine Connectivity (IMC) kit in this case study .  Contact us and we can help you leverage this tool to start prototyping quickly. 

Industrial Machine Connectivity Kit

Map of how the IMC kit components relate to ISA95 levels and what capabilities are enabled at each level. Image by AWS.

Whether you need to deploy SCADA in a small factory or monitor hundreds of remote devices across thousands of miles, OnLogic has hardware solutions for you. Explore our online store, or contact us today! 


About the Author: Cole Wangsness

Cole is a Sales Engineer at OnLogic. He works to connect customers with the right solution and provide industry expertise. When not working, he enjoys. learning about new tech and tinkering with computers.
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