What Is SCADA And How Does It Work?

Modern SCADA systems are instrumental in the success of today’s industrial organizations. Integration of such systems will improve a company’s operations, performance, and allow plant operators to make informed decisions that can maintain and increase efficiency. Understanding what SCADA is then, its benefits, and its application in industrial automation systems is essential for industries to thrive in the public and private sectors.

What is SCADA?

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition or, as it is commonly known, SCADA, is a computer-based control architecture employed in industrial environments to monitor, capture, analyze, and manage real-time data of industrial automated systems and processes. The chief benefit being that SCADA systems provide centralized control over processes from remote sites. The system consists of interactive hardware and software elements that, in combination, are vital in maintaining efficiency by collecting and processing data as it is transmitted.

A typical SCADA system would include an assortment of intelligent instrumentation. Such components as local processors, operating equipment, intelligent electronic device, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and remote terminal units (RTUs), are used to communicate with a range of field devices and equipment such as sensors, factory machines, and master terminal unit or host computers and a PC with HMIs (human-machine interface).

Benefits of SCADA Systems

SCADA offers process-control solutions that allow industries to easily manage and operate their production systems around the clock. Once implemented, SCADA systems provide the necessary tools to monitor and maintain the network from any location, at any time of the day. Around the clock management of the system is essential, but there are other advantages as well, from the benefits of real-time data collection and improved production to smart maintenance programs and automated control of equipment.

Collecting and monitoring real-time data and information allows for better process traceability. The SCADA system stores the operational history of different configurations, even extracting data of optimal performance processes that can be replicated. Such data can be used to correct faults that slow or affect production output or quality, too.

SCADA system applications can also establish a smart maintenance regime to save on equipment replacement expenditures and costly production downtime. An intelligent, proactive maintenance program maintains the integrity of the system, anticipates machine or equipment failures before they develop, allows for corrective actions at appropriate intervals, and can reveal any hidden inefficiencies within the current system.

SCADA systems allow for the remote, automated control of devices and equipment through RTU control relay output. System managers may configure automated actions in the event of equipment failure or, say, if an alarm is triggered by a commercial power outage, the system can activate a generator. If a critical leak erupts in a pipeline, a SCADA system can initiate a set of commands to alert other machines of the leak or, if necessary, close the valve immediately to prevent loss of hazardous waste or material, which can subsequently lead to loss of production and revenue. Depending on the situation or issue, when equipment fails or if an emergency happens, the system responds quickly and accordingly to the issue or emergency in an appropriately timely manner. In other words, each SCADA system can be custom programmed to fit the application needs of the company or industry.

Uses for SCADA in Industrial Automation Systems

Companies and organizations in the private and public sectors rely on SCADA systems to monitor and control the equipment, devices, and objects used in their given industrial process. The very core of a SCADA system is in its automation capabilities. The system supplies real-time data that provides the optimal response to any measured condition. In turn, the system then executes command responses automatically each time.

SCADA automated systems are used in industrial plants, manufacturing centers, transportation, oil and gas, utilities and power distribution, water and wastewater control, agriculture and irrigation, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications. SCADA automates routine tasks while also providing critical oversight of the system no matter the size and scope of the processes, be it pipeline monitoring and control of pumping, production and storage, power transmission and distribution, or even refrigeration units in warehouses and supermarkets.

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