Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are essential for automatic and semi-automatic processes. SCADA systems collect data, monitor components, and control processes. A SCADA system is not one computer or sensor but all of the sensors and computers working together.

Are you a California business owner with questions about the role of SCADA systems in industrial automation? Perhaps you need to build an automated system for a growing business or improve an existing automation.

Keep reading for a simple, easy-to-understand overview of SCADA systems in Industrial Automation.

This Access Industrial Automation blog post will explain what SCADA systems are, how they’re used, and how they’re designed. 

What Are SCADA Systems?

SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. A SCADA system is composed of sensors, monitors, computers, and programming working together so that a process happens safely, efficiently, and automatically or semi-automatically. 

SCADA is necessary for modern manufacturing and renewable energy management. Without SCADA systems, automation would be impossible.

Components of SCADA Systems

SCADA systems include all the equipment, technology, and programming to automate a process. SCADA includes both hardware and software.

Here are some of the necessary hardware components for SCADA Systems:

  • Sensors and monitoring equipment to assess functions, processes, temperature, pressure, or any other metrics needed to automate the process fully.
  • Connections like wires and a network to transmit data from one component to another.
  • Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) function as computers that automatically use the information collected from sensors for automation
  • Servers to store data. These may be onsite or remote. The data on these servers may or may not be backed into the cloud.
  • Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) are computers, touch screens, or any device that allows a person to interact with the system. HMIs allow for manual monitoring and control of the process. HMIs may be remote if the system allows for it.

Alternatives to Industrial SCADA Systems

Modern alternatives to past SCADA systems are not alternatives so much as technological advances that improve SCADA systems. For example, the Internet of Things (IoT) uses a SCADA system as the backbone to collect and send data over the cloud.

Before SCADA, industrial processes required manual operation and were not automated. A person had to press the button or initiate the function for the manufacturing or other industrial equipment.

SCADA systems have existed since the mid-20th century, but their capabilities and individual components have advanced significantly. SCADA systems will continue to improve with further technological advances.

How Are SCADA Systems Used?

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are used in manufacturing, oil and gas industries, municipal utilities, food industries, mass transportation systems, and more. The SCADA system collects and interprets data to ensure automatic processes run efficiently and safely. 

SCADA systems can be used remotely and have Human-machine interfaces (HMI) for manual control and monitoring.

Remote and Onsite Data Collection

SCADA systems can collect data and have controls on-site only or send data for remote storage or use. Improved SCADA systems using IoT have the latest cloud technology for maximum effectiveness.

The most advanced SCADA systems allow for controls from a smartphone or other remote device for convenient continuous monitoring and control.

Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI)

Human-machine interfaces (HMI) is a term that refers to any device used for a human to interact with the SCADA system. HMIs can be anything from a desktop computer setup to a  smartphone to a localized touchscreen panel. HMIs allow people to monitor functions, analyze data, and control processes.

How are SCADA Systems Designed?

SCADA systems are designed for the particular industry and business needs. A local contractor will help you figure out what sensors, connections, PLCs, HMIs, servers, etc… are needed for your process to run as efficiently and safely as possible.

Existing SCADA systems can be evaluated and improved or entirely replaced and redesigned as necessary.

Planning SCADA Needs

Answer the following questions while working with an engineer and an experienced automation contractor to update and improve an existing SCADA system or design and implement a new one.

  • What needs to be monitored? Determine all of the measurements needed and the frequency of monitoring necessary for safety and efficiency. This will determine what sensors, how many, and where they need to be in your SCADA system.
  • What information is already available? Review what data you already have collected. Analyze to determine where improvements can be made. Is the data collection sufficient?
  • What improvements will allow us to increase operations without needing significant changes in the near future? Make sure any new designs or improvements allow room for business expansion and increased output without needing fundamental changes.

SCADA System Configuration

SCADA system configuration design begins after the initial plans and review of any existing system have been made. From there, the engineer and/or contractor will walk you through the remaining configuration steps.

  • Make sure the existing configuration has connected data collection points for full integration.
  • Centralize all of the data so there is an easy way to control and monitor the entire process, even if there are localized human-machine interfaces for parts of the process.
  • Ensure your SCADA software is compatible with your data monitoring, existing hardware, and automation needs. 
  • Make sure the rules and automation are clearly defined and programmed for specific PLCs and the SCADA system as a whole

Industrial Automation Services Available in California

Access Industrial Automation offers automation services in Fresno CA, Modesto CA, Stockton CA, and the surrounding areas. Contact Access Industrial Automation online or by calling (209)-577-1491.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between PLCs and SCADA?

PLCs are hardware components within a SCADA system. The SCADA system collects data, monitors processes, and controls the system as a whole. PLCs use data to control a portion of the process using programming.

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