What can you do with the data from a SCADA system?
SCADA systems are used to better oversee and coordinate complex on-site mechanical and human operations to ultimately cut the total cost of production, enhance safety protocols, provide a better product, and maximize profit. But how can the information they provide lead to all of that?
What Do SCADA Systems Do?
Put simply, SCADA or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems are for controlling, analyzing, and monitoring industrial processes. They’re a series of cooperative software and hardware elements that collect, arrange, and report information from any of the covered sectors in a workplace to a certain workstation or operation terminal. The information will normally be displayed in a highly graphical user interface that allows supervisors to observe the functioning of a machine or procedure in real-time
Think of the display in your car. It has warnings, dials, and prompts that tell you how fast you’re going, or if you need to top up the oil. It tells you how much gas you have left, if there’s a problem with the steering, or if your door’s not shut properly. A SCADA system is sort of like that except supervisors will be able to respond to the data via the terminal itself
A SCADA system gives you remote access to sensors, pumps, alarms, motors, valves…anything hooked up to their HMI or Human-Machine Interface software. They’re all about quick problem solving to maximize safety and productivity in industry.
A basic SCADA process begins with the programming of PLCs or Programmable Logic Computers, and RTUs or Remote Terminal Units, to interact with the thing you wish to keep observing. PLCs and RTUs are microcomputers capable of executing less complex logic processes without any input from a supervisory computer.
These clever microcomputers report the data about the end device to a remote location where the SCADA software organizes and presents it in an intuitive and informative manner.
What Do They Tell You?
SCADA systems will tell you how well an industrial process is working. They’re an ever-present diagnostician. Here’s a very basic example of how it works.
A sensor reports a halt or slowing of production in a certain area. A supervisor gets this information immediately and shuts down the affected process. Then they can analyze the SCADA data to find out there’s a blockage in machine number 2. Now they know exactly what the problem is, it can be dealt with as quickly as possible.
In Different Industries
What SCADA systems tell you specifically, depends on what sort of process they’re monitoring and the machinery involved. They can be designed to keep tabs on pretty much anything.
A system that monitors water or waste processes will keep you updated on volume, pressure, blockages, temperatures, contaminations, or leaks among other things. It will tell you exactly where any problems have started, and may even give instructions on the best possible actions.
In a recycling plant, it will report on weights, materials, blockages, and productivity.
In the oil and gas industry, it will likely tell you about any possible dangers from leaks or malfunctioning equipment. It might inform you how deep excavations are and how long the drilling process took.
In a supermarket, it will keep track of refrigeration and freezer temperatures and inform a supervisor of any discrepancies.
What Can Businesses Do with This Information?
Businesses use information documented by SCADA systems for a number of things.
Tracking Productivity and Making Predictions
SCADA systems don’t just inform you in the moment. The historical process of a SCADA system allows users to track the real-time processing information of any covered industrial aspect in the past. This historic data can be cross-examined with current data to help make charts and reports that make predictions about performance in the future.
Streamlining and Maintenance
Businesses mainly use information delivered by SCADA systems to streamline their industrial processes. It’s not really the information itself that allows it; they would keep track of these things anyway. It’s the speed at which the SCADA software provides it that allows for such amazing efficiency.
The information also provides insights into the function life of machinery. By examining data about breakdowns, errors, and repairs, they can build a pretty good idea of how long a piece of machinery will last, and budget ahead of time for replacements.
SCADA may also provide ratios between human and mechanical errors. They may discover that additional training programs for staff are required.
It can be instrumental to business growth as it will give directors and investors a clear insight into what machines, sectors, and processes should be multiplied or expanded to cater to an increase in consumer demand.
Identifying common problems with machinery or processes also gives businesses the opportunity to innovate. SCADA systems may highlight flaws in a system that would otherwise be thought of as functional. Actions can then be taken to improve the problematic area with forward-thinking modern appointments.
SCADA information also helps to keep workers safe. By keeping close track of a number of dangerous industrial machines and processes, SCADA software allows for quick decisions to be made that in some circumstances may save lives or prevent serious injury.
Businesses will also use their SCADA information to give feedback to the company that provided the technology. They’ll explain what it did well and where it needs improving.
After a while, a SCADA system is going to have compiled huge amounts of data, and it may not make sense to keep it all. Many companies will delete unhelpful information to make access to important information easier.
Ultimately, SCADA information helps maximize profits. All these other uses confluence to ensure a business is efficient as possible and profit margins increase.
SCADA systems are used in almost every single industrial process the world over. It’s an evolving mechanism, constantly being worked on to provide better, more efficient services. Without these ubiquitous systems, the world as we know it would be a distinctly different place.
What can you do with the data from a SCADA system?