Advanced SCADA applications, Part 2: System integrators and SCADA

In an October 12, 2023 webcast, “SCADA series: Advanced SCADA applications,” Andreina Lugo, software automation manager at Northwind Technical Services, and Mike Lennon, vice president at Applied Control Engineering, discussed the SCADA software selection process and SCADA implementation best practices.

By Control Engineering March 4, 2024

SCADA insights

  • In an October 12, 2023 webcast, “SCADA series: Advanced SCADA applications,” Andreina Lugo, software automation manager at Northwind Technical Services, and Mike Lennon, vice president at Applied Control Engineering, discussed the SCADA software selection process and SCADA implementation best practices
  • In Part 1, Lugo discusses the SCADA software selection process and vendor research.
  • Read part 2 for more information on the role and value of system integrators, part 3 for SCADA best practices and part 4 for upcoming advances in SCADA technology.

For an industrial company, selecting a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system is vital decision that involves taking a variety of different factors into consideration. End-users most find a platform that is compatible with their pre-existing software and hardware; capable of accommodating the needs of their unique applications; allows for future scalability via easy expansion and upgrades; and provides appropriate report configuration and data sharing capabilities. Moreover, once a platform is selected, adhering to best practices is critical to ensuring that end-users get the most out of their chosen software.

In an October 12 Control Engineering webcast, “SCADA series: Advanced SCADA applications,” Andreina Lugo, software automation manager at Northwind Technical Services, and Mike Lennon, vice president at Applied Control Engineering, discussed the SCADA software selection process and SCADA implementation best practices.

Below, the transcript of their presentation has been provided with minor edits and adaptations.

The role of system integrators

Andreina Lugo: System integrators have the critical job of combining software and hardware from various vendors into a cohesive solution for end users. They possess expertise in several areas, notably in electrical design, where they select suitable hardware and construct electrical panels for plant equipment control. Another area of expertise is programming, ensuring the plant operates as planned, typically based on a predefined sequence of operations. In addition, system integrators conduct testing in-house to prepare for commissioning, which is a crucial phase in the process. Their experience and established procedures can substantially minimize downtime, enabling customers to adhere to production schedules.

Support and services provided by system integrators

System integrators usually have a dedicated service team available to assist with any queries, changes (small or large), and provide additional training post-commissioning. This team is typically accessible at any time and any day of the year, offering invaluable support.

The added value of system integrators

Let’s delve into the specific ways system integrators add value.

  • Expertise on different projects: They stay current with best practices, standards, and technology, ensuring plants operate in compliance with the latest standards. This expertise enables them to select the most appropriate software and hardware for the application, drawing from their experience across various industries. They can also recommend improvements based on their vast experience.

  • Flexibility and cost savings: One of the advantages of system integrators is their flexibility; they can be engaged as needed, offering a cost-effective alternative to employing a full-time team. This approach can lead to significant cost savings. Additionally, system integrators often have partnerships with multiple vendors, enabling them to secure better pricing for software and hardware.

Three further advantages of system integrators

Continuing our exploration of how system integrators add value to SCADA applications, we will examine three additional aspects.

  1. Improved quality and reliability. System integrators bring improved quality and reliability to projects, drawing on their experience with similar or different systems. Their past project experiences enable them to anticipate and avoid common pitfalls, ensuring everything functions as expected.
  2. Importance of proper documentation.Another critical area is the provision of proper documentation for future reference. System integrators strive to keep documentation such as electrical drawings, sequences of operations, program codes, HMI software, operation manuals, and quick start guides up to date. This documentation is essential for maintenance, support, and future expansions, making it a crucial aspect of the integrator’s role.
  3. Expert technical staff on demand. System integrators offer expert technical support on demand, catering to temporary needs. This support ranges from answering questions and providing guidance to offering training, and it can be delivered over the phone or in person. Additionally, system integrators may offer yearly service contracts, ensuring ongoing support and peace of mind for clients experiencing issues.

Closing thoughts on system integrators

In conclusion, partnering with a system integrator can be invaluable. They provide external expertise, suggest improvements, offer cost reductions, ensure quality and reliability, maintain schedules and budgets, and provide vital documentation and support.

Customer example: Addressing a specific challenge

Moving to the next slide, I’d like to share a customer example that illustrates these points. This customer faced difficulties after replacing a fryer with updated technology. Despite the new features and capabilities, they couldn’t access crucial information and believed resources were being wasted. Our initial research revealed several issues, such as the inability to track fryer temperature, excessive oil replacement, and lengthy sanitation processes.

Identifying project complexities

We identified complexities in the project, including the fryer’s use of over 1,000 POC tags, limitations in the current software for tag manipulation, lack of remote access, and the need for a mobile device application.

System integrator solution and measurable benefits

After thoroughly understanding the problem and the customer’s needs, we selected a SCADA software solution that addressed their mobility requirements. However, the new software had limitations in tag tracking, prompting us to design a custom interface for effective communication and tracking. This solution was well-received by the customer, leading to significant savings in oil costs and sanitation time.

Customization for specific needs

The customer’s challenge also led to the creation of a customized interface, accessible via mobile devices, allowing for efficient control, monitoring, trend analysis, and alarm setups, all tailored to the customer’s needs.