Four SCADA considerations for manufacturers

Considerations for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and human-machine interface (HMI) systems include situational awareness, an emphasis on cloud and mobile delivery and more.

By Rashesh Mody February 22, 2021

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and human-machine interface (HMI) systems have great potential for manufacturers. However, there are many details that might be missed that could cause major headaches and reduce their overall effectiveness. Consider these four key elements when using them.

1. Pay attention to situational awareness:

Problems often occur when users fail to specify and distinguish between the behavior and interaction of their user interface – for example how a window is maximized or resized across multiple monitors, or how zooming and multi-touch, panning are performed. Realistically, a user’s acceptance of the “look and feel” of a particular product will be based on a mixture of hands-on evaluation and conversations with existing users. So, organizations must ensure that all of the features required – including a graphics library, automation objects, faceplates, element style, and themes – exist out of the box.

2. Future-proof design for scalability and total cost of ownership (TCO):

Unlimited input/output (I/O) licensing can help organizations scale for future production growth. However, they must ensure that their industrial systems are built to handle it. This can be achieved by ensuring that the SCADA system has been thoroughly tested to handle a large number of I/O points to avoid slow response times and other issues caused by a SCADA system not designed for such use. The TCO is too often only considered at the time the project is designed and implemented. The real cost, however, relates to how long the project can continue to provide a return on investment while continuing to enable the manufacturing facility to be competitive. Built into this calculation is the cost of the ‘operational lifetime of a project,’ which considers the ability to upgrade and add new functionalities, as well as maintaining and the system. Ultimately, it is integral that an organization fully identifies and analyses what is required of its own internal operations as this will need to be aligned to the company’s operations, as well as its products and service offering.

3. Pay attention to how the product is configured:

Pre-configured demo systems can be vaporware. However, a system should not be judged on this. Instead, it should be judged on its usability and day-to-day functionality; particularly the time it takes to perform standard day-to-day tasks – both as an administrator and an operator. Organizations should also question whether various personas with varying technical skillsets are able to perform configuration changes. A surprising number of products require the same information to be entered in multiple places.  For example, a tag name might need to be manually typed as part of the RTU/PLC program and the same is also true for a database configuration, as part of a report configuration. This will result in a system that is slow and difficult to configure, and one that is also likely to contain many errors.

4. Think cloud first and mobile delivery:

SCADA is an integral part of a business, not just its operations. The flow of data from the control room to the board room must be seamless. In the past, supervisory control and manufacturing information systems have not been integrated. This is changing and companies are realizing both of these investments only achieve their full potential when they are capable of seamlessly working together. Likewise, native cloud and web technologies are imperative to harness the domain expertise of multiple engineering centers. Fundamental to a successful project implementation is the deployment of the best domain experience. It is very often necessary to use several engineering houses to build a total system – but as soon as a company does this, issues of integration, consistency and maintainability come to the forefront.

This article originally appeared on Control Engineering Europe’s website.

Author Bio: Rashesh Mody is senior vice president and head of monitoring and control business unit of Aveva that comprises the world’s leading real-time monitoring and control capability, enabling customers to visualize, monitor and control their operations, from the smallest of edge installations to enterprise-wide capability. In this role, he is responsible for product strategy, industry strategy and go-to market activities related to operations solutions including HMI/SCADA, midstream pipeline offerings and unified operations center.