Using SCADA software as a tool for Industry 4.0 integration

The role of SCADA software in smart factories and hardware-independent software is essential for making the transition to Industry 4.0.

By Martyn Williams October 24, 2020

While “smart factories” have become a buzzword of modern manufacturing, according to the Annual Manufacturing Report just 15% of UK manufacturers are using widespread digitalization.

The structure of a smart factory can include a combination of production, data and communication technologies, with the potential for integration across the entire manufacturing supply chain.

An integral part of the smart factory concept is the ability to collect data. Vibration sensors, for example, can provide warnings when equipment needs to be maintained, while integrated automation software allows control engineers to collect this data for it to be analyzed and ensure the correct decisions are made. This prevents production problems, such as unplanned downtime and the manufacturing of inadequate products.

Data integrity

The goal of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software systems is to ensure that industrial organizations can better process data, to make smarter decisions and communicate system issues more efficiently. The SCADA architecture begins with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or remote terminal units (RTUs) which communicate with a range of objects such as factory machines, human machine interfaces (HMIs), sensors and end devices. These communications and data are then routed from this equipment to the computers equipped with SCADA software.

The pharmaceutical industry offers a good example of this process in action, where an emphasis on data integrity is vital to guarantee the safety of the product being manufactured.

While the pharmaceutical industry has been slow to transition to traditional industrial automation software it is implementing SCADA software to ensure that production processes, documentation and sampling become more digitalized. This helps reduce human error and tackles problems like data manipulation.

Digital records automatically track the actions at each stage of the pharmaceutical manufacturing process, which makes data manipulation impossible. This is because HMI andPLC SCADA software automatically logs any critical event and prevents any gaps in the records, which improves data accuracy. Through SCADA software, plant operators can also set alarms or notifications whenever pre-defined values exceed set parameters. This ensures any deviation in the industrial automation process is identified in real-time.

Easy integration

The successful integration of SCADA software should be simple. Contrary to what some believe, the process does not require a complete equipment overhaul if platform independent software is chosen.

In an industrial environment, ‘hardware-independent software’ describes software that can be implemented into any industrial automation system, regardless of the hardware used in the facility. Independent software can be integrated seamlessly into any device within the factory, irrespective of the age or manufacturer of the equipment.

Although just 15% of manufacturers are using widespread digitalization in their processes, the transition is made simple with the integration of independent software, like SCADA. Not only does it ensure data integrity in critical industries, but it makes factory digitalization a reality without requiring an equipment overhaul.

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

Author Bio: Martyn Williams is managing director at COPA-DATA UK.