A type of software constantly used in manufacturing, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems enable companies to monitor industrial processes across multiple locations. It basically manages the flow of information between software and industrial equipment. Even though SCADA automation software is used more in manufacturing, it can also be beneficial for utility companies, facility management, and all operations that rely on the use of sensors.
Although SCADA automation software is generally a mix of hardware and software, many vendors choose to focus exclusively on software. SCADA automation software integrates with manufacturing execution systems to monitor the use of industrial equipment on the shop floor. Integration with ERP systems and quality management software (QMS) is also important to track the performance of the manufacturing operations.
SCADA automation software is crucial for industrial organizations as it helps to maintain efficiency, process data for smarter decisions, and communicate system issues to help mitigate downtime.
The basic SCADA architecture begins with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or remote terminal units (RTUs). These are microcomputers with an array of objects such as factory machines, HMIs, sensors, and end devices, and then route the information from those objects to computers with SCADA software. Helping operators and other employees analyze the data and make important decisions, the SCADA automation software processes, distributes and displays the data.
Used mostly by industrial organizations and companies in the public and private sectors to control and maintain efficiency, SCADA automation software distributes data for smarter decisions and communicates system issues to help mitigate downtime. SCADA systems work well in many different types of enterprises because they can range from simple configurations to large, complex installations.
Time and money can be effectively saved with the help of effective SCADA systems. So much so that numerous case studies have been published highlighting the benefits of modern SCADA
such as Ignition.
It was the smaller computer systems such as Local Area Networking (LAN) technology and PC-based HMI software that paved the way for the evolution of SCADA automation software in the 80s and 90s. Building upon the distributed system model, SCADA automation software adopted a significant change by embracing an open system architecture and communications protocols that were not vendor-specific. However, even as the SCADA automation software system started making evolutionary changes, many industrial organizations continued to struggle with industrial data access from the enterprise level.
From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, a technological boom occurred and personal computing and IT technologies accelerated the development. Structured query language (SQL) databases went on to become the standard for IT databases but was disowned by SCADA developers. This led to a rift between the fields of controls, IT and SCADA technology.
SCADA systems continue to rely on proprietary technology to handle data. Whether it is a data historian, a data connector, or other means of data transfer, the solution is messy and incredibly expensive. Modern SCADA automation
aim to solve this problem by leveraging the best of controls and IT technology. It is this access to real-time information that allows governments, businesses, and individuals to make data-driven decisions about improving their processes. If not impossible, it would be extremely difficult to gather sufficient data for consistently well-informed decisions without the help of SCADA software.
Most of the modern SCADA designer applications have Rapid Application Development (RAD) capabilities. This allows users to design applications with ease even without an extensive knowledge of software development. The efficiency, security and productivity of SCADA systems have improved with the integration of modern IT standards and practices such as SQL and web-based applications into the SCADA Automation Software.
SCADA software that utilizes the power of SQL databases provides huge advantages over outdated ones. A big advantage of using SQL databases with a SCADA automation software system is that it makes the integration into existing MES and ERP systems extremely hassle-free allowing the seamless flow of data through an entire organization. Moreover, historical data from the SCADA system can also be logged in a SQL database. This allows for easier data analysis through data trending.