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What is a SCADA System?

Neil van Niekerk, Business Development Executive

What are these highly efficient interconnected systems and how do they benefit you?

A SCADA system is one of the essentials of control systems engineering. The system gathers data then processes it before logging the data and presenting it in collected form to the appropriate end channels. 

The worlds’ largest manufacturers are also some of the biggest storers and users of data, and for the same reason, they were early adopters of SCADA. It is vital to these manufacturers that the data collected is both accurate and stored correctly, before ultimately being used in the most effective, efficient way possible. 

When seeking to understand SCADA systems, it is important to first understand the basic components of the system itself, and how they form the whole.  

SCADA

When seeking to understand SCADA systems, it is important to first understand the basic components of the system itself, and how they form the whole

What does SCADA stand for?

The abbreviation SCADA stands for Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition. These systems are used in many different industries for both control and monitoring, thanks to their abilities to handle the end-to-end process of controlling, monitoring and transmitting data. 

With data so important in businesses of all kinds, savvy companies are always on the lookout for new means of boosting automation and ultimately enabling these same businesses to be more efficient. 

What are the benefits of a SCADA system?

There are many benefits of operating a SCADA system, but one of the major benefits is that they can be operated virtually. This means that the operating body can trace all the activities of the system from one centralised space. 

This helps to save time and represents one of the major reasons why SCADA has become particularly popular amongst manufacturers and companies within the Oil and Gas sector. Safety is at a premium, and by working in real time, SCADA lets them keep track of how each element of their system is operating. 

Decoding the SCADA system

The SCADA system can be regarded as providing a bridge between system operators and maintenance. The key components of this system are as follows:

Sensors 

These sensitive sensors are either analogue or digital, depending on the individual company. They may also be complex or more simplified and provide measuring of key factors such as the temperature, pressure and flow of any materials which pass through.

Conversion units 

When the sensors collect data, this is then converted into a more readable format by the conversion units. This part of the journey is completed by programmable logic controllers (PLC) or remote terminal units (RTU). 

Supervisory systems 

Data is then fed into a supervisory system which can be read by the human workforce, most notably maintenance workers who will help to maintain efficiency and safety. This juncture represents a major link between machine efficiency and human efficiency within the SCADA system. 

Communication network 

All the components outlined are connected remotely in the workplace, providing a communication network which is usually wired by telephone connectivity. In more recent years, wireless options have also become more popular – offering the advantage of radio or satellite communication. 

SCADA in Summary

Earlier variations of SCADA systems often struggled to find efficient connectivity between each element, which presented some challenges. More recently, SCADA has been able to grow to a highly efficient and interconnected system which runs smoothly throughout each stage. 

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