Throughout Cosylab’s past work of developing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) solutions, we’ve noticed a lack of understanding of the SCADA role in a system when we are asked to provide a SCADA solution. This lack of understanding poses a risk when it comes to whether our customers will find our solution useful for their work in the end or not. Since it is in our best interests to provide useful solutions to our customers and since this is also what we strive for, I’ve decided to share what I see as a role of a SCADA. In the case when a SCADA is really the right solution for the given problem, then I list the questions that need to be asked to design a SCADA solution that will be useful. My ultimate aim is to bring clarity to those thinking about whether they need a SCADA or not.
When SCADA is the right solution
What is a SCADA System?
SCADA systems are being used practically all over the world for supervisory control and data acquisition. Understanding a useful SCADA and how to make it starts with an understanding about the role of a SCADA in a system.
The need for the SCADA evolved through time after agrarian and handicraft economies shifted rapidly to industrial and machine-manufacturing economies during industrial revolution in the 18th century. First, they made machines to do the repeatable processes faster, with more consistency and with greater precision than people. A lot of it was about eliminating human error. While this first step in the industrial revolution was to replace people with machines for the work that was previously done by hand and to minimize human interaction with the process, it opened up the question about whether it was possible to completely eliminate the human factor throughout the whole process. By saying the whole process, I mean the actual work that was previously done with bare hands and the management work – the work of connecting different parts of manufacture to complete the process.
For example, there was a time when mechanized processes were made of multiple machines operated by people including at least one person who would be the supervisor of the whole process. The process supervisor was there to make sure the process continuously does what it is meant to do and to make that happen, machine operators reported to this person in case a problem arose that could potentially stop the process. Since the supervisor had an overview of the process, he could make the most appropriate decisions to keep the process running.