Hello everyone, I hope you all are doing great. In today’s tutorial, I am going to share 5 Tips for Extending Your SCADA System. What do you do if your existing SCADA system isn’t doing the job you need? Obviously, you need to extend it, but doing so can be a frustrating and costly exercise. How do you manage budget, increase efficiency and provide the functionality you need? Of course, it all depends on your specific implementation, but some general tips to keep in mind might relieve some stress.
Look at The Big Picture Again
When you find your SCADA system can’t provide the data or control you need, the first instinct is to quickly patch the missing functions, but over the long haul this can be a costly and inefficient process leading to a tangled web of sensors, RTUs and controls. Take the time to analyze your entire system. If there are flaws or limitations in one area, there may be more in another related area. Step back and look at the whole system and what needs you have. It’s likely you can find several areas that need work and hit them all at once instead of doing multiple projects.
Plan for The Future
There’s two main reasons you will need to extend your SCADA system: something was missed or the system has grown. When you look at your latest extension try to forecast what needs you will have later on. Will your RTUs need to be moved from dedicated communication lines to LAN connections? If so, spending a little extra to get RTUs that handle both and can be switched over once the LAN is in place will head off complete replacements later.
Do you need more RTUs or can you handle the sensors through existing ones? What about when the system grows, will that force you to replace the RTUs so you can handle more sensors? Think through your future expansion and make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for another major upgrade in just a few years.
Remember Your Data
Is your data all handled inside the SCADA system? Can you do external data analysis on historical data? If not, you probably need to extend your existing SCADA system to push data to external databases or data warehouses. It might even be necessary to interface with applications outside the system, or ones you develop internally for some customized part of your business.
Consider connections to the internet and cloud services, as well as security measures that protect the sensor and control loops from unauthorized access. Your data may be fine if it is available through some external application, but management of your system should be tightly controlled and monitored.
Hear Your Alarms
With the steadily increasing availability personal communication devices, smartphones, tablets, laptops and more, it becomes easier to contact people with alerts rather than having them at the control center. Assess your current alerting systems and make sure they meet your current and future needs. It may be necessary to add more communication software or hardware in order to reliably contact on-call personnel when needed.
While it is a great cost savings to not need to staff a control center 24/7, it’s not acceptable to miss an important alert because a phone battery is dead or the volume is set to mute. Make sure your alerting system takes this into account.
Control Your Controls
While it is a good idea to look to the future and to assess the entire system when you upgrade, it’s also wise not to go overboard. A simple metric for things like controls and sensors is to ask “under what circumstances will I use this?” Collecting information that does not influence what actions you take is not very valuable. Installing controls that perform actions which you would not do no matter what data came in from the sensors is also not useful.
Be sure you reign in your additions to the system and only add controls that will be used and sensors that gather actionable information. Adding more noise to your system with redundant or superfluous information can cause information overload. Your users may not know what information is important and what actions to take. Your actual monitoring needs are probably quite extensive, don’t increase them unnecessarily.
Your needs for an extension on your SCADA system may seem very urgent, but don’t be stampeded into an unwise, unneeded, or unhelpful change. Always take the time to think about your change and its impact. Rushing into changes on a complex system can result in a whole series of changes as you find the problems you missed in the original planning.
Remember the adage, if you don’t have the time to do it right, where will you find the time to do it over? And another, failing to plan is planning to fail. Always take the necessary time to plan. It’s an investment in your future.
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