The SCADA in 2022
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems (aka: SCADA) are a key element for industry 4.0 and system integration technologies. Installing some last generation PLCs is not enough to be Industry 4.0 certified, because the factory also needs a system able to supervise the whole production, connect the different machines operating on the line and manage the whole automation plant based on the gathered data. The only system able to do so is a SCADA.
The importance of SCADA systems
In a previous article we talked about how a SCADA system works and what items are connected to it, based on the industrial plant it has to supervise. However, we never talked about how important such systems are for industries all over the world and how flexible and adaptable they can be. Without a software that gathers and shares all production with the other hardware and software systems, we couldn’t talk about Industry 4.0. Without those functions, it wouldn’t also be possible to monitor industrial plants such as water treatment plants (for which Ferrazza already developed a custom made SCADA). Vital to the correct functioning of such plants is a system capable to monitor every alarm that might be triggered during the working phases, thanks to the many installed and interconnected sensors.
An industrial Maestro
Supervisory systems don’t limit themselves to monitor alarms and gather data, though. SCADAs are also very efficient and useful to plan and manage the production cycle and how much a production line, based on the availability of raw materials and the recipes uploaded through control panels. A program that can tell us how much our machineries are actually going to produce and, as a result, how much they’re going to work, allows us to better schedule working shifts of human operators, robots and plants. A better and more efficient working cycle scheduling translates no doubt to less energy waste and, last but not least, to a better well-being of our employees. It’s not difficult to see how a SCADA actually behaves like an orchestra director, but for industrial machines and IT platforms.
“Do you speak PLC?”
So far we mentioned how important SCADAs are for a more efficient industrial line and for production data gathering. But what if we wanted to share those data from our EMR to the production line; would it be possible without a SCADA? Unfortunately no. Shall we share commands and instructions straight from our EMR software to the production line, the PLC installed on the machines wouldn’t undestand a single byte of information. To overcome this barrier, the SCADA comes in our aid. Acting as an interpreter between the two different systems (EMR and PLC), the Supervisory System translates the instructions taken from the EMR into production parameters that the PLC can actually understand, so that the machines can also understand which recipe is being used to produce a certain item. Same way around, as soon as the PLC starts sending data from the production line to the EMR, the SCADA first has to translate the data in information that the EMR software can understand; otherwhise the only understandable information would be that the production is still running.