SCADA speeds up the digital transformation journey

25 October 2021

Richard Carpenter, general manager product management for automation and control products at Emerson, answered a series of questions as part of a discussion to explain how the latest SCADA solutions can deliver a range of benefits for users. 

Q: What is the current state of the SCADA market?
SCADA systems have proved invaluable for many industrial organisations, as they monitor and control assets and processes, and help to increase the efficiency of plants through the collection and processing of real-time operational data. These systems are already well-proven in manufacturing plants and throughout the oil and gas industry, and more recently have also been increasingly applied in sectors such as water and wastewater treatment, power generation and transmission, food production and mass transit. So, their use is becoming increasingly varied and their market size is increasing fast.

Q: What are the challenges facing integrators when implementing SCADA systems?
The main challenges are increasing complexity, the need to seamlessly integrate a broader range of systems and data, the growing threat of cyberattacks, and a much larger number of assets being spread over a bigger geographic area. First and foremost, SCADA systems must help the customer to improve operations by optimising the plant, identifying issues and areas of potential improvement, and helping it run more smoothly. To achieve those goals, end users are demanding greater functionality and the opportunity to maximise use of the available data.

From a project implementation standpoint, new systems are usually required as soon as possible, with delivery times often squeezed as companies target rapid improvements to boost profitability. It is essential that existing systems and equipment can be integrated into the SCADA system, which requires communication with legacy hardware, usually with OPC UA connectivity and native drivers that support older equipment. The OPC UA communication protocol is used widely to enable different systems to connect with each other without the need to covert data, use gateways or translate from one language to another. Implementing new solutions quickly can be especially challenging when there is a loss of in-house control system expertise at the customer organisation. It also means that any solution needs to be very easy to use and maintain.

End users also require greater flexibility from SCADA systems, with the ability to implement projects in phases and expand and add equipment, systems and functions in the future. This requires the SCADA system to be modular and able to grow over time, while also having long-term support and backwards compatibility for upgrades that extend its lifecycle. Customers also want to minimise investment risk, which means looking beyond the initial software price and considering the longer term. This requires systems to offer large graphic libraries, customisable reports and a familiar programming language to enable easier updates over the life of the system.

Q: What developments are helping to meet these challenges?
For many years, scalable SCADA systems have been helping end users, especially in remote oil and gas applications, to improve productivity, enterprise integration, reliability and profitability. It is, however, becoming increasingly necessary to be able to integrate hardware with software, to provide customers with quick access to vital data. In 2020, Emerson completed the acquisition of the Progea Group – an industry-leading provider of machine and plant-level visualisation and analytics technologies – thereby expanding its capabilities in terms of SCADA solutions. Through this acquisition, Emerson has added the scalable Movicon industrial automation software platform to its existing embedded software and control portfolio. Movicon software can be run on both Windows and Linux, and provides organisations with business oversight, supervisory control, and connection across their industrial equipment.

Q: How will this acquisition benefit end users?
The acquisition strengthens Emerson’s ability to provide an integrated package of control, analytics, visualisation and industrial internet of things (IIoT) technologies. These technologies will provide customers with flexible, scalable solutions for their programmable logic controller (PLC) applications in discrete and hybrid markets. This will help to improve operational efficiency and accelerate the journey towards digital transformation. A significant benefit for customers is that the acquisition enables them to streamline their solutions to a single partner, rather than having to work with multiple vendors, thereby reducing complexity and costs.

Q: What does the software enable end users to achieve?
Movicon.NExT is our newest industrial software architecture designed for modern automation systems, offering openness and integration in manufacturing. Movicon.NExT provides automation engineers with easier access to modular solutions for supervision, HMI and industrial analysis. It helps operators to visualise operations, identify trends, and analyse and interpret data simply and quickly. 

Movicon.NExT is based on XML file type, which allows editing and enables customisation for the project. Knowing every customer application has unique challenges and demands that need to be met, Emerson can provide the support needed to streamline design engineering and ensure projects remain on track and the solution is fit for purpose. This ensures legacy fieldbus and Ethernet-based equipment can all be seamlessly integrated into the SCADA solution. 

In energy management systems, Emerson’s Pro.Energy software allows users to connect to different types of instruments to measure and monitor energy consumption in real time and historicise energy usage data for analysis.. 

For organisations looking to reduce waste and increase the efficiency of their plants, Pro.Lean software uses key performance indicators and overall equipment effectiveness to identify and measure production downtime. 

Q: What are the workforce benefits provided by this software?
Many of our customers are having to retool to suit the needs of the next generation of engineers. Our software is well accepted by this new generation of digital workers, who are just as much at ease analysing and resolving production challenges via their mobile devices as more experienced workers are close to the machines. We envision a transition into an insight-driven workforce, where employees will be driven less by what they know and more by what the data and associated analytics tell them. The next generation of automation software will be able to learn through data and analytics, recognise patterns automatically, and provide insights with confidence levels to this increasingly digital workforce. 

Q: Do you have an example of how this software has helped system integrators and end users?
A good example can be found at a European oil lubricant manufacturing facility. The company needed a new SCADA system to supervise its production and to improve productivity and efficiency. Software development company, Softec Srl, was tasked with implementing the SCADA software. The production line consists of a number of different machines, each managed by a separate PLC. These were all connected to Movicon.NExT software, which was designed to display the real-time operating status of each machine, durations of various states on histograms and productivity flow trends using charts.

The status and levels of silos in the product supply department are also displayed and logged. The SCADA is in continuous communication with the PLC data concentrator and historically logs a major part of the data on a SQL database using data loggers. The recorded data includes produced container count, machine status (stockpile, rejects, downtimes, etc.), and alarms causing machine downtime. All this information is processed in real time and displayed in reports created on request by the operator using predefined filters. Data collected is then used by Movicon.NExT to calculate availability, performance and quality indexes (OEE, KPI and downtime). A data analysis feature allows managers to quickly identify critical areas of the productivity process that need improving to obtain better system efficiency and productivity. The fact that the software system is centralised and connected to all machines has made it easy to control the whole production process from one workstation.

Within a few months of using Movicon.NExT, the manufacturer was able to pinpoint the major problems causing production losses on the line, and the production phases during which downtime occurred most frequently. Satisfied with the results, the company decided to expand the project, enabled by the modularity and scalability of the software. From a development perspective, Softec found Movicon.NExT to be easy to configure and use. Furthermore, the scripts allowed it to save a lot of time by being able to recover and use parts of previously written code for other applications.

Contact Details and Archive...

Related Articles...

Print this page | E-mail this page