Preparing for SCADA System Challenges

May 6, 2024
Like any software, SCADA systems are not immune to problems. But with the right level of emergency assistance, training and planned system improvements, SCADA issues don’t have to result in serious production issues.

SCADA systems are a key operational tool that manufacturers rely on to visualize, troubleshoot and improve their operations. After all, it’s the crucial connection between the process control systems and the humans that orchestrate production.  

But SCADA is a complex computer system that can have limitations. For example, it can be prone to technical resource reliance, communication disruptions, version management issues and operating system patch requirements. And like all connected technologies, SCADA can be susceptible to cyber-attacks if not maintained properly. 

It’s critical for manufacturers to be aware of these issues because, when a SCADA system goes down, production goes down and recovery time becomes of the utmost concern.  

To guard against such system disruptions, a structured approach to SCADA support and improvement is something every manufacturer should plan for. Here’s how system integrator Actemium works with manufacturers to help when SCADA issues inevitably occur.       

Actemium’s industrial performance improvement services provide SCADA support in 4 key areas: emergency assistance, system improvements, license and version upgrades, and training of plant resources. This service is provided regardless of which SCADA technology a manufacturer uses.  

Following are some examples of Actemium’s work in these areas:     

  • Emergency assistance—This is a structured support service designed to answer calls from manufacturers on a 24x7 basis to get SCADA systems up and running again. Actemium provides triage through a structured decision tree routing against a service level agreement to guarantee the plant gets back up to full speed.  The majority of emergency assistance requests are addressed remotely, and help can be delivered within minutes from experienced control engineers. Emergency issues are then categorized and tracked for root cause correction and improvement efforts.  
  • System improvements—Actemium’s engagement with operations and maintenance teams can often unveil issues that go unnoticed in a plant. After a recent outage at a customer’s plant, Actemium’s support team uncovered several deficiencies throughout the plant’s production processes. In response, modifications were made to PLC logic resulting in improved batch execution time and overall turnaround times.               
  • License and version upgrades—Due to its level of uptime requirements, SCADA software cannot be upgraded or patched in the same manner as many IT-based applications. That’s why Actemium’s support team takes a structured approach to SCADA service and sets a schedule for the upgrades that aligns with the demands of production and taking care to ensure proper backup and recovery approaches have been considered. 
  • Training—In addition to system improvements, Actemium’s emergency assistance also highlights areas to improve the operations and maintenance teams’ understanding of SCADA via specific training. This is a critical aspect of effective SCADA use as we have often seen issues created by well-intended people simply because they have not had adequate training on how to use and troubleshoot SCADA systems. Actemium provides on-the-spot training which can extend to a more formal, classroom-based session. And with turnover challenges becoming the norm for many manufacturers, the Actemium team becomes a consistent resource for preparing new plant team members.

The bottom line is this: Things are bound to happen to a SCADA system. Having someone available with the expertise to troubleshoot quickly is invaluable. A dedicated team focusing on preventing future problems from arising and continuously focusing on improvements is critical to maintaining success.      

Actemium Avanceon, is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Avanceon, visit its profile on the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange

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