As technology becomes more prevalent in the public works industry, it's time to ditch traditional SCADA and use an all-in-one system that grows with...
Oil & Gas Tech: Top 5 Things to Consider When Buying a SCADA System
As the oil and gas industry continues to evolve, it's time to ditch traditional SCADA and use an all-in-one system that grows with your business.
With the oil and gas industry's dramatic shift toward fully-integrated systems, gone are the days of traditional Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. From drilling operations to saltwater disposals to refineries, the industry is looking to securely and safely improve operational efficiencies and get more hands off the equipment.
SCADA systems are a combination of hardware and software that carry out a wide range of day-to-day functions; from controlling and monitoring industrial equipment to collecting and processing data. The problem? Not every system has all of these capabilities on one platform.
In today's fast-paced energy industry, operators and engineers need a simple, all-in-one platform that allows them to quickly make decisions and meet demands. Inflexible and limited SCADA systems of the past cause a number of issues for users:
- Increased downtime due to the time and cost it takes to make changes to an existing system
- Loss of data and lack of transparency
- Lack of customer support
- Difficulties in using complex systems and scaling operations
- Cybersecurity threats due to outdated hardware and software
So how do you know what to look for in a system? Here are a few things to consider when choosing a SCADA solution to help you save time and money running your business:
It's outdated for businesses to only have the option to make changes to operations from on-site. Today's automation systems should have the same capabilities from across the country as they do at the on-site panel. This includes real-time remote monitoring, control, and the ability to remotely receive alarms and data. Remote capabilities lower labor costs, increase safety, and provide users peace of mind knowing they can view and make changes to their operations at any time, from anywhere. You shouldn't have to be on-site to be in control.
In addition, ideal SCADA/automation systems should prioritize alarm management. Users should have the ability to remotely configure, manage, and respond to alarms and alerts if something unusual occurs within their operations.
Ease of Use
When it comes to software, it's always more enjoyable to use when it has a good User Interface (UI). A user-friendly system means that anyone from field technicians to administrators to engineers, etc. can easily navigate the operations and see what's going on in real-time. Software shouldn't just be intuitive for high level power-users; it should be easy to use for non-technical users, as well. As a matter of fact, 74 percent of field service companies counted functionality or ease of use as a top priority when selecting a Software as a Service (SaaS) company.
And the numbers make sense. An easy-to-use software with topnotch process control allows for users to make decisions more quickly and with fewer errors.
According to an article by Small Business CEO, "Since the human factor is largely removed, and many of them are simple if/then solutions that require approval, the risk of the wrong decision being made is much smaller."
And what makes software more user-friendly? No coding required. No-code is a software development approach that allows programmers and non-programmers alike to quickly build and design applications without actually writing code or interacting with back-end systems. In short, it's a web development application that's for everyone. It rides the belief that there shouldn't be a daunting, expensive wall between SaaS companies/developers and their customers.
Time-consuming ladder logic can require a costly, third-party engineer or programmer to make simple changes. No-code SCADA platforms allow users to make changes quickly without the need to hire anyone, saving critical time and money by avoiding operational downtime.
In addition, before choosing a system, it's important to consider the scalability. No point in choosing something to control and monitor your site if it can't update and grow with you, right? You're going places and your SCADA system should too.
It's important to take a look at the architecture of the software to determine its ability to grow to your business' needs. This could refer to the software's ability to handle increased workloads such as adding users and equipment, or supporting an increased amount of data while maintaining functionality. Particularly rigid SCADA software can be expensive to scale. In addition, some SCADA systems may not have the ability at all to grow with you, forcing you to purchase a completely new system.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation now ranks cybercrime as one of its most important law enforcement activities. In a statement from the United States Department of Energy, "In addition to the general problems associated with cybercrime, critical infrastructure related to energy production, manufacturing, water supply and other systems have come under attack."
The ability SCADA systems have to remotely control and monitor functions, as well as collect and analyze data, make them prime targets for malicious hackers. According to an article by Trend Micro, 2019 saw 277 vulnerable SCADA platforms attacked, with predictions that those vulnerabilities will continue to plague systems in the coming years.
2021 revealed several industrial control systems at water facilities had been impacted by ransomware attacks. Most of the compromised systems had to be run manually until the SCADA systems and computers were restored. Trend Micro listed several vulnerabilities that can be found within SCADA systems:
- HMIs (Human Machine Interface)
- Display data from various sensors and machines
- Mobile apps and web interfaces
- Can directly influence industrial processes if bad actors are able to access them
- Can lack the security capabilities to defend against threats
Obvious consequences include increased downtime, monetary loss, data breaches, safety hazards, damage to equipment, and production delays.
Nearly 70 percent of customers said security was the most important decision-making aspect when choosing a SaaS solution. It is crucial SCADA systems put security at the forefront.
Many platforms may provide users with remote monitoring and control capabilities, but have to outsource data and analytics through a different platform. Or their SCADA is confined to on-site PC or HMI terminals. Modern SCADA systems should have data and analytics streamlined right into the automation all on one platform. Additionally, for increased efficiency, a facilities real-time and historical data should be available to authorized users remotely, so they're able to make data-driven decisions from anywhere.
Modern SCADA That Checks All of the Boxes
SitePro's unique software system has one goal in mind: to make our customers' lives a little easier by revolutionizing they way they see, control, and analyze their automated facilities. View your operations and make changes to it from anywhere, at any time. Our product is not only easy-to-use from on-site or a desktop, but is also just as functional from a mobile device. (We even have an app!)
In addition to remote control and monitoring, SitePro's data and analytics feature gives an inside look at what's happening within your operations. Make quicker, more accurate responses. See how your site is operating over time, investigate incidents, or view regulatory reporting data. (We even have pre-built reports to make regulatory reporting a breeze)
Improved uptime? Check.
And if you need to make changes to your infrastructure such as adding a pump or adjusting tank levels, we've got that covered too. Or technically, you do. Our no-code platform tears down the wall of traditional SCADA and puts the power back in your hands, allowing you to easily make changes to your site.
As your site expands, we'll expand with you. SitePro's "organic" software is able to keep your current assets up and running as you update or add to your existing infrastructure. Just like your operations will evolve over time, SitePro's software will change too.
Let's grow together. To learn more about SitePro's all-in-one platform, schedule a personalized meeting with us now.