SCADA systems are the type of control system used to control, monitor, and analyze industrial devices. They’re a great way to engage in asset management planning in a variety of industries. In this article, we’ll be going over what a SCADA system is, how it works, and how to get started with utilizing one.

What is a SCADA system?

SCADA stands for Supervisory control and data acquisition systems, which are used to control, monitor, and analyze industrial devices. This is for data collection, which in turn fuels data-driven decisions to better manage assets and risk. SCADA systems are typically composed of both software and hardware and enable users to collect data from these devices remotely.

How does SCADA work?

SCADA systems are divided into three different components, all of which work together to send data back and forth from the equipment that needs to be controlled to the interface where the data can be analyzed and pulled for reports. This data chain is how users can pull data from equipment both on-site and remotely.

The links in this chain are referred to as Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) or Remote Terminal Units (RTUs), which are microcomputers used as channels of communication between field devices and Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs). Through these channels, SCADA systems collect data on things such as temperature, pressure, and speed of the equipment they are monitoring.

Who uses SCADA?

SCADA systems are suitable for a diverse range of industries and are consequently used in many different ones. Some example industries are as follows:

Though each industry might have a different purpose, ultimately, each industry uses SCADA with one goal in mind: to save time and money by mitigating the risk of failure.

Why use a SCADA system?

SCADA systems are useful in that they help you collect data, streamline production, and adhere to regulations that might affect your industry. SCADA systems also allow for industrial data to be collected remotely – something that became a necessity as industrial sites became larger and spread out. All in all, SCADA systems are capable of the following items:

  • Remotely controlling and monitoring field equipment
  • Collecting real-time asset data and recording it for future use and analysis
  • Interacting directly with individual parts like sensors, pumps, and motors

The key components of a SCADA system

There are a few components that each SCADA system has. All of these work in tandem to make up a SCADA system. See a brief list of them below.

  • Sensors and inputs, which send data to PLCs or RTUs.
  • Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Remote Terminal Units (RTUs), feed data into SCADA systems.
  • Human-machine interface (HMI), where SCADA users access data.


PLC and SCADA are both types of technology used in many different industries, including water, wastewater, oil, and gas. They are distinct from each other, though are often used in tandem to achieve the same goal.

PLCs and SCADA systems are different in that PLCS are physical hardware whereas SCADA is software. A PLC can be physically inspected, but SCADA systems have to be inspected via a computer system.

A programmable logic controller, or PLC, is a computer used for automation. PLCs are used to receive information via sensors or input devices, process the data, and trigger outputs based on pre-programmed criteria.

SCADA Examples

Here are a couple of ways that industries have made use of SCADA systems.


Smart cities rely on SCADA control systems to manage things from wastewater treatment to power grids. By using SCADA systems, cities can better respond to abnormal trends in resource usage. They can also better optimize resource usage as usage trends emerge.

Manufacturing plants and factories

Monitoring data is necessary for factories to ensure that production is running smoothly. The data collected might include factors such as maintenance, output, and operator safety, which are analyzed to improve different aspects of the production process. For example, a SCADA system might be used to identify low-performing equipment and schedule a maintenance plan accordingly.

How to implement a SCADA solution?

Implementing a SCADA solution is a great move for any organization. Though the steps needed to do so might vary on a case-by-case basis, here is a list of general steps for anyone interested in getting started with using one.

  • Step 1: Define and understand what needs monitoring. This will help you determine the parameters of your new SCADA system.
  • Step 2: Assess your current data. Find out what kind of data you already have and how you’re collecting it.
  • Step 3: Do a proof of concept (POC). Start easy by picking one set of data and a location.
  • Step 4: Build out the architecture of your SCADA system. Decide how your SCADA system will be set up – come up with logistics and ensure that your team is on the same page.
  • Step 5: Connect current data collection points. Connect data collection points that you might already have set up by using gateways.
  • Step 6: Create new data collection points. This is optional and based on your specific data collection needs.
  • Step 7: Centralize your data. Establish your monitoring location.
  • Step 8: Use SCADA software to map your data. Decide on and utilize your chosen SCADA software to map your data.
  • Step 9: Add visualizations. Make data interpretation user-friendly by adding visualizations of data and controls.
  • Step 10: Define the parameters of your SCADA system. Establish automated actions and parameters for items such as alerts.

How SCADA systems benefit maintenance and reliability?

There are a few ways SCADA systems benefit maintenance and asset and equipment reliability. These include:

SCADA systems help automate electrical distribution.

Today’s increased demand for power means that electrical utilities rely heavily on SCADA to ensure reliable and well-maintained electrical grids. It allows for data collection and for alerts to be sent when an outage happens so repairs can happen as soon as possible. SCADA can even automate repairs, in some cases.

SCADA help monitors and identify failures on the production floor.

This capability allows manufacturers to quickly find and manage failures, or even prevent them before they happen. For example, maybe a machine component of a big system fails, but the system as a whole doesn’t experience an outage. It alerts operations teams of the failed part so they can make repairs or replacements without the entire system failing.

SCADA systems help IT with security and sensitive data.

SCADA can alert teams to IT-specific environmental factors, such as server temperatures or equipment room humidity levels. They can also work with security components, like alarms and motion detectors, to ensure the security of physical IT assets.

SCADA systems help with alternative energy.

The increased demand for renewable energy options means a greater need for a reliable means of alternative energy. As a result, SCADA systems are a huge factor in the alternative energy industry, playing critical roles in items such as wind farms. SCADA systems analyze the farm’s assets’ components and alert remote operations teams to any abnormalities.

How does a CMMS integrate with SCADA?

Computerized maintenance management systems, or CMMS, work well in tandem with SCADA. Data collected by SCADA, like runtime hours, are pushed straight into the CMMS. When the data hits the predetermined parameters, such as preventive maintenance meter readings or predictive maintenance triggers, the CMMS system automatically generates and assigns work orders accordingly.

Interested in learning more about maximizing uptime, strengthening reliability, and driving production with SCADA and CMMS? Click the button below to see NEXGEN in action.