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The Real Difference Between System Platform and SCADA
1 March 2018
Jess Christie
View Count 624
System-platform-blog

The idea of distributed control systems connecting ‘things’ into automation systems is no longer revolutionary. SCADA and HMIs effortlessly provide real-time data access to I/O and time-series information in terms of historical data. So, is there really a need for yet another software or industrial platform? We explore in this blog.

Think about the steps and infrastructure involved if you needed to make sense of different types of data, whether that’s scheduled maintenance data, lab data, or standard operating procedures for a particular equipment or asset.  In most scenarios you would have to find those data sets in other systems, which would result in a loss of productivity and efficiency. Over the years we have inadvertently built islands-of-automation around MES, SCADA, and DCS systems etc.  So how is System Platform 2017, with its new visualisation engine, InTouch OMI, different?

In the present day, great volumes of data are coming from everywhere at an exponential pace.  But building traditional domain-bounded systems to exploit data, presents a number of obvious problems and limitations. Additionally, stovepipe systems lead to many custom software infrastructures to support, which in turn leads to higher costs; proliferation on any scale just exacerbates the problem.

System Platform 2017 offers a single point of access and addresses the expectations of cross-functional end users, ranging from Executives to Operators. Moreover, System Platform 2017 provides users with the ability to extract valuable insights from data in ways never before possible, at an affordable cost.

InTouch OMI provides the Operating Environment for Enterprise-Wide Information Exploitation. But how do we progressively move from the ‘as-is’ world of enterprise islands-of-automation, to the digital information-enabled enterprise?

Industrial IoT is all about exploiting data horizontally as well from traditional vertically bounded systems.  This is the leading value driver behind IIoT. Just as social media opened-up new ways to communicate and add-value in our social and professional lives, InTouch OMI does the same for operational data.

The platform must serve as infrastructure for end-users, OEMs and systems integrators to underpin their solutions that supports both:

  • Vertical apps (e.g. operational domain, tactical apps) and
  • Horizontal (e.g. cross-domain optimisation, seamless supply-chain)

Scalability must be considered when evaluating IIoT Platforms

A lot has been written about modern automation trends, such as Industrial IoT, cloud, mobility and predictive analytics, however the scalability factor cannot be overlooked. Scalability is not merely starting small and growing big, there are many factors to consider and most are critical to truly protect your investment. Scalability is something that requires extensive planning and has to be part of the system design at the early stages.

A truly scalable system requires a fine alignment of organisation, people, processes and software architecture. Below are the dimensions of scalability which organisations need to consider when selecting an industrial platform.

Vertical: Making each connected system more efficient. This involves integration with enterprise-level systems such as ERP, Supply Chain Automation and Enterprise Asset Management.

Horizontal: Tightly couple more systems in a well-integrated fashion. It involves integration with peer-level systems such as Historian, MES, DCS, Workflow, LIMS, and Mobility Solutions.

Functional: Grow Small Systems into Large Systems. It is all about gradual evolution, increased capacity, and quality and energy efficiency. Single application or machine to a networked solution or network of multiple plants.

Geographic: Deployment across single site or region to multiple sites or regions. Allow space for diversity of languages and regulations, without hampering usability and performance.

Operational: Efficient workers – Re-use engineering efforts, best practices and standards across facilities and projects.

It is important to remember that enhancing the system with minimal effort and cost is the real test of scalability. If your system or software architecture is structured so that even a minor upgrade requires serious time, effort and money, then it is not a scalable system.

To summarise, when creating enterprise-wide information accessibility between new data sources (‘things’), legacy systems, enterprise systems, web browsers and cloud services, a scalable industrial platform is crucial. It ensures that you can go beyond managing data from islands-of-automation, and instead are embracing the technology that allows for the seamless digital enterprise. For more information on System Platform 2017, download our webinar Reducing Operational Costs with System Platform 2017 here.

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