Can your SCADA System Enhance your Asset Management?

In many industries, a key determining factor in maximizing profitability is the management of the health and performance of company assets. Assets age and require maintenance. Normal use will lead to decreases in efficiency and overall performance if certain key indicators are not tracked and properly analyzed. In order to increase operational efficiency and reduce unscheduled downtime, many companies have introduced EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) systems into their infrastructure. Key data drawn from operator inspections, rounds, general maintenance and service can be used to make important decisions about how assets should be used and how their performance can be maximized. One problem today’s businesses face, however, is that this asset data is managed by a system separate from the operational data, putting key decision makers at a disadvantage when it comes to making the most informed decisions possible.

But what if your HMI/SCADA system could provide some of these asset management capabilities? What if the real time data from a controlled and monitored system included all information available from that system? A modern SCADA system that would allow monitored assets to be associated in real time with maintenance records and service requests would give both operators and key decision-makers access to all of the data needed to perform their jobs at the highest level of efficiency.

A recent article from ARC Advisory Group* examined the advantages of APM (Asset Performance Management) and its relevance to supervisory control and data acquisition. Per the article: “Leading practitioners of APM are moving towards an integrated data model supported by a system where all information is aligned with its corresponding asset.”

In most cases today, there is a distinct separation between process control operators and the management personnel tasked with making the decisions that affect those processes. While a SCADA system cannot completely replace a robust Enterprise Asset Management system, it can certainly enhance and contribute to it. In fact, it is becoming increasingly obvious that finding a solution that allows operators to do their jobs safely and efficiently, while also allowing decision-makers to improve performance and increase asset reliability, is going to be key to maintaining a competitive edge in today’s marketplace.

Today, businesses in any industry gather a tremendous amount of data from numerous sources: from instruments and sensors to manual inspections and general maintenance. There is plenty of data to make faster and better decisions than in the past, but is that what is happening? More often than not this data is not being maximized and used to its full potential.

ARC’s research led them to the same conclusion. Their determination was that businesses do not suffer from a lack of data; they suffer from an inability to “analyze and distill all the relevant data down to actionable information for measurable performance improvement”.

We have new tools to help us with our work, but our work proceeds largely unchanged. Without the ability to translate this abundance of data into useful information, it will never help us reach our full potential.

This process begins with finding and using the right tools for the job. Researchers inevitably arrived at the only sensible recommendation:

“ARC recommends investing in solutions engineered and designed to not only leverage existing data systems, but enhance its business value to the enterprise.”

*Founded in 1986, ARC Advisory Group is the leading technology research and advisory firm for industry and infrastructure.

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HTML5 is Taking SCADA to New Places

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For those web developers who keep up with the new standards in web development, HTML5 comes as no surprise. The internet has changed so much since the last iteration of HTML was standardized in 1999, new innovations were inevitable. With the widespread deployment of broadband internet connections and the prevalence of multimedia on today’s web, HTML5 was designed to bring HTML standards up to date. Some of the changes are staggering.

HTML5 introduces a number of new features to enhance web browsers’ abilities to create graphics, display multimedia content, and deploy web applications with ease. New elements and attributes have made the latest version of HTML much more robust and sophisticated, and CSS3 has introduced a number of new style elements that are certain to change the face of the worldwide web. As more and more browsers are coming to adopt the new standard, web pages and applications created in HTML5 will load and run more quickly and with fewer errors. This will allow for higher quality video and audio content, more detailed graphics, and more intelligent applications.

While not every browser had fully adopted the new features of HTML5, it won’t be long before the new standard changes the way we see the web. And, subsequently, it will change the way HMI/SCADA systems work as well. With most mobile browsers supporting HTML5 – including iOS, Android and Blackberry devices – the new technology will allow SCADA developers to design software that can be as mobile as today’s workers.

Control operators will no longer be chained to a workstation. Engineers in the field can view HMIs with real time data on their phones and tablets. Executives can use real time information to make important decisions from wherever they may be in the world. With SCADA becoming mobile, businesses can become more agile and responsive to key indicators. The gap between management and production will be all but eliminated. It is now possible to share live data across multiple channels spread all over the country or the world.

So, HTML5 is making SCADA systems more accessible than ever before. The next challenge is to find the best way to take advantage of these new capabilities and maximize the impact of mobility. Are you up to it?