Plant control panels

SCADA Systems Design & Support

Custom Automation executes time-proven deliberate steps to assure an industrial control SCADA project goes smoothly and performs as expected. "Low Bid" integrators tend to skip or gloss over some steps to keep their costs down. Make sure you know what you will actually get before awarding a contract! The major steps are outlined below.

Site Survey & Requirements Document Review

A CA designed control system begins by following a very detailed analysis methodology. We drill-down from the macro-overview into ever smaller details of importance, until a complete and clear understanding of the site, as it currently exists, has been obtained.

Then, and only then, will the project requirements document have any relevance. At this stage we work on getting a crystal clear understanding of where the client wants to be at project's end. At this time Custom Automation has daily dialogs with the specifying engineer(s) and client, to gain insight into details possibly overlooked, ambiguous, or conflicting.

Overall SCADA Design

The system is usually designed incrementally in block-diagram format (we prefer white boarding). This is where 39 years of industrial control systems (SCADA) experience facilitates excellent design choices, and avoids pitfalls. We formalize the design into CAD, Visio, and other formats for review with the client.

Network Design & Implementation

The system backbone - the network, needs to designed accurately anticipating the traffic packet type and load, not only now but "over the horizon" future usage. Network security equipment and configuration is specified for this site. We then implement wireless and wired networks for optimal SCADA performance, security, and expandability.

PLC Design & Implementation

If the client doesn't already have a PLC preference, CA will recommend a quality PLC platform best suited to the client's idetified tasks, with spare capacity for future needs.

Custom Automation develops controller software using an expertly selected combination of the five industry-standard IEC 61131-3 programming languages. Our clients receive the resultant PLC project source code, so they may review it and maintain it themselves if they so choose. Please note that many integrators do not supply PLC project source code unless it's explicitly required by the contract.

Operator Interface Design & Implementation

If the client doesn't already have an HMI preference, CA will recommend an HMI platform best suited to the client's preferred operating methods, offering the best combination of performance, licensing, and annual support costs. We will develop screens, alarms, reports, etc. with interactive client feedback, to obtain the look and feel desired.

System Documentation

Good system documentation serves the client in multiple ways. It is referenced during testing and training to verify that the system behaves as documented. Operation and Maintenance (O&M) manuals also help operators learn proper operating methods, including "Plan B" actions when key equipment is down because of failure or maintenance, and most importantly, how to react safely and effectively to alarm conditions.

Custom Automation places substantial importance on quality documentation. We invest heavily in publishing tools, and make sure our technical writing is accurate, complete, and pleasing to read.

Many integrators do not share this level of commitment to documentation. It is a favorite place for integrators to cut corners and deliver substandard documents.

Testing & Training

System testing procedures are defined in a test document that is usually prepared by the specifying engineers and client. CA can help prepare this document if needed. Testing is done per this document, often referring to the O&M manual, to make sure the system operates as documented under normal and extraordinary conditions.

Operators are trained using the O&M manual and usually a combination of simulated and on-line SCADA activity, until they are confidently running the system.

Short-Term Support

After acceptance testing the system happily chugs along until changes or additions are needed. Clients can be trained to perform minor changes themselves, and they sometimes take advantage of that, usually with CA on the phone to assist. More often though for peace of mind, they let us take care of it. Custom Automation offers secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) support for SCADA systems, which affords economical tech support in a timely manner 24/7.

Long-Term Support

Over time, many of our clients have come to appreciate CA's commitment to honesty, integrity, and value. We are grateful to be asked back to support and upgrade systems CA installed decades ago. Custom Automation has a solid track record of supporting our clients for the long-haul.

Updates & Platform Migration

One of the benefits of being in business for 39 years is having considerable experience bringing aging SCADA systems up to date. We confidently update SCADA sites with the latest version of SCADA and operating system software.

Citect SCADA support is a specialty for us. Please see our Citect page if you are currently using Citect.

We also offer alternative SCADA software solutions if you are receptive to SCADA system feature, support, and cost comparisons. We offer complete migration services if you choose to switch SCADA software platforms.

Due Diligence

Congratulations! If you've taken the time to read down to here, you are serious about learning the big picture of SCADA system design and support. We hope this information will assist you in making a more informed integrator choice.