When it comes to selecting a SCADA software platform to monitor and control your industrial process system, price often becomes paramount. But how can you avoid going over your budget? Here are four key questions to ask to help you control the overall cost of your new Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software system investment:
- Do you really need a SCADA platform? If you want to continuously and often remotely monitor and/or control an industrial process, the answer is an unequivocal “yes!” SCADA software is essential to controlling any system designed to collect, process, and visualize data from wired equipment onto a Human Machine Interface (HMI). A SCADA software system connects to sensors that monitor equipment such as valves, temperature monitors, pumps, tanks and electrical power. The SCADA software processes the data stored in a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) and is able to communicate back to the equipment to perform various functions. Determining if SCADA is even necessary is vital. Basic SCADA software costs can range from a one-time fee under $1,000 to over $10,000 just to place a runtime version on your computer.
- How many workstations will use the SCADA software? Many small control systems only need one operator workstation located onsite, often right next to the equipment. But as systems grow in size and complexity, more workstations, such as at a control center or on a tablet at a remote location, are needed. “As a general rule, the more workstations you have, the more a SCADA system can cost,” says Ken Baker, Sr. Director of Business Solutions for Nucleus Command Systems. “We work with customers to minimize these costs.”
- Does the SCADA software come fully loaded with features? This is a vital issue. If a basic SCADA software cost package doesn’t include the ability to include alarms and notifications, often customers must pay a lot more to have them. Ideally, you want a SCADA software that includes the features you will need to operate your system and reduce the risk of this add-on costs.
- Can you program and integrate the SCADA system yourself? Many customers are highly qualified to operate industrial systems. But most do not have in-house expertise to design and integrate that system into your operation. A SCADA product such as Nucleus comes loaded with many pre-built HMI layout screens to speed and make easier the development process for users. But even so, you may need help and paying an integrator or SCADA programmer typically will be an added cost. Make sure to ask a SCADA product company whether they offer qualified engineers as a value-added service. Although it costs money, it also can save you a lot of time and money to have your system designed by a professional.