Replace or Upgrade Outdated SCADA System

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems have been at the heart of industrial operations for decades. These systems monitor and control processes locally or at remote locations through a central computer system. However, aging SCADA infrastructure is increasingly becoming a liability.
Legacy systems are prone to reliability issues, lack modern cybersecurity protections, and limit access to data.
For manufacturers, upgrading legacy SCADA to current technology is now a strategic imperative.

The Case for Upgrading SCADA Systems

Legacy SCADA systems face considerable limitations in today’s manufacturing environments. Upgrading to modern systems offers significant reliability, security, data, and visualisation benefits:

Improved reliability – Downtime is extremely costly, yet many older SCADA deployments experience periodic failures. Modern systems offer redundancy across servers, networks, and power supplies to eliminate single points of failure. Built-in fault tolerance minimises disruptions. Upgrading improves mean time between failures (MTBF) metrics.

Enhanced cybersecurity – Older SCADA equipment often lacksmodern cybersecurity provisions like encryption, role-based access control, and network segmentation. This leaves operations vulnerable to attacks. New systems incorporate cybersecurity by design to harden the environment. Features like intrusion detection, access management, and secure remote access are now table stakes.

Bigger data capabilities – Many legacy systems have limits on data historian tag counts and speeds. This restricts leveraging IIoT sensor data. Contemporary SCADA overcomes these limits to ingest vast amounts of real-time data. Analytics and machine learning can unlock operational insights.

Better visualisation and analytics – Basic HMI capabilities in legacy systems limit visualisation. Modern HMIs support rich graphics, customised dashboards, and advanced visualisation like 3D piping and instrumentation diagrams. Built-in analytics provide production reports, constraints monitoring, and KPI analysis.

Key Considerations for Replacement

While benefits are substantial, SCADA upgrades require careful orchestration. Critical factors include:

Migration planning and phasing – Systematic planning is vital to avoid pitfalls. Operations should determine functionality needs, select platforms, and phase rollouts. Migrating subsystems often makes sense to gain experience before full cutover.

Minimising production disruption – Close coordination with operations and management ensures upgrade activities don't disrupt production. Scheduling downtime windows and bringing systems online in phases are proven approaches.

Leveraging existing infrastructure – Look for opportunities to reuse infrastructure like cabling, controllers, I/O cards, and instrumentation where feasible. This optimises upgrade costs.

Cybersecurity assessment and policies – Perform vulnerability assessments of existing environment. Put cybersecurity policies and controls in place ahead of new system deployment.

Operator training on new system – Thorough training minimises the operational learning curve. Simulated upgrades are wise to allow operators hands-on practice.

Benefits of a Modern SCADA System

The rewards of upgrading can transform operations, enabling:

Increased productivity and efficiency – A reliable modern SCADA system reduces downtime and helps personnel work smarter. Features like advanced visualisation and analytics provide deeper process insights.

Reduced unplanned downtime – Modern redundancy and fault tolerance dramatically improve availability. Unplanned downtime events are slashed across the facility.

Tighter process control – Leveraging IIoT data unlocks superior control via model predictive control, quality prediction, and constraint management.

Improved safety and compliance – Enhanced cybersecurity, access controls, and logging aid safety and compliance. Alerts for abnormal situations protect personnel and products.

Foundation for smart manufacturing – Upgraded SCADA provides a springboard for optimisation initiatives like predictive maintenance, asset performance management, and energy management.

For manufacturers running aging SCADA infrastructure, now is the time to assess upgrade options. While non-trivial, a systematic modernisation process mitigates risks and unlocks game-changing benefits from higher reliability to strategic capabilities underpinning smart manufacturing. By proactively upgrading legacy systems, operators can transform oversight of their facilities for the future.

View a recent SCADA upgrade case study.