Stanley Consultants Inc.

06/21/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/21/2024 08:50

The Rapidly Evolving World of SCADA Systems: Why Upgrades are Essential

The Rapidly Evolving World of SCADA Systems: Why Upgrades are Essential

June 21, 2024

In water management, the focus is often on aging physical infrastructure like distribution pipes, treatment plants and sewer systems. However, another critical component that deserves equal attention is supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. These electronic systems, which monitor and control various systems and processes, are rapidly becoming obsolete. In this blog post, we will explore why SCADA systems need regular upgrades, the risks associated with outdated systems and the steps involved in modernizing them.

The Need for SCADA Upgrades

Like computer operating systems, SCADA systems require regular updates to promote optimal performance and data integrity. With constant technological advancements, older SCADA systems quickly become outdated and may no longer be supported by manufacturers or service providers. This lack of support can lead to software glitches, compatibility issues with new infrastructure and increased vulnerability to cyber threats.

To keep up with the evolving landscape, water utilities must prioritize the modernization of their SCADA system. At Stanley Consultants, our team of control systems engineers is ready to help you assess these systems and get started on your digital modernization journey.

The Foundation of Digital Water Transformation

A modern SCADA system with a centralized database, known as a historian, is the cornerstone of digital transformation in the water management industry. This system empowers operators and managers with real-time data, enabling them to make informed decisions that can significantly improve operational efficiency and resource management. To begin the digital modernization process, a thorough audit of the existing water management system is conducted, comparing it with the operational needs and goals of the utility. This process helps identify the performance gap and lays the groundwork for a master plan of logical upgrade projects.

Developing a Master Plan

Once the performance gap is determined, a master plan is developed to fully modernize the SCADA system. This plan includes a workforce strategy to support the availability of skilled personnel who can modify and update the system over time. Additionally, the utility must decide on the most appropriate delivery method for each project, whether design-build or design-bid-build. The availability of funds is also assessed to establish a realistic timeline for the SCADA upgrades. In some cases, projects may need to be divided into multiple phases to align with available funding. A successful SCADA system master plan also considers each project's economic return on investment opportunity and risk mitigation impact, so that the most impactful projects are prioritized first.

Choosing Key Components

When upgrading utility SCADA systems, careful consideration must be given to the selection of key components such as software, programmable logic controllers and telemetry. Choosing components from reputable manufacturers and local service businesses with a proven track record of strong customer support and business continuity is crucial. This supports the longevity and reliability of the upgraded system.

Digital Modernization Case Studies

Let's look at a couple real-world examples we have handled to understand how utilities can address upgrading their SCADA system and begin their journey toward digital modernization.

Lafayette, Colorado Evaluates Existing Systems and Develops Master Plan

In a Denver Metro Community, Stanley Consultants played a pivotal role in enhancing the city's utility management through a SCADA system master plan. The project began with a comprehensive audit of the existing systems, leading to a gap analysis to determine needed upgrades to modernize the system. We then developed a full SCADA Master Plan based on the detailed evaluation of the current system and the gap analysis, which resulted in prioritized recommendations to standardize the SCADA system.

The plan not only outlined necessary projects and associated budgets but also emphasized the importance of a skilled workforce, proposing a staffing and training strategy to support the systems' sustainable operation. Additionally, the plan considered the integration of key performance indicators (KPIs) for the city's solar farm into the SCADA system, further demonstrating Stanley Consultants' commitment to delivering tailored and impactful solutions that cater to the specific needs of our clients and embrace sustainability opportunities.

SCADA Inventory, Recommendation and Modernization Project for a Northern Illinois Community

Stanley Consultants worked with the utility to perform a comprehensive audit, and subsequently developed a master plan addressing the challenges posed by outdated instrumentation and control systems for a northern Illinois community. Our team utilized field verification to document the current layouts of the existing control systems accurately. This phase was crucial for assessing the system's obsolescence and deficiencies, which informed the recommended modernization plan.

By interfacing directly with stakeholders and managing the design and construction processes within the allocated budget, Stanley Consultants will significantly improve the utility's operational capabilities and system reliability, delivering substantial value to the client. The next steps include the design phase and construction management to implement the modernization projects.

Water Asset Management in Long Beach, California

Our collaboration with the Long Beach Water Department, alongside KYLE Groundwater and digital water data platform provider, GoAigua, focuses on maximizing groundwater withdrawal sustainably and reliably. This initiative is part of a broader effort aligned with Long Beach's 2019 Water Resource Plan, which aims to maintain full operational status of the city's well equipment and pumps, allowing the maximum extraction of groundwater within the permissible limits of the Central and West Coast Basins.

The project encompasses several critical components, including well field data collection and management, groundwater production forecasting, production planning, asset maintenance scheduling and supply management. The utility already has a highly functional and modernized SCADA system in place. They are now leveraging this system to build a digital twin for their groundwater production system.

By integrating these elements into a cohesive asset management program and developing digital tools, we are enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of groundwater usage in Long Beach. This digital model will enable them to maximize their groundwater production and reduce reliance on expensive imported water sources.

Ready to Start Your Digital Water Journey?

Stanley Consultants is more than just a consulting firm - we are a partner clients can rely on to achieve their operational and financial goals. With a commitment to safety, service and excellence, we continue to lead the way in engineering solutions that solve today's challenges and pave the way for a sustainable future. To learn more about how Stanley Consultants can assist with your digital water modernization and control systems consulting needs, reach out to us today or contact:

Steve Green, Client Services Manager - Digital Water, at 503-318-9290 or [email protected].