Would you like to work in a high tech facility such as a space station? If so, you need to learn about supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
SCADA is a computer system used to gather and analyze data in real-time. With applications in many industries, this tool collects insightful data about any aspect of an organization.
You will enjoy learning to use SCADA if you have a problem-solution mentality and want to help find and repair faults within a computer system.
SCADA systems are usually operated by service engineers, or PLC engineers, who have specific skills for the job. Taking a SCADA training course can prove useful in many sectors. The information in this guide will cover the possible applications and how to make the most out of the data gathered by the system.
What Is SCADA?
SCADA systems gather essential information in the energy, oil, gas, water, telecommunications, and transport sectors
They are important in helping businesses make smart decisions. Made up of both hardware and software, SCADA can display information in an organized and logical manner.
What Is SCADA Used For?
As an example, let’s look at the use of SCADA in a gas processing plant. The SCADA system will usually be set up in a control room and can be used to scan the system to check that operations are running smoothly. I
f there is a problem, such as a leak in a pipeline, the collected data will reflect the issue. This information will then be sent back to an employee at the central hub who can repair the leak.
Web-based SCADA systems can be used to control and monitor complex and simple systems. The key functionality of these systems is to supervise operations using five levels. Level 0 includes temperature and flow control valves, level 1 is industrial input and output, level 2 monitors supervisory computers, level 3 is concerned with production control levels, and level 4 is the scheduling level.
To learn more about these, you may want to take a course in control systems.
Below are some of the possible uses for a SCADA system:
- Facility processes. In facilities, SCADA is used to monitor and control temperatures and air conditioning absorption and access. This includes usage on ships, in airports, and even on space stations.
- Industrial processes. SCADA is also used in industrial settings, such as power generation, industrial plants, and refining.
- Infrastructure processes. This includes both private and public sector facilities, such as wind farms, water treatment plants, and oil and gas plants.
Components of a SCADA System
The first SCADA systems started with mainframe computers. This evolved into smaller systems as technology advanced, such as local area networks and human-machine interface (HMI) software. Soon, connections between these systems allowed for more control.
Then in early 2000, communications protocols and open system architecture using ethernet further improved communication abilities.
Before you learn about SCADA, you should get to know its components.
Programmable Logic Controllers
PLCs provide a high-speed connection to the main SCADA system. They are especially important in remote applications, such as large water treatment plants.
SCADAs were specifically designed for control and they use programming languages to connect with and monitor the selected environment.
Remote Terminal Units
RTUs are connected to the supervisory computer system. They are configured using specific programming languages and control equipment via embedded capabilities.
RTUs typically function using satellite and radio and are built to withstand extreme temperatures.
HMI software is used to extract information about a facility to create graphics and diagrams based on live data. It also creates reports and sends notifications.
The HMI is fundamental to the SCADA’s operation because it collects all necessary data from external devices.
The communication infrastructure connects the SCADA to the RTUs and PLCs, which operate autonomously based on the commands they receive.
If there is a system failure, it does not stop the process controls. If stopped and restarted, the process will pick up where it left off.
A simple system like SCADA can be learned in the time it takes to complete an online or in-person course. After that, you can study by rereading course materials as you see fit.
How Long Does It Take to Learn SCADA?
Depending on your learning style, you can learn the basics of SCADA in a matter of weeks. But, it is also best to get on-the-job experience to gain a full understanding of the system.
Many SCADA programs take about 50 hours to complete and can be spread out over anywhere from two to 16 weeks. However, if you’re new to technology and don’t know any programming languages, it may take longer. Taking a programming language course before studying SCADA is a good idea.
You should enroll in professional training to make sure you are learning SCADA at an acceptable standard.
How to Learn SCADA: Step-by-Step
Below are the basic steps you should follow to get started learning SCADA.
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- Determine your knowledge gaps. Make a list of what you don’t know about SCADA. If you’re clued in to programming, which languages do you know, and which of the 5 SCADA programming languages should you learn?
- Start researching. Do some basic research to get acquainted with the software and hardware involved in SCADA. Gain a better understanding by writing down a few pointers, then simplify them further.
- Study thoroughly. According to learning expert Daniel Wong, studying the same subject in different ways is the best way to master a new topic. Some of these techniques include reading class notes, watching a video online, creating a mindmap, practicing problems, and exploring online resources.
- Enroll in a class. Search online to find a class or training session that is right for you.
- Enroll in online courses and get certified. After you finish a course, you may want to get certified in SCADA. This will increase your chances of landing a job in the future.
The Best SCADA Courses and Training
If you’re sure you want to learn SCADA, it’s time to choose the type of course that will allow you to study successfully. Make sure that the course you choose covers both SCADA and PLC systems.
Professional SCADA Certification Courses
Below are some of the courses you can take to earn a PLC or SCADA certification, either online or in-person.
- Provider: Business Industrial Network
- Learning Method: Mail order courses
- Duration: Varies
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $199
These separate PLC and SCADA courses or delivered by mail and allow you to complete the coursework at your own pace, without requiring Internet access. This is a basic course for anyone interested in learning how to operate the system.
- Provider: PLC Training Organization
- Learning Method: Online
- Duration: Varies
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: N/A
Why not try your luck at joining an engineering scholarship program? Electrical engineers must learn about PLCs, so this route will also help you get closer to understanding SCADA. To apply for this scholarship with PLC Training Organization, you must simply write an essay.
Best Online SCADA Courses
Below are two PLC and SCADA courses you can choose from.
- Provider: LinkedIn Learning
- Learning Method: Prerecorded online lectures
- Duration: About 2 hours
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Free
This PLC course by engineering instructor Zahraa Khalil covers PLCs and their uses in automation. It is heavily focused on the main programming language used by PLC engineers, called ladder logic.
Other concepts covered include timer and counter instruction, rung operation, and the main input and output instructions used in ladder logic programming. The course uses case studies to illustrate points. This is also a good course if you are interested in learning how to become a full-stack developer.
- Provider: Udemy
- Learning Method: Online
- Duration: 10 hrs
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $9.99
This course covers HMI development and programming. By the end of the course, you will be able to create a PLC program from scratch using ladder logic. The class includes nine articles and 19 downloadable resources. You will also receive a certificate of completion.
Best SCADA and PLC Books
Books are a great way to get familiar with any new subject, especially if you find it difficult to get excited about learning online. You have a few options if you’re looking for a text that will help you study SCADA.
If you know nothing about PLCs or SCADA systems, this is a good place to start. With detailed projects that explain the practical and theoretical concepts behind PLCs and SCADA systems, this is an essential guide for students, teachers, and design professionals. Use it as a reference point anytime you get confused about a new SCADA concept.
This recently revised SCADA reference book offers a detailed look at SCADA components and technologies. It includes 14 self-study units that together will ensure you have a basic understanding of all the building blocks of the system.
Online SCADA and PLC Resources
Besides the learning options above, you might also want to check out some of the online resources that you can use to supplement your learning and make sure you have mastered the system. Tap into any of the websites below for self-paced study.
This online SCADA database by DPS Solutions has everything you need to know about the system, including an online library featuring SCADA-related information. This free online resource is a good place to turn to if you are looking to brush up on SCADA before a job interview.
The Computer Works website is another great place to learn SCADA. It offers many different resources, including links to videos and outside publications.
Should You Study SCADA?
Studying SCADA and getting a certification in the field will put you at a significant advantage if you’re looking for technical work at any number of industrial or processing facilities. In most industries, processes have become automated, so learning how to operate an automation system is a good way to make sure your skills are in demand.
Don’t get left behind in this era of automation. Instead, gain skills in SCADA that will ensure you will find employment for decades to come.
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