Replacing a full supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system is a big undertaking. The SCADA system at Western Municipal Water District's southern California wastewater plant was no longer sufficient for their needs, so staff began working with a California-based systems integration company to implement a new system.
Western Municipal wanted a system that had the ability to display multiple, full-featured SCADA clients on different devices such as computer workstations, mobile devices and operator interface terminals (OITs). The OITs were located in the field, so having remote access to devices was an important requirement for the new system.
A unified SCADA system for all their facilities was also highly desired, so the solution needed to be powerful and flexible enough to be used across the entire district.
The district teamed with the systems integration company Trimax on the project. After comparing alternatives, Western selected the Ignition web-based software system from Inductive Automation.
One major pain point of the plant's old SCADA system was the limitation on where, how and by whom SCADA screens were accessed. This was especially problematic in the case of certain control panels, said Chris McLaughlin, director of operations at Trimax.
"Before we put in Ignition the only way to check on the control panel was to have someone physically go out to look at the control panel's OIT, then that person had to radio to someone else to tell them what was happening," he said. "Now with Ignition that entire process has changed."
The software system doesn't put restrictions on how many people can be given access to the SCADA system. Its web-based architecture allows unlimited clients to be launched on any device equipped with a web-browser. Plant employees can view SCADA screens where and how they want.
"We put in new IPCs (industrial personal computers) as panel views all around the plant, so now people can access the system from their desktops, on the plant floor or even on their mobile devices," McLaughlin said.
In the plant's old SCADA system, the control panel OITs had limited visibility and functionality because they ran a very basic software application that was native to the OITs. It was important for the new system to have the ability to display full-featured SCADA screens at the control panels, as well as at multiple other locations across the plant. Thanks to the new software system's open, server-centric architecture this was a simple process.
Once the software is installed on one server, clients can be instantly deployed without limit. This allowed Trimax to create a SCADA project in one place and share it all around the plant.
"Now with Ignition they (Western Municipal) can see exactly the same screens anywhere throughout the plant, and even remotely. The whole system is right in front of them so they can see and control the system for the entire plant from any location they want. We also saved a lot of project development time using Ignition because we only had to create one project for the entire plant and we only have to make changes to it in one place and it updates everywhere," McLaughlin said.
Across the Western Municipal Water District a mish-mash of different SCADA programs were being employed at different sites ranging from well-established systems to small, proprietary, custom-built applications. The combination was confusing and communication between different sites was much less than optimal. The new software's cross-platform compatibility allows it to run equally well on any operating system, including Windows®, Mac or Linux. This flexibility helped allowed the software to unify the various systems at the wastewater plant and beyond.
"It was very important to Western Municipal that the new SCADA solution we implemented be a unified SCADA system," McLaughlin said. "A big part of the job was forming a plan to standardize their SCADA across the entire district for years to come. It was crucial that the new system not only work at the first plant, but that it be flexible enough to work at all their plants throughout the district."
The system upgrade has provided Western Municipal Water District with the SCADA system it needed and a plan to move forward.
"Western Municipal is very happy with their new Ignition SCADA system. In fact, they have already started expanding the use of Ignition to two other facilities. They are moving forward with the plan to make Ignition the SCADA standard across the entire district," McLaughlin said.