New Scada Brings Lower Costs, Several Improvements

June 15, 2020

Replacing old system provides numerous benefits.


Central Arkansas Water (CAW) is a metropolitan water system serving 400,000 people in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and surrounding communities. When CAW needed a new system for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), it worked with Brown Engineers, an award-winning system integrator based in Little Rock. In replacing its 22-year-old SCADA system, CAW brought down its costs and improved its operations in several areas.

Brown Engineers implemented Ignition by Inductive Automation®, an industrial application platform with several tools for building solutions in SCADA, human-machine interface (HMI), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Ignition is used in virtually every industry, in more than 100 countries.

“With Ignition, we’ve seen a drastic improvement in the aesthetics of the screens, the user functionality for the operators, and the maintenance and reporting features in the software,” said Doug Graham, optimization manager for CAW. “Reports are extremely fast and not laborious to develop as they were with our old software. The historical trends in groups is very efficient for the operators to use. And the speed at which it retrieves the data, and the different ways we can set the parameters for the time periods — a month, a week, or a day — are very helpful. And the data is pulled incredibly fast compared to our old system.”

A Better Way

Two treatment plants and a distribution system with more than 50 remote sites provide data to CAW operators and maintenance staff. Over the years, layers of additions and upgrades from vendors, integrators, and its own staff made CAW’s SCADA system confusing, hard to use, and difficult to maintain and manage.

“Their old SCADA system was increasingly obsolete,” said Dee Brown, principal and co-founder of Brown Engineers. “It was also costly, frustrating to use, and difficult to maintain. It lacked data management between treatment plants. CAW was still using its original, old SCADA, updating it when necessary. The result wasn’t flexible, integrated, or database friendly. Installation and development were slow. Its proprietary nature demanded otherwise unnecessary, utility-wide PC and/or hardware upgrades every few years. And expensive license fees were charged per tag, client, and connection.”

With Ignition’s unlimited licensing, CAW pays by the server, and doesn’t incur additional fees for adding more projects, tags, users, or clients. It allows CAW to save money on licenses, while also enabling future expansion. CAW also chose this software because it’s flexible, modular, database-centric, and it easily connects with any database. “It also provides true real-time analytics,” said Brown. “It’s made for rapid installation and development. And it’s platform independent. Overall, it delivers previously unimagined performance and versatility for a fraction of what CAW had been paying to license and maintain its old SCADA system.”

More Speed and Functionality

Graham said he and his colleagues at CAW appreciate the increase in speed when it comes to development. “When a new screen is made in Ignition, or an edit to a screen is made, you don’t have to copy it around or have a batch file set up,” said Graham. “It’s web-based, so it’s automatic. We just click one button and it’s updated.”

Brown Engineers replaced CAW’s obsolete SCADA system with a secure, future-proofed, Ignition-based system that has two master control points and allows full use of all operational data collected. For easy in-house maintenance, it uses Java and SQL database technologies, both familiar to CAW’s IT staff.

Both CAW treatment plants have a redundant gateway configuration. The ability to send real-time and historical data to both plants enabled Brown to easily provide all data points to all clients at either plant. The system has store-and-forward capabilities to maintain data reliability and integrity if there is any loss in connectivity. High-performance graphics have improved readability of all operator screens and provided CAW with a set of graphical and tag standards moving forward.

The software also allows CAW admin staff to manage all projects, licensing, and system backups from one server. Reporting is more robust, easier, and faster. Alarming is now improved, and training and maintenance of the new SCADA system are both easier than with the previous system. In addition to all the operational benefits, CAW also has a SCADA system that can easily accommodate growth in the future.

Editor's Note: Scranton Gillette Communications and the SGC Infrastructure Group are not liable for the accuracy, efficacy and validity of the claims made in this piece. The views expressed in this content do not reflect the position of the Roads & Bridges' Editorial Team.