Replacing Five SCADA Systems with One

May 17, 2021

Unified SCADA replaces fragmented network and brings numerous benefits.

The Utility Department at the City of Fort Smith, Arkansas, provides water and wastewater services to 150,000 people. In its continuous effort to improve its services, the Department recently replaced five disparate supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems with a single software platform: Ignition by Inductive Automation®. This brought numerous benefits for the Department, including lower costs, continuity of operations across four plants (two water and two sewer), stronger security, improved reporting, and uniform human-machine interface (HMI) graphics that standardize operations and training across all sites.

The Utility Department worked with system integrator Brown Engineers of Little Rock. Brown implemented Ignition, an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in HMI, SCADA, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). “Ignition is a really great product,” said Lance McAvoy, utility director for the City of Fort Smith Utility Department. “The old SCADA systems kept me up at night. This one doesn’t. And it’s helping us work smarter, not harder. Before, we had a system that worked. Now, we have a system where we can excel.”

Strong Results

“First is continuity of operations,” said McAvoy. “I can look at all the SCADA with the plants, distribution system, collection system, all from one terminal as opposed to having to go to individual locations to see each one. We have four treatment plants, and two of them are located in other counties. Now we can jump on a terminal and diagnose remotely if there’s a problem. That’s been a huge factor.”

Training is much easier now, too. “In the past we had multiple integrators with the SCADA software we were using,” said McAvoy. “There was no continuity in screens in what red meant, what green meant, what yellow meant. Now, everybody is on the same page. If I have to pull an operator from one plant to another, when they get over there, they’re looking at the same SCADA system. And the security is a huge factor. We have a much more secure system than we did before.”

The five legacy SCADA systems, all Wonderware, were installed at various times over a number of years. There were different versions of the software. Thus, the HMIs weren’t uniform, and neither were the naming conventions. And data was trapped at each facility. Brown Engineers replaced the five systems with one Ignition system. It cost the Department just two-thirds what it would have cost to upgrade the old software. In addition to the lower cost, the Department gained modern technology, greater access to data, streamlined operations, and scalability for future needs.

One Platform for Everything

“It’s been a big improvement for the Department to get everything onto one platform, and they also have better-looking screens,” said Dee Brown, principal and co-founder of Brown Engineers. “The high-performance HMIs have really helped them. And it gets the entire plant in one view — plus the major tanks with their sparkline charts and historical information. And the screens have a tree view of the navigation menu on the side. You just click on things and expand the list.”

McAvoy has praise for both his staff and Brown Engineers, which was selected for the project in part because of its experience with large-scale, city-wide deployments. “Brown was terrific,” said McAvoy. “They’ve been outstanding as far as service and quality of the product. I couldn't be happier. And I’m very proud of our staff, both our IT staff and all of the operators that utilize the software and the system as a whole. They’re really excelling with the system and thus they’re excelling at their jobs.”

Editor's Note: Scranton Gillette Communications and the SGC Water 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 editorial teams of Water & Wastes Digest, Water Quality Products and Storm Water Solutions.

About the Author

Jim Meyers