You may argue that it is impossible to give a few casual tips on troubleshooting SCADA systems as the field is vast. And you’re quite right on this score.

Dear colleagues,

You may argue that it is impossible to give a few casual tips on troubleshooting SCADA systems as the field is vast. And you’re quite right on this score. However, I did a useful presentation recently outlining the typical components of a SCADA system and some typical items one could look for when troubleshooting these systems.

SCADA vs. SCADA 

As you know, SCADA means Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition and refers to systems as wide ranging as your local water board using the DNP3 protocol to communicate to remote sites as against that of a software package controlling a mineral processing plant.

Two Popular Protocols and Standards

Two typical protocols that are still used extensively for SCADA systems are DNP3 and the venerable Modbus (as incorporated into TCP/IP and generally delivered over Ethernet). These are discussed in the attached document. The RS-232 standard while it may still be mentioned in documentation is hopelessly obsolete and the more “with-it” and useful RS-485 standard is the key element for connecting to instruments, for example. However, Ethernet and TCP/IP are the key communications building blocks for most systems these days.

Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting SCADA systems is a wide ranging issue covering such elements as:

  • Troubleshooting the telemetry unit (and ensuring that you do not remove components when powered and ensuring the antenna system is not suddenly disconnected)
  • Checking the RTU and component modules
  • Checking the master unit and networking functionality

A few specific suggestions are given in the attached document. Click here to access the presentation.

When troubleshooting a difficult SCADA problem, one should rely on Ralph Waldo Emerson's comment: The quality of the imagination is to flow and not to freeze.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve


Mackay’s Musings – 16th June’15 #569
125, 273 readers – www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay

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