BY Andrew Chastain-Howley

Do More with Your Data: Integrate APM with SCADA


I’ve worked in the water industry for over 25 years and have seen first-hand the value and impact of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. SCADA has been a staple in the water industry for decades. However, infrastructure leaders are finding that SCADA alone is not enough to deliver comprehensive performance reporting. Forward thinking plant managers are adopting Asset Performance Management (APM) tools to optimize their SCADA systems and wider operations.


The shortcomings of SCADA

Don’t get me wrong, SCADA has benefits. For water and wastewater treatment utilities, it enables automated system controls for monitoring and managing infrastructure, water quality, flow rates, pressure, power consumption, asset productivity and more.

For example, if you need to power up a pump, you can simply change the parameters directly from your computer. But what happens next—once your SCADA system has historized and archived the data that it collects?

At most utilities, less than a handful of engineers and operators have direct access to asset performance data. Moreover, even less have the time or training to analyze it effectively. For wide visibility of data and processes throughout the plant, SCADA is an inefficient tool.


Taking your data to the next level

For some utilities, taking data to the next level (i.e. using it to understand operational performance) simply means collecting more information. However, many utilities don’t realize they’re already capturing or have access to next-level data. And they don’t know how to access or cross-analyze it efficiently across their system.


Supplemental data integration (beyond SCADA)

Water and wastewater utilities also need to collect near real-time data across various parameters to adequately assess system performance. However, most don’t have the processes or solutions to execute this.

For example, if you wanted to assess quality parameters that don’t have a sensor connected to SCADA, you would need to obtain a sample and take it to a lab to be analyzed. Afterward, the information must be manually entered and archived in the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) or another stand-alone database.

Integrating LIMS data with SCADA offers greater understanding and the possibility of proactive control, especially in regard to compliance with State and Federal environmental protection requirements and permits and the process efficiencies within the plant. However, this integration is only one piece of the puzzle, and it doesn’t enable you to assess real-time data to proactively monitor and diagnose potential issues.


Creating a proactive approach to monitoring and diagnostics

Asset Performance Management is a solution that plant managers can use to capture every piece of data necessary.

Consider this example. When the National Weather Service anticipates heavy rainfall, operators can expect inflow and infiltration and increased flow to the wastewater plant. Efficient, proactive and safe operations during and after emergency wet-weather conditions require plant operators to analyze, predict and react to the amount of flow that enters the system and assess each treatment train’s operation separately.

APM enables real-time monitoring, allowing plant managers to integrate all the relevant datasets and to assess both external and internal factors, thereby identifying early warning signs of issues.

Machine learning (which is integrated into advanced APM platforms) also plays an important role. The laws of physics and chemistry govern wastewater facility dynamics and show repeating sequences. Machine learning uses those sequences to proactively assess each part of the operation.


Is APM right for smaller utilities?

APM is still a new buzz phrase in the utilities industry, mostly because very few know how to integrate predictive capabilities across multiple systems like SCADA and LIMS.

This is especially true of smaller utilities, where proactive data evaluation is relatively rare. Many smaller utilities fail to utilize the data they have to proactively assess operational health.

As a result, developing issues get missed and result in plant failures or permit violations. The good news is that APM can bridge that gap—ensuring that your organization avoids costly outages. All utilities, small to large, can benefit from implementing APM. Doing so creates a proactive strategy for addressing operational health and efficiency.  

If you’re curious about how APM can integrate with SCADA to produce a forward-thinking and cost-effective operations strategy, get in touch with us. As a Black and Veatch subsidiary, we have extensive asset and operational knowledge powering our APM expertise.  

Andrew Chastain-Howley

Andrew Chastain-Howley leads data analytics solution development for water and wastewater systems at Atonix Digital. He has more than 27 years’ experience in the fields of water resources and asset management including: smart integrated infrastructure, treatment plant monitoring, distribution system optimization, and advanced metering infrastructure. In addition to formal training at the University of St. Andrews, and Cranfield University, his professional background includes work in the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and North America, for numerous government agencies, and private concerns.

Read more blogs by Andrew Chastain-Howley