The pros and cons of adding analytics to your SCADA system

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From time to time, I attend a sales call where the prospect says, “We like your analyses; however, we’d prefer to build these analytics into our SCADA system.”

I used to work for an organization that took this approach, and so I understand why some organizations find it attractive; however, this tactic also has some significant disadvantages. Here’s six pros and cons of incorporating custom analytics in your SCADA system versus investing in an out-of-the-box (OOTB) asset performance management (APM) solution, like Motors@Work.

[PRO] Getting exactly what you want.

In a word, customizability. When you build your analytics into your SCADA system, you identify and build exactly the analytics you want and need, display the information in exactly the way you prefer, and integrate the reports into your existing business processes. If your organization has available staff with the technical expertise to design and build these analyses, the ability to customize your analytics to your organization’s needs is a potentially cost effective solution to improve your operations.

[CON] Investing time and money to get it.

However, most organizations lack at least one of the requisite pieces — either the technical expertise to design the analytics, the business analyst who can translate it into a use case for a programmer, the software architect who understands how incorporating these analyses will affect system performance, or the programmer who can code it into the SCADA system. As a result, hiring these consultants comes with a hefty price tag — not to mention the time your staff spends managing these consultants and providing input on the design.

Moreover, the money and time spent designing this system comes at a significant opportunity cost. After all, that time and money could’ve been spent implementing improvements identified by an OOTB, or lightly personalized, APM solution. So, before deciding to invest in custom SCADA analytics, ask yourself, “Is the ability to customize these reports worth delaying their insights by up to a year?”

[PRO] Streamlining your information systems.

By adding analytics directly into your SCADA system, your information technology department can streamline the number and type of systems used to monitor, assess, and control operations. For organizations with security concerns, minimizing the number of data handoffs can be particularly attractive.

[CON] Maintaining your information systems.

However, when you build your own analytics, you’re also taking on the responsibility of maintaining those systems. All software updates and hardware upgrades are on your dime. If something goes wrong, you’re the one who has to troubleshoot it, determine the fix, and implement the solution. Or, if a hardware upgrade doesn’t support your software, or the software platform you’ve built your analytics on becomes obsolete, you’re on the hook for the update.

Personally, I’ve seen such internal analytical systems go into disrepair once the lead architect or champion moves on because no one else knows the system well enough to conduct maintenance, fix a bug, or finish planned improvements. Or, the software or hardware becomes obsolete, and just isn’t worth the price tag to re-invent on a new platform.

On the other hand, if you’re using a lightly personalized OOTB solution — particularly one that’s sold as software-as-a-service (SaaS) — the software provider takes on these responsibilities. If you have an issue, so does everyone else — incentivizing the provider to fix it soon. Also, the cost of upgrades gets split between all clients, meaning you get more performance for the money. So, before investing in adding analytics to your SCADA system, ask yourself whether your organization is really willing to commit to maintaining this system for the long-haul — including after you, its champion, leave.

[PRO] Own your intellectual property.

When you build analytics into your SCADA system, you own all the intellectual property associated with those analyses. And that intellectual property won’t go away, even if your solution provider or consultant does; that is, until its hardware or software becomes obsolete.

[CON] Innovating without a community.

However, when you build your analytics in-house, your analyses are only as smart as the people designing them and the data you own. On the other hand, OOTB APM solutions learn from their community of users — providing you access to new, innovative analyses that you may never have thought up, or have the data to develop. For example, by learning from our entire community of users, Motors@Work can generate alerts when we see specific patterns of failure known to affect particular manufacturers and models, as opposed to basic threshold and trend alerts.

Also, by splitting the cost over all their customers, OOTB solutions can also invest in resources that would otherwise take a lot of effort to develop, such as Motors@Work’s extensive motor catalog. OOTB APM solutions, like Motors@Work, can also invest in advanced learning algorithms, such as predicting asset end-of-life — models that require significant amounts of data to develop and refine.

Finally, OOTB APM solutions can quickly disseminate best practices, such as Motors@Work’s pump optimization tool. Initially developed for Des Moines Water Works, this tool enables you to determine the lowest energy cost schedule for meeting your production based on weather forecasts, your utility rates, up-to-date asset performance, and your production history—reducing your energy spend by up to 20%.

Now that the facts are on the table, which option is best for your company?  If you want to learn more about Motors@Work’s asset performance management (APM) solution, connect with Nicole at

About Us

Motors@Work is a pioneer in motor and pump-driven system energy optimization and provides energy management SaaS solutions based on certified “Best Practices” and patent pending innovation for managing commercial and industrial motor-driven systems.

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Penny St. Clair-Holmes

Sr. Director Marketing

(919) 847-8402

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