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Why the Right Master Station for Your SCADA System Is Critical for Your Bottom Line


Some people are born without the ability to feel pain. At first glance, these people may seem lucky - after all, who likes pain? However, this can result in serious danger. Just like someone burning themselves experiences harm to their body, your network suffers if you can't see what demands attention.

Without a successful SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system, a widespread physical network is like a body without nerves. When a correctable issue, like battery loss, low fuel, or an air conditioning malfunction arises, and nobody is aware of it, it will go uncorrected.

If the situation results in an outage, the public relations nightmare, contract penalties, and potential regulatory action can cost you well into the millions. To avoid this preventable damage to your bottom line, companies must invest in master stations for SCADA systems.

Why SCADA Systems Need Master Stations

When companies implement SCADA systems, alarms are installed like nerves throughout a body of remote infrastructure. This helps you gain the ability to feel what's going on at every installation in the network. Quickly, however, these signals can become too numerous to efficiently monitor and respond to. With so many alarms competing for attention, something needs to sort and prioritize the actionable signals. The body needs a brain.

Master Station Efficiencies

A master station is that brain, compiling and prioritizing the signals from a SCADA system's nerves. An effective master station allows a monitoring technician to quickly and easily understand what's happening across an entire physical network. If something goes wrong, they'll see it. They can then either send out routine instructions or inform their manager that action is required.

This allows decision makers to dispatch the appropriate resources necessary to correct problems as they arise. If multiple concerns develop simultaneously, decision-makers can evaluate the information provided by the master station. Then, a response can be planned to make the best use of employee time and equipment - saving money on maintenance while preventing expensive breakdowns in the future.

How SCADA Master Stations Provide ROI

As such, you can choose the best master SCADA system to generate a return on your investment through cost savings in three primary areas.

Asset Damage

First, master stations enable companies to head off network failures, signal outages, and other costly failures by alerting response teams to problems before they become serious. By doing so, master stations provide companies with the ability to apply the right ounce of prevention.

This reduces total repair and replacement costs for broken equipment, prevents fines or contract penalties due to system failure, and maintains company reputation by providing effective public service.

Average cost savings: $100,000 for major damage and $5,000-20,000 for device repair.

Employee Costs

Secondly, master stations inform the allocation of maintenance and repair resources. By providing clear information about conditions in the field, master stations allow managers to efficiently dispatch their resources. It eliminates the windshield time used on "scouting missions." This includes personnel travel to remote locations to diagnose a problem, travel back to get the tools they need, and then a return trip to make the repair.

By making more efficient use of employee time, companies can perform maintenance and repair work at less cost. Companies also do not have to hire workers to monitor sites around the clock.

Average cost savings: $72,000-120,000 per year for two employees taking multiple site visits.

Equipment Costs

Finally, the efficient allocation of resources supported by master stations also reduces equipment costs. These costs include fuel - always a lodestone for fleet operations - as well as wear and tear on vehicles.

This can produce significant costs for cars and trucks, especially when driving on rocky or ungraded roads to remote locations. For sites that can only be reached by snowmobile, snowcat, or even helicopter or small airplane, the savings are more extensive.

Average cost savings: $2,000-5,000 for helicopter rental alone, plus potentially thousands in other equipment.

Realize Cost Savings

Companies can prevent the loss of tens of millions or more dollars in equipment damage, network downtime, and violated service-license agreements by employing SCADA systems with effective master stations. Users can save additional hefty sums, into the millions for large companies, by maximizing the efficiency of operations. In order to fully realize these benefits, however, companies must choose the right SCADA system and master station.

How to Find the Right Master Station for Your SCADA System

There is no single best master station. The right master station for your network is the one that best meets your short-term - and long-term - needs.

A master station should be able to track all the inputs needed to cover your existing and projected network. It must be able to interpret the different signals coming from many various remote monitoring stations. And, your master station should be able to clearly and simply display the information on the stations it monitors for technicians. It should also send direct alerts via text or email if necessary.

A Master Station for Large Systems with Long Upgrade Cycles

For large systems with long upgrade cycles, master stations should be built to last.

  • They should be physically robust and easy to maintain.
  • Their software should be simple enough to function efficiently.
  • The software should be compatible with upgrades as technology changes.
  • They should offer simplicity to help them stay useful and relevant through generational shifts and personnel changes within companies.
  • Systems should operate seamlessly and effectively for successors even as employees who originally trained on the station leave your company.

When looking for a master station to be the brains of your SCADA system, look for a manufacturer who is interested in and responsive to your needs. They'll be able to find you the right system by learning what your problems are, not by pitching you on their capabilities. Spending the extra time now to find the right master station to fit your needs will pay dividends in the future. It will help you prevent costly equipment failures and network downtime.

At DPS Telecom, we're proud of our reputation as a reliable provider of SCADA systems and master stations to the telecommunications and transportation industries. We'll work with you to find the best solution for your company's needs. If you'd like to inquire about pricing, get a quote today.

Image courtesy PixaBay, Geralt