Cheap Measurement & Control is Rarely Smart

The Best Treatment Operators

The best treatment operators are masters of their craft.  You are responsible for critical infrastructure that supports the health and well-being of the people in your community.   You have to get it right every day because quality of life for hundreds and even thousands of people depends on you.  The demands of your job require expertise in chemistry, biology, personnel management and computer technology.  That is a lot of responsibility on one set of shoulders in a rapidly changing and ever more demanding world. All of this has to be balanced with your financial responsibilities.  And there is often pressure from town hall to go cheap rather than smart when it comes to your measurement and control technology.  

An educated treatment operator understands that smart measurement and control systems are more cost-effective than merely cheap ones. In the same way, cheap measurement and control is rarely smart.  

The Myth of Prepackaged SCADA

Cheap, easy and customizable- When it comes to measurement and control systems, you can only have two and often only one.   Unfortunately, some control technology providers are peddling prepackaged SCADA that are mostly just cheap.  

Cheap means it’s a DIY project.  

Cheap means that you have to design a system that meets your needs.  Cheap means that you need to determine what needs to be monitored and how.  Cheap means that you have to integrate their proprietary software with their proprietary hardware.  Cheap means that you have to wire the devices.  Cheap means that you have to determine an alarm strategy.    Cheap means that at the end of the day you are responsible for how well it works.  Cheap means that you are accountable for any system shortcomings.   Cheap means that you have to maintain the system.  Cheap means that you have to troubleshoot and repair it when it fails.  For most users, these solutions are only cheap to buy, because the “Y” in DIY will pay in terms of time, attention, frustration and unnecessary exposure to personal risk.  

Easy means it isn’t customizable

Easy means that you get to pick and choose from a limited selection of canned reports and control strategies.  If you need anything that isn’t available “off the rack,” or if your needs change in the future,  you will be stuck with a poorly fitting solution.  And there is no way to custom tailor these systems because they are based on a “closed” system approach.  

These product offerings are only cheap and easy as long as you have nothing better to do with your time, your operation can accept a cookie-cutter solution with no customization and your needs will never change.  

The Problem with Proprietary  

Another alternative is the proprietary or single-source solution.  Single-source mean that you are “locked in” to one supplier regardless of their performance, pricing or product offerings for the service life of your system.   Single-source vendors offer “closed” non-industry-standard architectures and provide limited or no programming access.   These systems are difficult to integrate with other systems.   It is possible but they require “workarounds” due to their non-standard design.  So generally they will be your single-source when you want to add or change anythingNegotiating price with a single-source vendor is also a challenge that must be considered.    And if you become dissatisfied with their performance, pricing or product selection,  you will have to live with that disappointment or pay for a replacement because third-party support is virtually nonexistent.        

Easy means having it their way 

Single source vendors offer “cookie cutter” or “one-size-fits-all” approach to SCADA.  It’s easy for you because you don’t have many choices to make.  It’s easy for them because they don’t have to offer customization.   Nevertheless, easy means having it their way.  

Cheap means old technology

Proprietary vendors keep prices down by manufacturing and selling essentially the same product for decades.    One vendor “sells” their stagnant product line as an advantage with a 20-year guarantee of no product obsolescence.  This is just a way to “spin” the fact that they won’t be offering their customers anything new for a long time.    They save enormous amounts of money by not investing much in R&D for new products.   In the industry it’s called  “milking the cow” and customers are their “cow.”   Evidence of “milking the cow” can be seen in current offerings that appear to be a generation behind the competition.   When considering a proprietary system vendor you should seriously weigh the following: 

  • Does it make sense to invest in a system with a 10-year lifecycle that is already out of date before it is installed? The SCADA/controls/HMI industry is rapidly evolving to provide improved operational efficiency and effectiveness unimaginable just 5 years ago. By getting stuck in the past, you will forfeit the financial and operational benefits of emerging technologies.

  • How long you will have to wait for a desired new feature to be developed. As a single-source supplier, they alone determine when and if you can have what you need.

  • How will this “old technology” integrate with your other systems in the future? Modern “open systems” utilize industry standard methods of communication that facilitate easier integration of disparate systems. Owners of proprietary systems will always have to factor “workarounds” into their budget and schedule for integration projects. And any time your other systems require upgrade, the necessary “workarounds” will again have to be addressed.

A full featured SCADA for less than the monthly cost of Chlorine  

Smart operators know that they can’t afford cheap solutions because so many people are depending on them to provide safe effective treatment.  Your time is better spent on optimizing operations and plant resources.   And you don’t really want to settle for the limitations of proprietary solutions because technology should adapt to your needs, not force you to adapt to its limitations.

 But what if you could get the benefits of a modern, full-featured, “open system” SCADA customized for your operation?   What if  there was no hardware to purchase nor any upfront cost?  What if the system was guaranteed to never become obsolete?   What if you never had to pay for service, training or maintenance?  What if you didn’t have to wonder ,“what if?” 

You don’t have buy cheap a measurement and control system.  Instrulogic offers smart measurement and control solutions to fit any budget.   With over 25 years of measurement and control experience and as the industry leader in SCADA  innovation, Instrulogic is committed to discovering and implementing the most cost-effective solutions for all of your measurement and control needs.  With our eye on the future, we bring new and innovative solutions to everyday problems.  Instrulogic’s exclusive “Service SCADA” provides advanced SCADA capability with no upfront costs or capital spending.  In fact, most municipal operators can add full featured SCADA to their operations for less than the cost of chlorine supplies.  

You don’t have to wonder “what if?” 

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Ray Cowell