• Four Steps of Basic SCADA Troubleshooting

by Guest Blogger Andrew Green

Trouble shooting demonstratedThis post in the second installment in a series on SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and the art of troubleshooting. The idea is to provide information on a term that traditionally frightens users and make them aware of common problems, ready solutions, and how to avoid downtime as a result. You can read Part 1: Defining SCADA Components here.

Find five different companies and ask for a philosophy on troubleshooting and the result will be five different answers. The truth is, there isn't necessarily a "wrong" way to troubleshoot. The only bad method is the one that doesn't work. That being said, there are certain processes that are more effective than others. There are also certain commonalities in all troubleshooting. What differs from method to method is the order in which these steps are placed. The underlying principle is to check easy stuff first. That is, by far, the most efficient use of time when it comes to the troubleshooting process. Here's our favorite path:

  1.  Define the Problem: "That's all troubleshooting is, anyway!" I can hear it now. And that's correct. Identifying the "trouble" part of the equation is paramount. But there must also be proposed solution. "Break-Fix" jobs are only actual "jobs" if the fix is performed. Defining the problem is a key step that consists of a situational analysis followed by a root cause analysis (RCA). It is vital to not only determine the situation (problem) but to understand the cause. Troubleshooters are quick to get caught up in the symptoms of a problem instead of the actual cause. At Revere, we like to ask questions about the process and the problem for our RCA.
  2. Generate Alternatives: Think of this step as coming up with all sorts of possible solutions. No decision has been made yet. This step is simply coming up with possibilities. Nothing is off the table in the alternative generation segment of the process.
  3. Evaluate Alternatives: Make a list of pros and cons for each alternative. Knowing how they compare to each other, the current situation, and how the benefits match up with the other solutions is key to knowing which alternative generates the most value. This is assuming, of course, that multiple alternatives can solve the problem. Another thing to consider is the opportunity cost of the alternatives - or, the cost of the next best alternative. Lower opportunity cost means that there is less risk if the alternative fails.
  4. Execute and Track: The final step is to execute the decided upon solution and track the progress. How was the process performing before relative to how it is performing now? When the reevaluation happens, what needs to be changed to make the solution more effective?

Though this is a very broad overview and every situation is different, the process is similar for all of our troubleshooting. It is important to note that identifying the problem and solution is 75% of the process. Execution is the easy part. Troubleshooting is all about leveraging knowledge and problem solving abilities to find the best solution that adds the most value to the process.

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