What is the Difference Between PLC and SCADA?

In industrial scenarios that deal with water, waste and oil
and gas, the technology used to monitor the process is often complicated.
Without installing the correct technology, these industries wouldn’t be able to
provide the essential services that people rely on.

Two of the most critical technological advances within the
industrial world are SCADA and PLC. These technologies work hand-in-hand to
provide a vital service.

What is PLC?

PLC stands for ‘Programmable
Logic Controller’, which is installed to monitor system sensors, by
collecting data and critical information about the flow and input within the

A PLC will also perform basic interventions, triggering
outputs when the pre-programmed limitations are met. A PLC is a versatile piece
of hardware; able to perform under challenging conditions where advanced
options and real-time usage are necessary. For instance, PLCs can control some
of the more complex processes within industrial operations, such as monitoring
running motors and machinery.

These devices are very flexible and easy to programme, which
means they can function in a wide range of solutions. Modern PLCs were
manufactured to upgrade the relays and timers which were previously used in
industrial machinery.

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What is SCADA?

SCADA is an acronym for ‘Supervisory Control and
Data Acquisition’, which is used as a monitoring software. SCADA helps to
control hardware elements and creates a record of any data collected from all
the remote locations across the operation.

SCADA can be connected to computers, graphical user
interfaces, sensors and data communications in order to provide a broad
overview of the entire process. Teams can use SCADA to monitor systems
operations to decide how to correct operational faults.

Since SCADA is a central system, it is commonly installed on
a computer within the monitoring hub of a plant. In order to provide the
necessary information, SCADA can work in conjunction with a variety of other
systems, to pull together a range of data for assessment.

Using this collection of data, teams can input changes to
control the operation of working parts across the entire operation.

What is the
Difference Between PLC & SCADA?

The primary difference between a PLC and SCADA is the
technology. For example, a PLC is a physical hardware, whereas SCADA is
software. This means that a PLC can be picked up and physically inspected,
whereas SCADA works on a computer system, and is comparable to that of an
operating system, like Windows for example.

SCADA is designed to operate on a much broader scale since
it can monitor and collect information from every output of a system. A PLC, on
the other hand, will only focus on monitoring only one element within the

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How PLC and SCADA Work Together

Image from Electrical Engineering Portal

Because these technologies are so different, it’s easy to
think that PLC and SCADA aren’t connected. However, the association between the
two technologies are crucial. Both PLCs and SCADA are used within the same
industrial context.

This means that the two work together to support safe and
effective operation within a plant. SCADA can be looked upon as the broad
software structure that supports the overall system. Whereas PLCs operate
within the system that SCADA oversees.

The PLCs require SCADA to control their operation, whereas
the SCADA needs the data collected by the PLCs to do this job effectively.

For instance, if the system is monitoring a piece of
machinery, the PLC may retrieve data that suggests there too much vibration.
The PLC will send this data to the SCADA software, which will then inspect the
readout data and decide whether adjustments must be made to the operation of
the system. If change is needed, SCADA will send the instruction back to the
PLCs, which will then enable the change.


As we’ve discovered in this blog, it is not a case of SCADA
versus PLC, but rather a matter of two technologies working in harmony. By
breaking down the functions of both of these systems, it’s plain to see how
they work in conjunction with each other to facilitate superior industrial

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If you want to learn more about SCADA software or PLC
hardware, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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