So you think it is time to install or upgrade your SCADA system. Where do you begin? How do you avoid the risk of over/under sizing the system, missing key parts, or selecting a bad SCADA integrator? In addition, if you are, like most facility managers, being asked to do more with less and pressured to go with the lowest bid procurement, you might do a haphazard job. You might be forced to use unreliable components, poor programming, incorrect telemetry and SCADA software selection, poor emergency monitoring, and weak data collection, which can lead to unintended consequences.

It would seem the only way to minimize risks is to hire an engineering firm to write the SCADA specifications. Yet, most engineers are not SCADA experts. Few understand, at a micro level, all the costs and benefits of the various SCADA options. The engineered specifications often lead to unimaginative SCADA systems that cost more and deliver less than ideal performance. In addition, because they lack some creative options, it can lead to operating costs that far outweigh the initial system costs. For example, does it monitor the rate of change to monitor a plugged flow, has a heartbeat monitor, or sends alarms up a ladder to ensure a timely response? Just those three options can avoid tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Developing an engineering specification is omitted in the private sector and increasingly at water and wastewater facilities. Despite the challenges, there are measures you can take to select the most qualified SCADA integrator to design, build, and install the best SCADA system for your available resources.

Qualification-Based Selection (QBS) is a common approach for selecting professional services and is also an effective approach to selecting a SCADA Integrator. QBS is a competitive procurement process whereby integrators submit qualifications to the procuring facility. The procurer selects the most qualified firm and then negotiates the project scope—work, schedule, budget, and fee.

Research shows that when post-sales service, quality, and value matter, using the QBS delivers.

The risks of low-price selection

When integrators are selected based on price, the buyer risks selecting a compromised system while respecting the specifications. They may be cutting their costs by using less reliable components, but this will fail a few years later. Minimizing programming time results in less-than-optimal processes, may not have the post-project support, and risk not delivering the system on time. The marginal savings could lead to substantial process costs, downtime, and emergency costs.

QBS helps owners evaluate multiple systems and select the most economical long-term solution.

Municipalities that don’t have the resources to use a QBS procurement system for a SCADA system should engage a consultant to join their team and fill that gap.

QBS teams can follow these key steps to designing a SCADA system that meets current and future SCADA needs.

  1. Identify the project and general scope of work
  2. List the assets that require monitoring and control
  3. List the parameters that are to be monitored
  4. List the key features required with the SCADA software
  5. Issue a request for qualification
  6. Evaluate the qualifications
  7. Develop a short list of qualified firms to interview
  8. Conduct Interviews
  9. Rank firms
  10. Select the top-ranked firm
  11. Jointly define the scope with the top-ranked SCADA integrator
  12. Negotiate the fee
  13. Execute the contract

If you can’t agree on a scope and fee, move to the second-ranked firm.

Need More Convincing?

A 2009 study by Paul S. Chinowski, PhD., University of Colorado, and Gordon A. Kingsley, PhD., Georgia Institute of Technology, (2009), “An Analysis of Issues Pertaining to Qualifications-Based Selection,” found:

  • Reduce order costs from 10% of the overall project to 3%
  • Lowers risk for complex projects
  • 93% of owners surveyed on QBS projects in the study rated the success as high or very high
  • Includes more stakeholders in the design process
  • Promotes a high level of innovation
  • Enhances the future municipal operating staff’s capability

In the study’s conclusion, the authors wrote:

“In summary, projects incorporating the QBS procurement method outperform the national average in traditional measures and exhibit positive results in emerging areas. . . . .”

New to QBS?

The internet offers many resources available to guide you through the process. For municipalities, the American Public Works Association (APWA) offers the APWA Red Book, a guide for public agencies that includes a step-by-step process. In Michigan, there is the website

Maximize post-sales service, quality, and value—hire the best with QBS. Contact UIS SCADA if you have identified a project we can help you with.

Learn More

Check out our case study that showcases the QBS process