DCS vs SCADA: Difference and Comparison

You’ve probably heard of the term Distributed Control System (DCS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems if you operate in an enterprise environment for industrial automation.

A DCS system and a SCADA system have a lot in common because they both are known as controlled computer systems that receive and evaluate legitimate data to enable remote access monitoring and management.

However, if you’re deciding which technology is ideal for your monitoring program, it’s critical to understand the distinctions. So, let’s have a look at certain characteristics of SCADA and DCS systems and compare and contrast them.

Key Takeaways

  1. DCS (Distributed Control Systems) focus on controlling processes within a localized area.
  2. SC SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems monitor and control processes across large, geographically dispersed areas.
  3. Both systems help manage industrial operations, but DCS is better for complex processes, while SCADA excels in monitoring and data collection.


The difference between DCS and SCADA is data-gathering oriented, while DCS is process orientated. DCS places a greater emphasis on process control and includes a supervisory control level. It also delivers the information to the operator as part of this process. SCADA, on the other hand, focuses on gathering process data and presenting it to the users and control centre.


The DCS is most commonly seen in industries, where it is housed in a smaller space. It makes use of a high-speed communication channel, including a local area network (LAN).

DCS is process-oriented, seeing the controlled process as the centre of the universe and one of its functions as data presentation to controllers.

The SCADA system is designed to span a greater geographic area. It could use a variety of communication tools, including radio and telephone. SCADA is focused on data collection:

Its universe revolves around the control centre and workers. The remote equipment’s sole aim is to collect data, albeit it may also do some extremely complicated process control.

Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison DCSSCADA
FocusFocuses on Central control of processes.Focuses on data Acquisition.
AbilityDCS can’t endure communication outages.SCADA can endure communication outrages.
Communication ProtocolsSupport exclusive protocols.Support open protocols. 
Processing TimeData processing time is slower.Data processing time is faster.
Specialties DCS is perfect for managing network operations.SCADA is great for keeping track of procedures and gadgets.

What is DCS?

A distributed control system (DCS) is an automated control system that comprises geographically dispersed control systems throughout a facility or control region. A dedicated controller controls each processing element, device, or group of units in DCS.

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DCS is made up of a large number of local controllers that are linked by a rising speed communication network in various portions of the plant security zone.

Data acquisition and control processes are carried out in a DCS control unit by a variety of DCS controllers, which are microprocessor-based components spread functionally and geographically throughout the facility

and located near areas where controlling or data-gathering duties are done.

Integrated controllers can interact with each other as well as other controllers, such as supervisor terminals, operators terminals, analyzers, and so on.

Field devices, such as sensing devices, are connected to scattered individual automatic controllers. These controllers verify that collected data is shared with other hierarchical controllers via various field connections.

The connection between the controllers is established via various field bridges or conventional routing protocols. Modbus, HART,  Profibus, and arc net are a few examples.

DCS is best suited for monitoring and controlling a huge number of ongoing controller parameters in large-scale processing or manufacturing facilities.

The key benefit of separating control duties for dispersed controllers is that the plant can continue running even if a DCS component fails.

What is SCADA? 

SCADA, or supervisory control and data acquisition, is a hardware and software system for monitoring and controlling industrial processes.

Manufacturers can gather and analyze real-time production statistics, control and evaluate alerts and implement automatic control reactions prompted by certain circumstances or system characteristics using a SCADA system.

System monitoring, computerized management of industrial applications and machinery, data gathering and analysis, occasion and alarm alerts, and reporting are all key capabilities of SCADA.

It collects information from the sensors and other monitoring equipment, which might be digitized or analogue, to accomplish these activities. The data is subsequently transferred to a remote terminal unit (RTU) or a programmable logic controller (PLC),

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which converts it into useful information. Finally, the data is communicated to operators via a human-machine interface (HMI) or other kinds of displays for analysis and interaction.

SCADA systems also allow for the automation of industrial operations and machinery that would otherwise have been too complicated for human operation.

SCADA systems can detect unusual variables or alerts using sensors and measuring equipment and act immediately with a specified control system.

Food and beverage manufacturing, Pharmaceutical,  Water/Wastewater control, and HVAC and corporate building management are just a few of the areas where Process Solutions has performed SCADA systems.

By delivering economically important data to controllers and management, a SCADA system can assist in reducing production waste and enhance overall efficiency in your plant.

The data obtained from a SCADA system can help you make data-driven decisions, which can result in increased output production, lower costs, and better data processing.

Main Differences Between DCS and SCADA

  1. DCS is the expression for Distributed control systems, whereas SCADA is the acronym for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition.
  2. DCS is process-oriented, whereas SCADA is data-gathering-oriented.
  3. DCS is a process state-driven, whereas the SCADA system is event-driven.
  4. DCS systems are more integrated and capable of higher-level tasks, whereas SCADA systems are more adaptable.
  5. DCS comprises one or more controllers that are utilized to apply advanced process control techniques, whereas SCADA systems are unable to do so.
  6. DCS is a process control technology that links sensors, processors, operator interfaces, and actuators via a network. A DCS has one or more processors for control and communication using proprietary linkages and protocols, whereas SCADA stands for Human-Machine Interface (HMI). SCADA sensors are used to monitor and control chemical, physical, and technological processes.
  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/6119279/
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-28920-0_7

Last Updated : 02 August, 2023

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22 thoughts on “DCS vs SCADA: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The detailed explanation of DCS and SCADA systems, their communication abilities, and how they are best utilized in different situations was very informative. It’s an excellent resource for anyone dealing with industrial automation.

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  4. Thanks for the informative post! It’s great to understand the key differences between DCS and SCADA. I appreciate the comparison table that lays out the distinctions between the two systems.

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