The main difference between DCS (Distributed Control System) and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems is the scale at which they are used and the level of control they provide.

About DCS

DCS systems are used for smaller-scale, distributed control of industrial processes. They place a greater emphasis on process control and include a supervisory control level. They deliver information to the operator as part of this process.


SCADA systems are used for large-scale, centralized control of industrial processes. They are event-driven and prioritize data gathering. They concentrate on the acquisition of data. SCADA systems are also more scalable and flexible, so they can be used to collect data from a single machine or an entire plant.

Applications of DCS and SCADA

DCS systems are used to control production systems within the same geographic location for industries such as oil refineries, water and wastewater treatment, electric power generation plants, chemical manufacturing plants, automotive production, and pharmaceutical processing facilities.

For example, a petroleum refinery is a good example of safety-critical plant where many DCSs control safety-critical processes in which failure or outage of equipment could cause personal injury or loss of life.

SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems are computerized control systems that enable companies to gather real-time data, make data-driven decisions or manage various industrial processes.

SCADA systems are used to control and monitor physical processes such as transmission of electricity, transportation of gas and oil in pipelines, water distribution, traffic lights, and other systems used as the basis of modern society.

Advantages of the two systems

Some of the advantages of using SCADA systems are:

  1. Increased life of the equipment being used by through immediate knowledge of system performance
  2. Reduced labor costs required for troubleshooting or service
  3. Increased compliance with regulatory agencies through automated report generating
  4. No requirement of large capital investment
  5. Data can be displayed in various formats as per user requirements.

Some of the advantages of using DCS are:

  1. Improved process control: DCSs use advanced control algorithms, such as PID control, to provide precise and accurate control of processes
  2. Scalability: DCSs can be easily expanded to control larger and more complex processes
  3. Access a large amount of current information from the data highway
  4. Minimal troubleshooting required
  5. Contains HMI graphics and faceplates.

All in all, the application fields of the two PLC system architectures are different, but there are also certain intersections. When making a selection, it should be determined according to the project requirements.

Looking for a Expandable PLC for your next project ? Click to learn more!