3 Signs a Warehouse Needs a Wireless Site Assessment

Tags: Warehousing, Technology

A properly designed wireless network, as well as enhancements made to an existing network, can maximize benefits of the Wi-Fi system and enhance efficiencies across all areas of a business.

Connectivity poses a unique challenge for warehouse operations given constantly shifting inventory, shelving, racking and vehicles, along with potential interference from other wireless equipment. Ensuring a network is working optimally is important for productivity and meeting increasingly tight deadlines.

A well-designed and maintained Wi-Fi network will reduce the amount of time devoted by IT staff to maintaining, troubleshooting, and/or “fixing” the wireless network, and keep users happy and productive.

Here are three signs a warehouse may be due for a wireless site assessment:

#1: Devices Disconnect Intermittently

For warehouse employees, it can be frustrating when devices won’t connect to the network, or disconnect intermittently while they are trying to do their jobs. Without a wireless connection, workers can’t access pick lists, update order information or generate accurate labels.

These disconnections can also be costly to a warehouse operation—potentially offsetting any expected benefits from a significant investment in high-cost devices and real-time warehouse management software.

A wireless site assessment can offer deep insights into the wireless environment and uncover root causes of intermittent disconnections. For example, inventory and safety equipment, such as protective metal cages around access points, can cause interference, which can lead devices to drop connection. There might be a hardware failure at the device level, or there are too few access points to provide sufficient coverage.

By identifying the problem, a site assessment can also help create solutions, such as adjusting shelving/racking or moving access points, that will ensure reliable connectivity for mobile devices.

#2: Devices Won’t Roam on the Network

Wi-Fi roaming is another common pain point for warehouse operators. Mobile devices may drop connections between access points or get “stuck” to a distant access point, which affects network performance. When mobile devices won’t roam as busy employees move across the network, it can be both frustrating and costly.

As is the case with a cellular network, when Wi-Fi clients roam, they move from the usable range of one access point to another. The device has to disconnect from one access point and reconnect to the next. With properly configured access points, this process should take less than half a second.

Roaming problems can result from a number of issues, including excessive cell overlap when access points are overpowered, network bleed between floors or buildings, and software/firmware versioning.

A wireless site assessment can include a full inventory of all access points and client devices to check for firmware/software updates, along with an analysis of network coverage and access point power settings. With this data, companies can determine the cause of roaming issues and adjust or update hardware to fix the problem.

#3: Devices are Slow to Respond

New mobile devices with modern operating systems should provide fast performance. If the user interface or application is sluggish, it can affect employee productivity.

To speed up performance, many companies mistakenly turn up the power on Wi-Fi access points. However, overpowering access points can lead to mobile devices connecting to distant access points, which slows down the network even more. This can also cause roaming problems, as discussed earlier.

A wireless site assessment can ensure wireless networks were designed for optimal performance. By isolating each node in the wireless network (both access points and devices), a site survey can determine what is causing slow response times and provide the data needed to develop a mitigation plan.

A future-proof Wi-Fi network is essential given the large number of devices expected to join the warehouse wireless network in the future—everything from new mobile computers to material handling equipment and warehouse robots.

A wireless site assessment can help ensure warehouse Wi-Fi networks are healthy and robust, allowing operators to future-proof their existing Wi-Fi investments.






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