Proper wireless network design and implementation present challenges for organizations – there are certain variables that affect the topology and its performance in a big way, and not all of them are about the hardware. Not by a long shot.
It’s easy to blame the network build when performance suffers or chaos emerges, but the problems might just as well have to do with how your warehouse has changed: changes in layout, inventory, staffing, etc., which you will see as you scan these ten objectives. Doing this work routinely, this assessment of real system applications shows you where you might get more out of your network.
Considering these ten issues can help your business benefit from a well-connected and well-planned warehouse, where wireless tools manage complicated product processes with ease.
1. Do I have up-to-date and accurate floor plans?
Floor plans and blueprints are going to be your starting point in several ways. Having accurate information helps engineers to plan access points, physical access, and process management. Having CAD drawings is typically better than just having a sketch plan. Either way, having precise information about things like ceiling heights and aisle spaces will be valuable in implementing your design.
2. What materials were used to construct the facility?
Some building materials shield RF signals more than others. In general, you want a sturdy exterior, but also, an interior that doesn’t interfere with your RF signals as your people are working. Stay tuned for more on disruptive materials like aluminum that can hinder signal capacity inside of the building.
3. How high are the ceilings?
Ceiling height can be a big issue with many warehouses. If access points are ceiling-mounted and pointing down, there will need to be sufficient planning to complete this design. On the other hand, omnidirectional antennas max out at a certain height, beyond which they can be less effective down near the floor. All of that must be considered as you’re designing your system.
4. What will the access points mount to?
As mentioned above, access points can be ceiling-mounted or wall-mounted. They can also be mounted on vehicles for roaming use. Alternately, some of the devices will likely be in an employee’s pocket or strapped to their body. Building the right network means looking at all these options and creating a comprehensively engineered system that utilizes the strengths of each of these approaches.
5. Is there shelving, and how high are the shelves?
Some of the best warehouse wireless deployments benefit from an open plan of some kind. That is if racks and shelves are close-fitting and highly stocked with inventory, having a gap between their top and the ceiling allows for specific access point mounts that get around these kinds of challenges.
6. What type of materials occupies the shelves?
Here, too, engineers will have to look at what’s typically in the building, because as inventory sits on the shelf, it creates its own RF blocking and interference with signals. As mentioned, aluminum is one type of material that will baffle RF signals for devices. In general, light paper goods are more conductive than jars or vats of liquid that can be opaque, especially when stacked close together.
7. What type of devices connect to the wireless?
Some wireless devices are more agile than others. Experts want to look out for single in single out (SISO) devices, and devices with limited power to send and receive signals in multiple directions. Other MIMO devices are often preferable because of their enhanced power and versatility.
8.Are these devices stationary or mobile?
Going back to that question of whether devices will be vehicle-mounted or carried by employees, having stationary or roving devices makes sense according to a particular warehouse plan. For instance, if devices are supposed to be clustering around a picking module, and then moving toward other parts of the building, engineers will be planning around this type of roving model. Where devices are stationary, this may require ‘deadhead’ trips on the part of workers that can challenge efficiencies.
9. Does your wireless solution include tools to monitor RF and channel interference?
As with any kind of network process, observation and monitoring can be valuable. Having specific RF and channel evaluation technologies can show where problems exist and help provide clues on how to solve them.
10. Can I pinpoint RF problems and report on user experience?
This piggybacks on the last issue, which was around reporting and visibility. Being able to access the right data visualization is important in this kind of project, too. The extent to which designs build-in tools for end-user processes determines how agile the systems are, and how easily they can pivot if they need to be improved in some way.
With all these top considerations in mind, your business can excel in modernizing the art of warehouse work. Another key best practice is to periodically perform an annual predictive wireless survey. If you would like to perform a survey or have questions about anything mentioned in this post, please reach out to us using the form below.