The Wireless Warehouse: 5 of the Top WiFi Challenges Warehousing Faces

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | September 22, 2016 | Read Time: 4 mins

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Every warehouse business is concerned with productivity and efficiency. The problem however, is that many struggle to gain the right amount of visibility into their operations that allows them to make better informed decisions.

In order to avoid increasing operational costs, many warehouse businesses have turned to wireless technologies, software and real-time data to solve their operational issues.

The key to your success is having the proper foundation to support those new initiatives; this is where having a fast, reliable and secure wireless network becomes a critical utility.

However, there are many obstacles along the way.

From our experience of deploying wireless platforms inside the warehouse environment, here are five of the top Wi-Fi challenges these businesses are facing today.

Understanding the Role of Warehouse Wireless Networks

Before we jump into the challenges, let's quickly address how wireless fits into the bigger picture.

Typically, the first step for a lot of warehouses is improving their inventory management processes.

This means implementing an inventory management system (software), barcode scanners, RF guns or possibly other mobile devices such as tablets.

Again, that's a great plan, and one we've seen quite often, however, it requires the right infrastructure to function properly.

Beyond inventory is the actual tracking of products, people and machines. This is a more advanced feature, however, still completely doable with the right wireless system in place.

To sum it up, wireless networks are the foundation that will support things like the IoT, mobile devices or specific process updates like deploying an inventory management system.

Challenge 1: What Infrastructure Do You Need?

One of the most common challenges we see today are warehouse decision makers and even IT management not understanding how wireless technology can be used inside the modern warehouse.

If you don't know what's possible, how can you expect to fix outdated processes and more importantly, how will you know what infrastructure components you need to make any of these new improvements possible?

You have to understand what technology is available to solve a particular problem, and then what systems you need to make it happen.

Challenge 2: Your Existing Network is Outdated

This is a pretty straightforward problem that many businesses have—not just warehouses. Wireless networks need to be refreshed ever 3-5 years.

Supporting secure mobility and the features warehouses are looking to take advantage of needs the right wireless network design to deliver positive results.

You could go out and buy the most expensive access points and switches etc but without the right design that new equipment will end up causing you more problems than it solves.

Challenge 3: The Physical Environment

The physical environment inside warehouses and other manufacturing facilities is not very friendly when designing a Wi-Fi network. You really have to know what you're doing to get it right.

Everything inside of a warehouse will impact your wifi performance. From the products or materials being stored inside, the material your racks are made out of, to machines and the warehouse layout, everything has to be taken into consideration and properly planned for to get your WLAN design right.

Challenge 4: Scaling and Planning for Capacity

Again, this is a common problem found in a lot of different environments, and warehousing is no exception.

As you add more devices and more connected things (industrial internet of things) onto the warehouse floor your warehouse wireless network will have to be able to adapt and grow to continue to properly support everyone and everything.

Your design should be planned out from the beginning with growth in mind, take a look at the video below to learn why capcity is so important today.

Challenge 5: Troubleshooting

Typically, warehouse networks and the departments they support are disconnected and isolated from one another in silos. When you add the growing number of mobile and connected devices to the mix this creates big problems when it comes to troubleshooting things like downtime, and as we know, downtime, especially in warehouses means money.

You have to be able to quickly pinpoint the source of a problem so you can fix it without it causing any hiccups in your business's operations.

Your warehouse wireless network should be managed by a single, central dashboard that monitors every corner of your network in real-time.

This will help you have the visibility and control you need to make sure everything is performing as it should, and should a problem occur you can limit any negative impacts by being able to quickly locate and fix the issue.

Where should you start?

Designing a wireless warehouse can be difficult and complex, there is a specific Wi-Fi engineering process that has to be followed to maximize your results.

The first step is completing an RF design or RF heat map through a predictive site survey. This will be the foundation from which everything else is built upon.

Deploying wireless inside the modern-day warehouse is as much an art as it is a science, where experience and knowledge will directly impact the results you're able to achieve.

At SecurEdge Networks, we create fast, secure, easy to support wireless networks that are affordable for businesses of all shapes and sizes—it's all we do. If you have any questions about your current Wi-Fi network,or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here today.

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