Why You Need Your WiFi to Support Rush Environments in Manufacturing & Warehousing
Now more than ever, WiFi needs to be a supportive partner in manufacturing and warehousing industries – a resource that all employees can depend on, that works with them to keep productivity high and stress low. Without this reliable partner, companies say goodbye to operational efficiency and positive user experience.
Here’s how these networks support other technologies and the best ways to protect and preserve optimal performance.
Turning to technology to solve challenges
Companies are still adjusting to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the Great Resignation. Everyone wants to rush back to steady order fulfillment and shipping, but it isn’t always clear how best to do that. One constant is the promise that new technologies hold the answer.
This promise is full of truth. Many of these technologies are AI-based and automated. They can monitor complex machinery and report performance issues, continuously gather metrics from laptops to improve UX, and even automate electricity and temperature controls to lower building costs.
However, even the smartest technology can be the wrong choice if it doesn’t adequately address a company’s pain point. Companies need detailed insights into not only what problem they need to resolve, but also how smart tech will do so. Does a technology seamlessly fit into a company’s processes and practices, or will it cause unnecessary disruption? Will employees feel relieved once the tech is up and running, or resentful?
The only way to understand the employee perspective is to communicate with employees. When it comes to machinery and infrastructure though – while employee feedback is important – it’s also necessary to have a deeper, technical understanding of what is currently happening and what the ideal would look like.
In a full-circle way of doing business, this often means relying on technology. This type of technology, analytics technology, is designed to deliver analytical insights, and performance and behavior feedback. This tells companies if other technologies are working as desired and what, if any, changes need to be made.
This makes analytical technologies a good place for companies to start, but it shouldn’t be the first step. The very first step is optimizing the WiFi network.
Optimizing the WiFi network must come first
Most technologies, analytics or otherwise, depend on the WiFi network. Any issues that disrupt WiFi performance ripple out to impact everything and everyone in a company.
WiFi network issues might result in:
- Website downtime
- Order fulfillment delays
- Communication problems for employees and customers
- Loss of performance data analytics
- Missed identification of machine issues
- Poorly performing technology like inventory scanners
- Problems for financial departments
These issues, any of which can cause big headaches for companies, are only a few of the possible issues that can result when a WiFi network isn’t reliable. This network has to be on-point at all times. Productivity and reputation depend on it.
How to design and maintain a trusted WiFi network
Take the following actions to ensure that your workplace provides the best support for your business.
WiFi network design begins with a site survey. These surveys are performed by experts in order to determine where access points (APs) should be placed for optimum network performance. This involves identifying any possible interference that can inhibit a WiFi signal, including:
- Shelving units
- Neighboring networks
With sources of obstruction identified, a network can be designed that best fits a company’s space and needs.
This design may need to be updated in the future, though. WiFi networks are dynamic, not static, and the same can be said for manufacturing and warehousing environments. As devices are added and replaced, as shelves and desks are rearranged, as more employees are hired and new technologies adopted, network needs change. Another site survey may be needed to keep ahead of interference.
However, this isn’t a company’s only option. While site surveys are important in the beginning, they do only provide a snapshot in time. Once a network is up and running, companies can use analytics tools to get constant insight into WiFi infrastructure needs.
There are a number of analytics solutions on the market. Here’s what to look for when making your decision.
- The WiFi network ecosystem must be the platform’s or tool’s priority. Companies need to know everything there is to know about this ecosystem. The platform should be designed with this in mind, not as an afterthought. Look for analytics that include insight into the entire radio frequency (RF) environment: your network, nearby networks, backend and frontend infrastructure, connected devices, wired and wireless sources of interference, and non-WiFi interference.
- 24/7 analytics are non-negotiable. There should never be a pause in data analysis because that increases the odds that an issue or other vital performance metric will go unidentified. If the analytics platform is an all-in-one solution, meaning it provides passive traffic analysis and active network testing, it must include at least three WiFi radios. One radio can analyze 2.4GHz traffic, one can analyze 5GHz traffic, and the other can perform any other necessary tasks, such as running network tests. Without this third radio, one of the networks must go unmonitored while testing is performed. If a separate testing platform is selected – one that must focus on the WiFi ecosystem – it is possible to work with an analytics solution with only 2 radios.
- Testing must be continuous. While passive behavior analysis is important, so is active testing. Running tests on a continuous basis ensures that problems can be identified and resolved proactively, often before user experience is impacted. Companies should test wireless connectivity and internet connectivity; applications; devices (what devices are connected and what are their capabilities?), security systems, servers, SSIDs, and capabilities like video conferencing. The goal here is complete network visibility and an end to WiFi mysteries.
- Vendor-agnostic insights can simplify problem solving. Sometimes, having a third-party point of view can eliminate “finger-pointing” when it comes to issue identification and resolution. Working with a vendor-agnostic solution gives companies that boost. It also ensures that the same solution can be used for decades, no matter how often WiFi and AP vendors change.
- Historical analytics are a goldmine. Oftentimes businesses focus on real-time answers. These are crucially important and are one of the reasons we recommend prioritizing 24/7 analytics. However, they aren’t the only type of analytics that matter. Historical analytics provide insight into long-term performance trends. This gives companies the ability to identify issues that might not materialize in real-time reports. For example, perhaps AP performance has gradually slowed over the last 6 months, while still remaining above an identified threshold. This is valuable information. It’s these insights that help decision makers allocate future funds efficiently and effectively.
If you want to not only improve the WiFi network’s reliability, but also significantly reduce resolution times and the number of WiFi issues, look for analytics solutions that deliver the following.
- Artificial intelligence. All networks have unique demands and challenges. An analytics solution that is powered by artificial intelligence has the potential to learn to recognize a specific network’s expected behavior, and then alert IT when that behavior changes in any way.
- Automatic alerts with root cause identification. With this capability, IT can trust that the network is optimized unless otherwise alerted. This gives teams more time to focus on other responsibilities. If an alert is delivered, the root cause identification means teams can jump immediately to implementing a resolution. Without this identification, it can take anywhere from hours to weeks to identify the source of a problem, especially if that problem is intermittent.
- Remote troubleshooting. This is invaluable, especially for IT teams that are responsible for multiple buildings and/or multiple locations. The ability to review network behavior and resolve problems from any location results in fewer remote site visits, lower travel costs, and faster problem solving.
- Ease of use. The faster a solution starts working, and the faster any training is completed, the faster a WiFi network is optimized. With that being the ultimate goal in order to support overall operational efficiency, it’s an important consideration. When researching solutions, ask how much training is required, how often customer service agents are available, what the installation process is, and how long until analytics are received.
Success starts with the WiFi network
With most critical tasks dependent on a reliable WiFi connection, companies in the manufacturing and warehousing industry can’t afford to ignore the WiFi network. If you’d like to learn more about WiFi analytics platforms and WiFi automation, contact us at any time. Our Wireless Intelligence Platform™ delivers:
- 90% faster Mean-Time-to-Resolution
- 70% fewer WiFi problem tickets
- 80% fewer remote site visits