Mobility and Wi-Fi Networks in the Manufacturing Industry

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Mobility and Wi-Fi Networks in the Manufacturing Industry

Prioritizing mobility when designing and upgrading Wi-Fi networks for manufacturers

Manufacturing companies need dependable Wi-Fi to ensure a healthy bottom line. Designing Wi-Fi networks for these settings poses a set of unique challenges, however, one of which is mobility. The vast size of some spaces, surrounding materials, and the number and variety of devices are just a few of the concerns that network engineers need to consider.

To design and maintain an optimized Wi-Fi network, it’s important to understand the specific needs of manufacturers and how mobility is a critical component of their operations. Here are some of key manufacturing functions that rely on mobility as well as other factors to plan for when designing, upgrading, or monitoring a network in this industry.

Why mobility matters for manufacturing networks

Mobility is a necessity with any modern Wi-Fi network, but manufacturing operations have an especially high demand for it. Consider the following scenarios that are made possible by a network focused on mobility:

  • A large warehouse or manufacturing plant with thousands of employees, storage of various materials, extensive machinery, and immense open space can run flawlessly to move products through the supply chain and out the door.
  • Operators and technicians can communicate with managers about the status of inventory, ensuring more accurate forecasting and order fulfillment.
  • Managers and supervisors can move freely to maintain inventory, place orders, fill reports, and communicate with their staff.
  • Technicians and machine operators are more productive by communicating with staff, running diagnostics, and maintaining the integrity of the equipment.
  • A security threat or safety hazard can be effectively handled with real-time communication and flawless control over production and machinery in need of a shut down.
  • Streamline inventory movement. For example, forklift operators stay in touch when retrieving inventory, and managers are immediately notified when stock runs out. Loading dock staff can also ensure order accuracy and prompt delivery.

Factors that affect mobility for manufacturing networks

The size of the space

Manufacturing facilities are typically very large, open spaces, which is why a site survey is always recommended to understand the layout. Proper network coverage that allows workers to maintain a seamless requires correct AP placement and antennae position. Wireless bridges are also an option for large spaces, helping to extend the signal from the router to devices.

Materials

The construction materials used in the building as well as the material stored inside the space can have a dramatic impact on the network. Concrete, brick, and timber rate as the top three worst materials for Wi-Fi signals to pass through. Shelving and equipment on the plant floor can also make it difficult to prevent signal drops.

Machinery

Equipment that uses radio signals for operation, such as a forklift, can cause interference with the Wi-Fi signal. Designers also need to consider more sophisticated machinery that relies on a network connection, and how that usage impacts network performance.

Number of devices

A streamlined manufacturing facility requires that employees can move with their mobile devices to do inventory, quality control, shipping, and maintenance. The manufacturing industry is also adopting IoT devices and sensors in greater numbers to analyze operations. Add to that the number of personal devices employees bring with them to work, and there is quite a load to carry.

Network access

Prioritizing mobility also means prioritizing network traffic and access. Manufacturers have a regular flow of vendors and other offsite personnel who need access to the network for maintenance and business operations. There is also a front office that must be seamlessly integrated with all activity on the floor. Creating separate networks for guests, office work, and the warehouse or plant can optimize the performance of each.

How monitoring can maximize efficiency and performance

Manufacturing facilities are complicated ecosystems. If one system breaks down or one task goes uncompleted, it can impact many aspects of the operation. Maintaining a Wi-Fi network of this complexity and size is only possible with sufficient monitoring.

Wireless network monitoring (WNM) gives businesses a bird’s eye view of their entire network and every device on it. It proactively alerts network managers to issues with specific devices before they cause larger issues. Monitoring also collects performance data over time so companies have greater understanding of the challenges their network is facing—and how to plan for expansion.

7SIGNAL is a cloud-based wireless network monitoring platform that continuously tests the network and devices for performance issues, maximizing uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. Our Mobile Eye module lives on individual mobile and IoT devices to track roaming issues, interference, AP coverage problems, congestion, and more.

Unreliable Wi-Fi is simply not an option in manufacturing facilities, where so much relies on efficiency and cohesion. By measuring Wi-Fi performance from the network’s edge and capturing the end-user experience, 7SIGNAL gives you maximum visibility and control.

Contact us today to learn more about our manufacturing network solutions.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in Wi-Fi Performance Management.  The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wi-Fi performance management solution that continuously monitors the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity and network ROI.  The platform was designed to support the Wi-Fi management needs of the world’s largest organizations, educational institutions, hospitals and government agencies.  7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 5 million global devices.  Learn more at www.7signal.com.

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