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How a Raw Materials Company Used 7SIGNAL for Cost Predictability

Discover how one of the world's largest raw materials companies, with operations in dozens countries and a workforce exceeding 100,000 employees, leveraged 7SIGNAL to build an evergreen Wi-Fi environment, increase employee productivity, and reduce cost fluctuation risks.

Value Created by 7SIGNAL:

  • Reduced radio frequency interference (RFI), mitigating production losses amounting to approximately $80,000 USD per hour (depending on commodity prices and other inputs).
  • Curtailed network downtime, which costs them $8,000 - $15,000 USD for every minute of lost production (depending on commodity prices and other inputs).
  • Access to real-time, ground-truth Wi-Fi performance insights.
  • Centralized data reporting, including insight into historical Wi-Fi performance trends.
  • Reduced reliance on onsite Wi-Fi performance testing for identifying root causes of reported issues.
  • Safer, more efficient Wi-Fi troubleshooting.
  • Better meantime to resolution (MTTR) for support issues and less finger pointing.

At 7SIGNAL, we help companies across countless industries increase employee productivity, enhance operational efficiencies, and increase the ROI of IoT by providing state-of-the-art Wi-Fi optimization solutions. While every company comes to us with a unique set of challenges, some are considerably more complex than others.

For example, a leading raw materials company came to us with a considerable challenge. They have a massive operation, with thousands employees operating across hundreds of business units that need to remain reliably connected at all times. Their immense campus has hundreds of specialized environments, including industrial facilities, research and development centers, and distribution centers. Each of these environments has distinct requirements and an array of confounding support-related issues that put immense strain on their IT department.

In the following article, we examine these challenges in detail and show how 7SIGNAL’s Wi-Fi optimization tools helped address them. With that, let’s get started!

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A Large, Complex Environment

Like many large companies that collect, process, and distribute raw materials, this one has an incredibly complex campus consisting of a multitude of unique environments. Spanning an area of over 1,000 acres, their facilities include a diversity of indoor and outdoor spaces, such as carpeted office space, dining areas, coffee shops, recreation facilities, distribution centers, medical facilities, and, of course, heavy industrial areas and warehouses.

To keep these sites connected, and to power the specific connectivity requirements of the company’s various business units, they built a massive, centralized Wi-Fi environment that’s cloud-based, distributed, and fully autonomous. It consists of hundreds of access points (APs) configured to broadcast dozens of SSIDs, used variously for campus-wide connectivity and the enablement of specific business units, processes that rely on deterministic timing, BYOD and guest connections, and more.

Support Challenges Impacted Both IT and End Users

Aside from the sheer size and complexity of their network, the company faced additional support challenges related to managing technology lifecycles and operating an evergreen Wi-Fi environment.

For example, not only does the company’s IT team have limited access to hardware once it’s installed out in production, they also struggle with harsh environmental conditions and the challenges that attend old facilities built before the advent of contemporary connectivity solutions and strategies.

Resource-related challenges also abound. Budget constraints and limited Wi-Fi spectrum availability put a great deal of pressure on the company’s IT team, forcing them to make difficult decisions regarding how they prioritize systems and mediate between business units that compete with one another for scarce resources.

Cost Fluctuations Reify the Value of Reliable Connectivity 

Finally, the connectivity-related challenges listed above had an obvious impact on the company's overall productivity. The question is, how much? To quantify the impact of an unreliable Wi-Fi network, they looked at three hypotheticals.

First, they took the average weight of a single unit of their processed commodity (20 tons) and multiplied it by the commodity price on a given date ($1,000 USD per ton). They then multiplied the result by the average output of their facilities (40 units per hour) to estimate the value of their hourly output ($800,000). Subtracting operating costs ($300,000 per hour), they calculated the net value of their hourly production to be roughly $500,000 per hour, or $8,333.33 per minute. In other words, if poor Wi-Fi connectivity contributes to just one minute of lost productivity, they lose $8,333.33.

Of course, this assumes stability in commodity pricing; but in reality the cost per ton for processed commodities fluctuates based on market conditions. For example, while the cost per ton may be $1,000 USD on one day, it may be $1,500 USD on another day. In other words, while one minute of production interruptions could amount to a loss of $8,333.33 USD on the first day, it could amount to $15,000 USD on the second day.

To make things even more concrete, they looked at a common Wi-Fi-related production impediment — radio frequency interference (RFI). RFI happens when unwanted signals detrimentally impact the radio communication systems used for Wi-Fi connectivity. In the hypothetical equation, they estimated that if RFI caused intermittent drops, losses, or latency issues that resulted in a 10 second offset per unit, production would drop from 40 units per hour to ~36 units per hour. This translates to a production loss of ~4 units (or ~80 tons) per hour. Using the previous commodity price ($1,000 USD), this works out to a loss of $80,000 per hour or $1,333.33 per minute.

How can 7SIGNAL create cost predictability for your business? Chat with our team!

To Create Cost Predictability They Needed to Enhance Wi-Fi Reliability

While there’s not much the company can do about commodity prices — at least not as far as demand is concerned — Wi-Fi connectivity is something they can control with 7SIGNAL. So, to mitigate the impact of spotty Wi-Fi on productivity, they resolved to invest in network optimization.

To do this, they needed a solution that could help them manage enterprise operations by giving them the capability to address factors like signal loss, interference, router placement, traffic, bandwidth limitations, and other common impediments to Wi-Fi connectivity. After an extensive search, their IT department selected the 7SIGNAL platform.

Deployed alongside a variety of other well-known technical tools, the 7SIGNAL platform enables them to monitor and optimize Wi-Fi performance across their entire thousand-acre enterprise campus. It helps them cater connectivity to the demands of multiple business units and optimize experiences across their entire campus.

7SIGNAL Helps Them Support an Evergreen Wi-Fi Environment

The company’s primary goals when adopting 7SIGNAL were to make their Wi-Fi environment safer and to eliminate potential impacts to business. To do this, they leveraged the 7SIGNAL platform, which uses both Wi-Fi Performance Sensors and Endpoint Agents as environmental data aggregators.

Wi-Fi Performance Sensors

7SIGNAL’s Wi-Fi performance sensors are used to monitor the RF environment and Wi-Fi health and provide high-quality spectrum data about wireless connections and interference  occurring in the environment. They help them collect and analyze coverage, congestion, interference, and other network-related phenomena.

Indeed, by placing sensors in locations that can’t be regularly reached physically, they’re able to triangulate threats to network performance in critical areas. And since all the data collected is visible in the 7SIGNAL platform cloud, they’re able to monitor historical data trends and build detailed network performance reports that help them make informed network enhancement decisions. These decisions run the gamut from router placement and antenna positioning to whether APs with certain specifications need to be replaced.

Endpoint Agents

7SIGNAL’s software agents are downloaded onto client devices, such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and IoT devices, and used to monitor network performance from the perspective of autonomous endpoints or end users.

Devices running endpoint agents collect network and roaming intelligence as they move about the environment and send data to the centralized 7SIGNAL platform. From here, the company is able to audit everything from device specifications like adapter and driver combos to roaming issues, adjacent and co-channel AP interference, AP coverage, WLAN congestion, and more.

This has helped the company’s IT team become less reliant on onsite testing for uncovering issues in the environment and zero in on probable causes when issues do arise. As a result, they have been able to pare back the meantime to resolution (MTTR) for reported incidents in a major way.

The Results

With 7SIGNAL, the company has greatly improved the performance and stability of their Wi-Fi environment and have saved the business hard dollars. Not only have they optimized the quality of their network as a whole, they have also tailored their approach to specific business units and locations to better enable mission critical functions and processes. And because 7SIGNAL gives them real-time performance insights from the perspectives of both end users and network infrastructure, they can continue to make regular, timely adjustments based on what they see in the environment — no guesswork necessary!

In addition, because the 7SIGNAL platform centralizes all network intelligence, it has helped them identify issues as they emerge and quickly pinpoint the most probable causes. As a consequence, they’ve been able to significantly reduce MTTR for network-related issues and save the company substantial resources that might have otherwise been lost to production interruptions.

Finally, the company’s workforce is more connected and productive than ever before. They’re supported by an evergreen Wi-Fi network that enables them to complete tasks with the utmost efficiency and which can be adapted according to their ever-changing requirements.