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What Could Go Wrong with the Wi-Fi and Your Manufacturing Network?

Reliable Wi-Fi is a must for your manufacturing business to run effectively. But a lot can go wrong with it. Learn about common problems that arise in complex environments such as manufacturing and distribution centers.

No matter the type of goods that your manufacturing or distribution company produces, one thing is certain: Productivity is lower and operations can become inefficient if there are a lot of issues with the wireless network.

For operations to run smoothly, you need the ability to make decisions in real-time, as well as instantly scan and manage inventory, fill orders, and attend to customers. This requires continuous network uptime. And while many Wi-Fi problems exist across industries, there are several common issues that come up frequently in manufacturing and similar networks.

Within these environments, it’s easy to see why so much could go wrong. Warehouses, factories, and distribution centers tend to have higher ceilings, steel construction, more machinery in the space, and lots of shelving and stock. All of these factors can cause interference and negatively impact performance.

Understanding the following common problems will help you to devise a wireless networking strategy that keeps the factory floor or warehouse connected and high-functioning at all times.

Unreliable Wi-Fi connections

Unreliable connections are the basic problem for manufacturing wireless networks—and really, for many different types of companies across various industries. But the issue is common enough in manufacturing or warehouse settings that some companies are reluctant to employ wireless internet on the factory floor at all—because mission-critical operations depend on a seamless connection. With various business-essential applications and machinery all existing within one large space, unreliable Wi-Fi is a major issue.

But consistent connections can be achieved with strategies like wireless network monitoring, site surveys that reveal network weaknesses, and continuous testing and reporting that solve issues proactively—before they escalate to impact the end-user.

Poor coverage

Another common issue is poor coverage throughout a manufacturing or warehouse space. This is likely to happen if you deploy either too many or too few access points (APs) or otherwise have a poor AP design. Two key considerations when coordinating AP placement are:

The density of wireless devices and clients within the area

The size and shape of the space to be covered

A wireless site survey can be done to ensure that you can plan out AP placement based on these considerations. Remember that not enough APs can cause gaps in coverage, and too many APs can cause them to overlap with each other, creating interference and service drops from this oversaturation.

Too much AP power

A related problem is caused by increasing the power of APs in an attempt to solve poor coverage issues. While this can address certain issues, what may happen is that a client device recognizes an AP that’s across the building, instead of associating with a closer AP. A device connecting to the wrong AP may impact performance, and interference can increase.

Poor performance due to warehouse materials

The materials within a warehouse, including equipment and stock, could cause problems with Wi-Fi within the space. Because there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how much or what kind of materials can impact performance, the importance of conducting a site survey once again arises. Only by designing the network with the warehouse stock or manufacturing material taken into consideration—including any interference or signal-blocking problems they may cause—can you avoid unnecessary issues.

The structural materials of the building itself could also have negative impacts, as might necessary equipment and supplies such as shelves, appliances, and cabinets.

Inadequate network visibility

Finally, many issues with Wi-Fi performance and quality can occur because of a lack of visibility into what’s happening within the network at any given time. This is why installing wireless sensors are common practice within manufacturing or warehouse settings. They can alert network managers to a problem—or a potential one—before it causes network downtime or impacts individual device connectivity.

At 7SIGNAL, we understand that your manufacturing and distribution centers depend on fast, high-performing Wi-Fi. Entire facilities can suffer when networks go down, costing the business significant time and money.

To avoid these problems, proactive monitoring of the Wi-Fi network is a must. Our tools continuously monitor and test performance throughout the entire area, and we report many issues that could cause drops in service before they happen. We provide the analytics you need to assess the environment and what impacts performance most, such as machinery or device density.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.