warehouse

CTS 120: 6 Warehouse Troubleshooting Wi-Fi Tips

Troubleshooting Wi-Fi in a warehouse environment can get complex. We outline 6 tips to help you out.

 

6 Warehouse Wi-Fi Troubleshooting Tips

Warehouse environments are tricky. They’re complex. Many factors can limit how well Wi-Fi works. There are tall racks which go as high as 30 feet or more. Depending on what kind of material is stored in those racks it can change the characteristics of the Wi-Fi signal.

In this episode, we talk about 6 Wi-Fi troubleshooting tips you should know when working in a warehouse:

Client Care

Wi-Fi clients need more love. They aren’t handled as careful as they should be in these harsh environments. Many devices are rugged at all and could affect Wi-Fi connectivity. Give these devices a physical look over for any damage. Devices also have a longer life cycle in warehouses. You’re not always working with the latest and greatest technology.

Client Configurations

Keep aware of the feature sets of the client devices. Each type of device will have different roaming thresholds or triggers in their configuration, if any. Many devices in warehouses are sensitive with the real-time application that’s being used. One thing to always look out for are the firmware versions installed.

Directional antennas

Because of the high ceilings and tall racks, directional antennas are highly recommended. With omnidirectional antennas, it may not penetrate the materials in the rack. This creates connectivity issues for scanner guns and any other type of devices used in between racks. Find out what type of material is sitting on those shelves to get an idea of attenuation. Ensure antennas are mounted properly and not on top of a rack.

Operating a Skyjack

Someone has to get up to the ceiling and install an access point or antenna. The important part here is to be aware of any licensing you may need to acquire or training you need to attend before operating a skyjack. Safety is very important in a warehouse, for yourself and others. Don’t forget any other equipment you may need such as a hard hat, safety vest, safety glasses, harness, steel toe boots, etc.

Hardware failures

Harsh environments have a negative affect on equipment. The environments, indoor or outdoor, can lower the life of a device. Be sure to do a physical check of hardware. You may seen an antenna hanging from a device because it was knocked off while on the move. There may be some failed equipment because it was in a freezer and didn’t hold up to the freezing temperatures, etc.

Retry Rate

Legacy 802.11b/g clients do not hold up well in warehouse environments relying on Wi-Fi. They don’t handle multi-path very well. This is why we recommend using updated client devices but we know it’s not always an option for a company to spend lots of money on updating aging equipment. We’ve seen up to 50% retry rates in warehouses. But with newer clients it decreases since they can handle multi-path. You may need to change your APs and/or antennas to tune for the client device in these complex environments.

Link and Resources

CTS 077: Warehouse Wi-Fi

When it comes to challenging environments, warehouse Wi-Fi makes it to the top of the list. Each warehouse is a different environment housing different types of inventory which affect how the RF propagates. François speaks about his experience designing for warehouses.

Warehouse Wi-Fi

François has done a few warehouse designs and deployments. He is going to share his personal experiences when approaching warehouse Wi-Fi. Below are some of the bullet point topics we talk about. If you have any questions, feedback, or would like to add to the show please leave a comment below.

Safety

  • Always remember that you are working in someone else’s working space (true for any Wi-Fi, especially true for warehouses)
  • Skyjack use
  • Prep work about safety:
    • Ask the customer if any safety training are required
    • Am I going to need boots, safety glasses, hard hat, safety jacket
    • If you are going to drive a skyjack, do I need a licence for it? Do I have a licence for it? If yes, I will also need a harness
  • Once on site:
    • Always look around
    • Walk in the walking area whenever you can
    • Always give a visual to the lift truck drivers
    • Wear your safety equipment
    • Coordinate with the supervision to survey busy areas when they are less busy. (Especially the loading stations)
    • If you are handling your survey equipment for an AP-on-a-stick, be careful with it as well

Design

  • Structure of the building
  • Ceiling height (Can vary from 1 warehouse to another). This is greatly going to affect your design
  • What is inside the warehouse? Is is Milk, Wine or is it wood, metal?
  • How high are the racks? Do I have different type of racks? What are their attenuation? How do you test the attenuation?
  • How are the employee using the Wi-Fi devices? Let’s talk about how advanced those scanner guns are 😉
  • Usually 1 section with offices (on the ground floor or on 2 floors) and the rest is warehouse.
    • Separate it in your design. They don’t have the same requirements (not the same devices, not the same applications, not the same density, not the same environment)
    • Will I need different SSIDs?
  • How do I deal with offices inside the warehouse?
  • AP locations and mounting options (Am I going to mount the AP on the wall, on the ceiling)
  • Watch out for obstructions objects in the ceiling
  • Be precise with antenna installation (angle, location, orientation) – Give out good instructions to the installers
  • Do I need to lower the antenna from the ceiling?
  • What devices do I have in the warehouse? What type of security can I use?

Survey

  • Make sure you have proper floorpans (updated).
  • If your floor plans are empty, find elements which are going to help you to find out where you are (doors, docking area…)
  • Measure distances (to the wall, to the ceiling, to the beam…)
  • Laser measure distance tool
  • Be nice with the employees (remember, you are the intruder) – They will be nice with you and you will have a much better time.
  • If you need to take measurements with a SkyJack, make sure you can lift the skyjack from the ground.
  • Use pylon cones for extra safety
  • Your battery life is going to be your limitation. Organize your time so you do something else while the battery charges. (break, documentation…)
  • Mark the AP location with something you can see from the floor. (Pink plastic tape, While board,,,)

Prep Work

  • Prepare the equipment
  • Do I have my APs?
  • Are my APs configured?
  • Do I have my antennas? Do I have the right antennas?
  • Specific equipment for warehouse: Skyjack, High Ceiling pole, external antenna, hard hat, safety jacket, harness + duck tape and tire ups (you never know)
  • Prepare the access (schedule your survey with the customer). Warehouses are usually open 24/7, 7 day a week. It makes it easier!
  • Will I need a sky jack? Can I borrow one from the customer? Do I need to rent one out? Do you have to be certified to use it? Do you need training?

BadFi in Warehouses

AP on top of the ceiling

AP missing an antenna

AP antenna disconnected

AP is hidden

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