Wednesday, 23 July 2014

WiFi - Some times it is broke and you must fix it!

A vital but often undervalued component of any automated data capture system is the WiFi infrastructure or Wireless LAN (WLAN) .  All the hand held terminals, fork lift truck computers and sometimes thermal label printers require this to operate and without it, effectively become very expensive door stop.

If you are utilising a solid industrial WiFi (for example Cisco or Motorola products) then normally, if correctly configured after a proper site survey, they just run and run and run without missing a beat. Over time, because of their inherent reliability, these products they tend to be forgotten about and ignored.  If it just works then leave it be.

However we have seen a number of clients purchase new terminals leading to a mix of devices, add extra access points to the site where they think they need them and also move, add or remove racking and mezzanine floors as the business adapts and develops.  All this can have a negative impact on the ability of the WLAN to operate at peak performance.  Drop outs start to occur, roaming effectively between access points is inhibited and whilst using the terminals, software speed of response for the user is reduced.

The last point is the most important.  An issue in the WLAN manifests itself usually in the device and as such the perception is that the terminal is broken or the software client is buggy etc.  IT departments then spend a lot of time and effort trying to diagnose and fix 'perceived' issues while missing the possible key fault.

Worse than this, poorly performing terminals have an unusual habit of breaking with alarming regularity as frustration for the user mounts and they vent their anger on the kit.

Recently a number of long term clients have asked us to revisit their sites and re-appraise the suitability of the WLAN in light of changes to hardware profile, software clients and the physical environment.  Often more in-depth than the initial site survey, this looks for potential pitfalls and problems to help create a fast, smooth and reliable wireless LAN which in turn leads to smoother transactions  and a marked decrease in downtime and faults on the shop floor.

Having invested a large sum into automated data capture devices and warehouse management systems most companies would do well to remember that the wireless infrastructure is one of the key elements to ensuring you get the return on investment you expect.  Some times it is broke and you must fix it!

Written by Nigel Holloway - a senior sales consultant at Dash Computer Products, who specialises in barcode labelling systems, hand held and fork truck mounted computers and data capture solutions.
contact Nigel on 01200 441977 or email here:  Nigel@Dash Computer

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