There is no doubt that wireless technology has revolutionized the warehousing and logistics operations environment in the past two decades. The advent of pervasive WLAN promised to accelerate productivity and profitability gains even further. The challenge now is to identify the right solution that can truly optimize your supply chain operations and make this promise a reality.
The warehouse environment creates serious challenges for traditional WLAN deployments. Though warehouses are typically open spaces that would seem suited to wireless signal propagation, their construction and layout can be problematic, with metal structures and corridors making coverage difficult to achieve. Other obstacles include a changing RF landscape due to the movement of goods and roaming and re-authentication issues that can impact productivity of a highly mobile workforce.
Why WLAN for Logistics?
• RFID/Asset Tracking – Pervasive WLAN is a key component for enabling this revolutionary technology to provide significant gains in inventory management.
• Supply Chain Management – WLAN is an essential part of responsive and flexible supply chain management to help reduce excess inventory build-up.
• Infrastructure Build-outs – WLANs allow enterprises to quickly expand or modify logistics centre space in response to changing operating demands.
• Communication – Voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) promises dramatically improved employee accessibility in large logistics centres. VoWLAN can give personnel access to real-time inventory information, voice communication, instant messaging, and even external data such as inventory at other company warehouses.
• Warehouse layout – with metal structures and corridors restricting coverage.
• RF conditions change frequently – and drastically, due to the movement of goods.
• Productivity of a highly mobile workforce – can be negatively impacted by roaming and re-authentication issues
Core Requirements for Logistics
• Reliable, Comprehensive Communications: WLAN must be highly reliable. Otherwise, connectivity outages will directly impact the customer experience.
• Noise Immunity: Logistics centers, with their metal walls and ceilings, can be a nightmare for noise sensitive systems. The WLAN must be highly noise-immune or the wireless communications will slow to a crawl.
• Support Highly Mobile Workforce: Solution must meet performance needs of continually mobile employees without roaming and re-authentication issues.
• Wire-Like VoWLAN: VoWLAN is an increasingly critical tool, and must operate flawlessly, with toll-quality audio.
• Ease of Use: Quick installation to meet changing space needs, and the ability to handle a dynamic RF environment are critical.
• User Security: Privacy of customer information is of paramount importance.
For information on Extricom Wireless LAN for Logistics, visit www.extricom.com.
Extricom Logistics Information Sheets and Case Studies:
- Industry Brief_Warehousing
- Extricom WLAN Logistics TCO Considerations
- Case Study – Extricom WLAN at Bie + Berntsen
- Case Study – Extricom WLAN and the Kiva Systems MFS
- Case Study – Extricom WLAN at Razel
Why Extricom? Find out here about the Extricom difference.
The Extricom solution is based on a fully centralized WLAN architecture, in which the switch makes all of the decisions for packet delivery on the wireless network. In this configuration, the APs simply function as radios, with no software, storage capability, MAC or IP address.
Even the basics of connecting are different: clients associate directly with the switch, not with the AP. The AP acts as an “RF conduit” to rapidly funnel traffic between the clients and the switch. In essence, the Extricom architecture has centralized the 802.11 logic in the switch, while distributing only the wireless electronics in the APs.
Centralization of the Wi-Fi environment enables enterprises to deploy 802.11a/b/g/n channels at every AP, creating multiple overlapping “Channel Blankets” that leverage each of the radios in the multi-radio UltraThin AP. Each channel’s bandwidth is delivered across the blanket’s service area (i.e. the combined coverage of all APs connected to the switch), with interference-free operation and consistent capacity throughout.
As the Wi-Fi client moves, different APs will be in the best position to serve it at different times. The switch always chooses the best uplink and downlink path o serve the client. While this is going on “behind the scenes,” the client never experiences an AP-to-AP handoff (i.e. de-association and re-association), resulting in seamless mobility.
And with the inter-AP handoffs eliminated, the mobility problem of “sticky” clients goes away. Your organization now has the flexibility to choose any mix of clients, with the confidence that they will all operate with consistent behavior on the same network.
Wire-like connectivity with seamless mobility
Within each Channel Blanket, the switch avoids co-channel interference by permitting multiple APs to simultaneously transmit on the same channel but only if they won’t interfere with each other.
At the same time, the diversity receiver inherent in the channel blanket means that the communications link is rock-solid, virtually eliminating the problem of frequent disconnections common in all other systems. No other system can provide the link robustness of Extricom, ensuring that Wi-Fi communications succeed even in the toughest of environments.
One Infrastructure, Many Uses
What distinguishes Extricom from all other WLAN solutions on the market is its ability to enable multiple blankets from the same infrastructure. The system is therefore unique in combining multi-channel capacity with channel blanket mobility and robustness. This makes an Extricom WLAN the most operationally flexible system in the market, and has profound implications for the All Wireless Enterprise.
The ultimate challenge to Enterprise WLAN is how to support multiple applications with conflicting system requirements, such as voice and data. Extricom has resolved this problem with an elegant simplicity: separate the applications on different Channel Blankets. The result is the only integrated system that delivers predictable grade of service, by enabling different applications to operate in parallel, without contention, on the same physical infrastructure.
In addition, the multiple concurrent Channel Blanket capability makes Extricom the only solution that can support both 802.11n and legacy 802.11a/b/g at full performance and without necessitating a radical cutover from what you have today.