The Dilemma of Warehouse Automation

The Dilemmas of Indoor IIoT

Connecting machines, robots, vehicles, people, and other equipment is driving industrial advancements like never before. As more companies take advantage of the industrial internet of things (IIoT), they can gather advanced analytics and gain valuable insights to improve their capabilities and efficiencies.

The early adopters of machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity and IIoT were typically large, industrial warehouses, which connected products, robots, and people, to speed up simple and mundane tasks like product picking and product restocking. Today, however, all sorts of companies that have traditionally faced unexpected downtime due to machine malfunctions, resource management issues, and hazardous indoor conditions can use IIoT to help reduce downtime and increase productivity. Industrial indoor spaces, like manufacturing plants, fulfillment centers, and farming facilities, are recognizing they can gather valuable information about operational processes, streamline supply chains, manage asset locations, and predict equipment maintenance.

Connectivity Issues in Indoor Industries?

None of these benefits, however, can be experienced if the wireless network is not constantly connecting everything. Companies often find it difficult to maintain essential wireless connections in indoor environments since these facilities are typically continually changing, as new storage racks are added, new equipment is installed, and large objects are moved around. In addition, these indoor environments are often continuously in motion as forklifts, robots, and people move throughout the facility. As a result, the wireless networks need to be dynamic, or they will run into blockages and fail.

Rajant Sales Director, Justin Warren, noted in a recent podcast with “The New Warehouse” at MODEX 2022, “When talking to warehouse operations managers or any type of (indoor) operations manager, they often tell us that the network was working fine with traditional Wi-Fi just the other day. Now, however, they are finding gaps in the network and areas where it stops functioning properly.” Upon hearing this, Mr. Warren’s first question is usually, “What changed?” Further, “The manager typically tells me that they just moved some large stacks, installed racks, or added new equipment. These changes in the environment, which happen nearly every day in warehouses and other types of indoor facilities, cause immediate blockages for standard wireless networks.”

A Different Approach

Typically, when these blockages occur, most companies think that the solution is to add more access points to the wireless network, which ultimately adds more noise to the network, makes it more complicated and more expensive.

Rajant, however, takes a different approach. Rather than adding more access points to the network, Rajant attaches wireless nodes called BreadCrumbs to any object anywhere to create Rajant Kinetic Mesh®. This is not a traditional wireless network since it is uniquely designed for environments and applications where people, robots, and equipment may be in constant motion but must be continually connected.

According to Don Gilbreath, Rajant VP of Systems, “What we see today in warehouses and other large facilities that use traditional Wi-Fi is that people tend to throw access points all over the place to get coverage. What this does is add noise. But in our wireless mesh world, we typically try to turn that noise down. That’s really how Rajant nodes work. And, we can reutilize spectrum to keep the bandwidths up, which is what everyone wants.”

This dilemma is what many companies currently face. They installed traditional Wi-Fi in the office portion of their facilities and deployed the same type of Wi-Fi in their warehousing or manufacturing areas. They now realize they need innovative wireless networks that meet their needs in these large and dynamic spaces.

Rajant industrial wireless works to extend range and enable autonomous mobility. Easily deployable and compatible with other onsite networking, Rajant is ideal for greenfield installations or augmenting the current network.

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