Warehouse WiFi

Why is warehouse WiFi difficult?

Warehouse WiFi is always difficult and is sometimes the most problematic of places for WiFi. By understanding these problems, we formulate appropriate solutions for our customers. Let us take a quick overview of important topics in warehouse WiFi so that we can understand its difficulties

Stock level

The purpose of a warehouse is to hold stock temporarily, as a kind of buffer, so stock levels should vary over time. As everything WiFi passes through weakens it, so warehouse WiFi signal strength will also vary with stock levels over time. Usually, where the stock levels change is not completely predictable. Obviously then, this makes WiFi planning more difficult, but there are well developed solutions for this problem

Stock types

Most warehouses face an additional problem: they hold multiple types of stock simultaneously and where they are stored may change over time. In some types of warehouse, such as retail, the types of stock will also change over time. As we noted above, everything WiFi passes through weakens it, but some stock types weaken it more than others. In fact, this scenario is so common that there are well developed solutions for this problem too, but it more expensive to accommodate so much variability. If possible, the warehouse managers can help by making things more predictable, for example by keeping stock types in consistent locations

Client devices

An often-overlooked fact is that the efficacy of WiFi is as dependent on the client devices, such as barcode scanners, as it is on the access points. In some ways they are more important. Unlike offices, for example, where there is constant improvement in client devices, warehouse client devices often last five or more years. To make matters worse, even when new, warehouse client devices are usually years behind the technology in consumer devices. This problem is made still worse if the warehouse client devices were not of high standard when purchased. As client devices are such an important part of a warehouse WiFi solution, we mention them here, although often there is not the budget to change them at the same time as the access points

Metal racking

Warehouse racking is made from metal, which reflects WiFi, creating difficulties for design. This problem is well known, and the necessary design limitations are well understood. However, the problem becomes acute if the racking has metal bases and/or backs. Where you have the option, do not choose metal bases and backs

Warehouse layout

Substantial change in the layout of a warehouse, such as additional racking, usually means a WiFi design becomes less effective, so ideally access points should be moved to accommodate the changed layout. As access points are often in difficult to reach locations this can be expensive. Fortunately, there are some mitigations for this problem too. As they too involve additional cost, they are mostly used when there is a reasonable expectation of layout change

Antennas

Antennas are an extremely important part of warehouse WiFi design. In fact, most often they are more important than the choice of access point. There are many to choose from by many makers that cover all sorts of typical and special cases. Currently, antenna design is experiencing significant advances created by materials scientists and software techniques such as ML/AI. Most people find this to be a surprisingly complex and arcane field, but it is key to getting the best from a WiFi design, particularly for warehouses. The difficulty here is the lack of understanding of this area by all but a very few WiFi specialists, such as Wireless Head

Transmit power

Probably the most common problem in WiFi, is mismatching the transmit power of access points and client devices. Fortunately, in warehouses the client devices have known properties and can all be set to work at the same transmit power. Nonetheless, it is not common for the client devices to be configured correctly. This is easy to resolve but usually overlooked

Wireless Head warehouse WiFi

Authoritative results

Wireless Head are warehouse WiFi experts
Most of the problems discussed above cannot be modelled sufficiently by WiFi design tools; experience with these variables is essential
Ultimately, years of experience with warehouses means we will provide appropriate and effective solutions

Scanners and rugged handheld computers

We can recommend appropriate scanners, rugged handheld computers, and mobile printers
We can provide free loans of some models to test

Productivity improvement

By combining WiFi with data entry using barcodes (the Universal Product Code), matrix codes (QR codes), and transponder technology (NFC and RFID tags), we can improve efficiency and accuracy of data capture, and increase knowledge about where stock is stored and moves

Asset tracking

The combination of WiFi with transponder technology is particularly well suited for locating and tracking the movement of more valuable assets, saving time locating them and alerting staff when assets move outside of designated areas