Warehouse Full Of Learning

Up until a few months ago, I’d had very little in the way of warehouse experience. Since the springtime (give or take a month), I’ve had a chance to work on a few. Each of them so far has been a learning experience. I did a lot of listening to podcasts and reading blog posts from others in order to help give me a bit of an assist. And yes, I did reach out to a few peers who I knew had a wealth of warehouse experience. Still, nothing quite compares to your own experiences, and here’s a bit on my most recent experience.

Coming in to this one, I expected to need directionals deployed in a warehouse. Not from experience, just from what I’ve heard and read and learned along the way-if you have an AP thirty feet up in the rafters, you’d be best served with antennas directing as much of that RF downward toward the client. It makes sense and it works…but it isn’t a hard and fast rule.

In this instance, it was a rip and replace. Customer was upgrading from one vendor to a different one, but aside from the age of the outgoing infrastructure, they stated that their wireless coverage was not an issue. I asked that because the timing and budget did not allow for an on-site survey prior to the upgrade. Confirming that their several years-old all wireless warehouse had been functioning exactly as they required, I opted to use the existing AP placements in a new predictive, but with the newer APs used. The modeling indicated that it should be an acceptable design. When reviewing that design with the customer, I did offer up the caveat that a validation survey could indicate that some of the APs might need to be swapped out for options with directional antennas, but that was something everyone was on board with-IE, it was a chance they were willing to take.

I should mention that for this warehouse, it’s probably not the typical deployment one might think of…I know it wasn’t for me, and I don’t have a ton of warehouse experience. When I hear warehouse, I think of floor to ceiling shelves defining rows and rows of the warehouse. Each shelf is filled with a multitude of merchandise, some of it not so RF friendly. In those cases, I totally understand why directionals are the weapon of choice.

In this instance, there were only a few floor to ceiling shelves, in one area of the facility. Otherwise, in spite of having ceilings over 30 feet tall, none of the other aisles had shelves or other stored items (think pallets) taller than 6 feet, approximately (maybe a bit taller than that, but not by much).  This could be a blessing or a curse, right? Without the tall shelving, the RF would be free to propagate a lot more and our APs were a lot more likely to hear one another. However, because the obstructive shelving was at a minimum, it also meant we didn’t have to go crazy with a high number of APs and antennas.

The proof, of course, comes in the way of the validation surveys.

So, I spent the weekend working with the customer to migrate to the new gear, and I walked the warehouse…a lot. And, in spite of what I had expected, the all-omni design works perfectly fine for the customer requirements. Coverage throughout the space was exactly what they needed, and they’ve been using the new WiFi over the weekend without any hiccups or disruptions.

The point here? Just because we think we know what should be deployed…or just because we think we have the perfect design in mind…we can’t be against talking with the customer to understand what they have currently, how it does or does not work for them, and how we can help moving forward. Sure, sometimes they have a poor experience and our expert design skills will be heavily leaned on. However, sometimes our design is simply to update and refresh, without needing to make any major changes to the current, satisfactory deployment.

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