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Automation on the move needs support from wireless connectivity

May 18, 2022
How mesh networks can work in the warehouse

Technology is developing at a rapid rate; with this comes an increasing need for faster connectivity and unfailing communications. Hence, the need for more automated and reliable equipment within warehouses. Eighty-seven percent of industry decision makers are in the process of planning the expansion of warehouses by 2024, which means that there will be more room for automated technology as companies look to develop warehouse efficiency to assist employees further, according to the “Warehousing Vision Study,” commissioned by Zebra Technologies.

Warehouse automation is key to ensuring employee safety and meeting consumers' demands. By 2025, 4 million commercial warehouse robots are to be installed in more than 50,000 warehouses, according to the “Robotics in E-Commerce Fulfillment” report from ABI Research. This shows that the industry is looking for solutions to implement that reap higher productivity levels. Popularity will only continue to rise for increased automation in warehouses as it offers consistent production 24/7, 365 days a year.

It is generally considered markedly faster and can help meet functions, such as order fulfillment, by reducing picking order times. For those businesses yet to harness these next-generation technologies to unlock their Industry 4.0 potential, they risk falling behind the ever-growing competition.

Also read: Is 5G the answer to Wi-Fi and LTE limitations?

The accuracy of automation

Automated equipment is considered a lot safer. Separating people from high-risk tasks and harmful substances leads to the reduction of on-site injuries for employers. Accuracy also improves, as 62% of warehouse owners reported human error from manual processes as the number one root cause of inventory fulfilment issues, according to a study conducted by Stitch Labs, which was acquired by Square in 2020. Automated equipment, once installed, can provide peace of mind to employers by performing high-volume tasks seamlessly and reliably and can even be used to cover employee sickness, providing an increased return on investment for businesses. Warehouse owners should utilize automation for improved productivity, safety levels and greater precision. With advanced data capture, inventory identification and sortation, these next-generation technologies can help businesses thrive.

For automated machinery and equipment to work without delay and perform laborious tasks in shorter timeframes, reliable networking is required. Automation on the move needs to be supported by wireless connectivity that is consistent with operational needs. If there is any downtime in network coverage or it fails, this can result in machines halting and production seizing to run at optimum capacity.

For dependable and wide-ranging communications, an efficient wireless connection comprised of mesh-linked radio nodes can combat prevalent warehouse issues, such as a lack of coverage, redundancy and mobility requirements to navigate obstacles and provide unfailing communications.

Consistent connectivity

The right mesh network can transform how automated machinery operates through multi-frequency network nodes (Figure 1). Multi-point meshing can effectively maintain an array of connections simultaneously while creating links between warehouse equipment, people and infrastructure to provide mobile, scalable and high-capacity machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity that operates 24/7. A mesh network allows for coverage in hard-to-reach areas, with nodes seamlessly placed between racks and equipment. Mesh networks are designed with in-built redundancy for enhanced network stability. They can be used within legacy networking for further cost-saving benefits.

What does the future hold?

Warehouse automation continues to gain momentum as owners look to improve efficiency, safeguard people and alleviate human error. To do this successfully, warehouses must install a secure wireless network to garner the benefits that it has to offer. Fulfillment needs and order processing bring associated challenges, especially when meeting tight deadlines. When investing in automated equipment and machinery for industrial operations, businesses should prioritize networking. Making the right network choice is significant to ensure central operations continue to run smoothly between machines and people on the move.

About the author

Chris Wall is director of sales at Rajant. Contact him at ­­­­­­­­[email protected].

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