Warehouse Wi-Fi Issues and Solutions
Warehouse Wi-Fi design can be challenging for many reasons. Here are some common problems and fixes that have worked for many of our clients that have had these issues with their warehouse or manufacturing facility.
The 10 Most Common Warehouse Wi-Fi Problems:
Too many or too few access points
Incorrect placement or aiming of antennas and access points
Incorrect channel assignments
Outdated firmware on clients and access points
Full power on access points
Full power on access points
The stock effect on Wi-Fi performance
The wrong type of or old access points
Access points are too close to the ceiling
Access points on the wall
TOO MANY OR TOO FEW ACCESS POINTS
The number of access points makes a big difference. Having too many access points is almost as bad as having too few. Because most warehouse WiFi networks were designed and deployed with access points using the 2.4GHz radio frequency the channel selection is limited. Because of the limited channel selection it is very easy to induce another issue called “co-channel interference”. This type of interference happens when the access points are stepping on each other and is harmful to the performance of your network.
You do want some overlap in coverage (on different frequencies) to prevent dead spots. You also want overlap in case an access point dies. Have a proper design done and if possible deploy a newer WiFi system that automatically adjusts power and channel settings for you.
INCORRECT AIMING AND PLACEMENT OF ANTENNAS AND ACCESS POINTS
Sometimes it’s as simple as which direction the access point is facing. We have seen instances where the access points were literally pointing at an exterior wall or the roof. So unless you are worried about the network in your parking lot or on the roof, make sure you’re access points and antennae are aimed correctly.
Legacy access points that use diversity antennas have a proper method of operation. If, however the antennas were improperly aligned or aimed there would be detrimental performance effects.
In the case of directional antennas aimed in direct opposing locations can cause two clients in opposing directions connect to the same AP. Because they cannot “see” each other they send packets without coordinating with one another which causes collisions at the access point corrupting the data and causing performance issues.
INCORRECT CHANNEL ASSIGNMENTS
Most warehouse WiFi network deployments are utilizing the 2.4Ghz radio spectrum which is constrained to just three channels which do not overlap or interfere with each other; channels 1, 6 and 11. We have seen some 4 and 5 channel designs where the channels in use are all interfering with each other. Without going too deep on 2.4Ghz channel allocation we will keep it simple and tell you do not stray from using these three and only these three channels when using 2.4GHz for your WiFi.
OUTDATED FIRMWARE ON CLIENTS AND ACCESS POINTS
Updated firmware will have bug fixes, newer standards and other enhancements that will help clients work better with access points and vice versa. Older client firmware on wireless adapters very often associate to an access point and hold on to that association until that signal is gone. However, all along there were closer access points for it to associate to that would have provided a more optimal connection. That is why it is imperative to always update your firmware.
FULL POWER ON ACCESS POINTS
Contrary to what might sound like common sense, maxing out the transmit power levels on the access points is not a solution to poor coverage or poor performance. It is actually a problem in itself. By cranking the power level to full, a situation is created where a client can actually “see” an access point that may be on the far side of the warehouse.
This becomes an issue then when the client associates to that access point when there actually may be a closer one to them. Set the power to 50% and make small increments up and down to find a good balance of power and WiFi coverage
THE STOCK EFFECT ON WIFI PERFORMANCE
Without proper planning which includes taking into effect the materials stocked on warehouse shelves or what you are manufacturing, your WiFi performance could be lacking. Different materials will have different effects on wireless performance. A warehouse stocking paper products will perform much differently than one with metal racks holding metal bins with metal parts. A manufacturing facility will have the same issues, it depends on what you are manufacturing and housing. A proper site survey and design plan will go a long way in avoiding future performance issues.
There are so many other factors that can determine the performance of your network in your warehouse or manufacturing facility. Whether you are already experiencing network issues in your existing space, planning to expand or moving into a new facility, we are experts at design, planning, deployment and maintenance of wireless networks. Contact us today to see how we can help set up or improve your network.
THE WRONG TYPE OF OR OLD ACCESS POINTS
One often overlooked aspect of performance is how quickly devices switch from one wifi access point to another. In a 200,000 sq/ft facility with large open areas and hand held scanners, fast switching to the next access point isn't an issue. In the same size warehouse with metal racks storing liquids and forklift mounted devices, fast switching is critical. Do you need 802.11k, 802.11r, 802.11v or 802.11ax access points? What standards will your scanners support?
Wireless devices can have external or internal antenna. The antenna in a wireless device will shape the wifi signal. Some WAPs provide a donut shaped (toroidal) coverage area and some cover an area that looks like you're squeezing a stress ball - a large bulge on one side and a smaller bulge on the opposite side.
ACCESS POINTS MOUNTED TOO HIGH
Warehouses have high ceilings. Wireless signals above the top of your racks don't serve a purpose and the signal will bounce and reflect causing wireless to be worse in other areas. Sometimes it's best to lower the access point so the signal stays within an isle and add another access point to the next isle over. Unlike an office, mounting access points on the ceiling may not be the best idea.
SITE SURVEYS AND HOW THEY CAN RESOVE ISSUES
Having a wireless site survey performed is one of the most important things you can do before setting up (or upgrading) a warehouse Wi-Fi network. Options range from walking around the facility with a laptop to purchasing tool to paying for a $10,000 wireless survey that can tell you if a microwave in the building next door is running.
ACCESS POINTS ON THE OUTER WALL
Access points are sometimes mounted on a wall for convenience. Unless you're trying to provide wifi in the parking lot mounting too close to an exterior wall can cause issues.
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