Wi-Fi installation in harsh warehouse environment

by David Moyle

Posted on at 09:30am

Catalytic IT was engaged in early 2021 to work with a national fresh produce company, to conduct an in-depth technical analysis of their Wi-Fi environment. We considered the RF environment, physical environment, and of course the Wi-Fi configuration, and provided a series of recommendations.

The environment was challenging for a number of reasons:

  • Over 90% of areas classified as high-importance were located in a Coolroom
  • The Least Capable Most Important (LCMI) devices were hand-held barcode scanners
  • The panels used to insulate the areas were very high, and very thick
  • Existing coaxial cabling was in a poor state, and multiple antennas were either not connected, missing or otherwise not fit for purpose
  • End users regularly roamed between pallets of water-dense, fresh food, which led to substantial attenuation

When considering recommendations and remedial actions to be undertaken, we had to pay particular attention to the following:

  • Equipment mounting
    • Equipment mounted too high would be unsuitable for client devices
    • Equipment required mounting in safe areas factoring in forklifts, pallets of produce and equipment, wet areas
  • The equipment needed to withstand the harsh environment (high humidity, cold temperatures)

As the customer had already made an investment in Meraki, we stuck with the use of Meraki MR86’s and panel antennas. Prior to remediation they were using very long coaxial cables which caused relatively substantial signal loss. The resulting mounting solution kept this to a minimum while ensuring only passive elements were exposed to the harsh conditions below.

To further protect the access point from the environment above the cool room paneling, we enclosed it in an IP67 enclosure

Antennas mounted on the ceiling

The end result of our re-design was that we were able to address a number of pain points, namely:

  • Access Points were protected from the environment
  • Access Point antennas were appropriately utilised across all radios
  • Loss was minimised by reducing co-axial length
  • The overall experience was substantially improved for end users and their devices

The combination of good RF design, and expert cablers led to a great solution for our customer. We want to acknowledge and thank our cabling partner Cablenet for their support with this project.