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Wi-Fi Network Advances Warehouse Logistics Systems

2014/4/28 10:20:34

Background

RMIT is an international university of technology and design, as well as the largest university in Australia. RMIT holds the leading position in multiple disciplines in Australia, such as ICT, design, international business, communications, international relations, health care, and sustainable city development. RMIT provides high-quality education and extensive scientific research services, which contribute to RMIT’s global reputation. In the 2010 Quacquarelli Symonds World University Ranking, RMIT was listed among the top 100 engineering technologies universities worldwide.

RMIT’s warehousing system serves as a transfer station, and the birthplace of the RMIT-developed Real-Time Location Sensing (RTLS). This warehouse improves RMIT’s asset management efficiency, lowers device maintenance costs, and ensures the quality of education and scientific research services.

The rapid development of logistics has changed the warehouse industry. Traditional warehouse systems use paper-based manual operations. Modern warehouse systems feature intelligent applications, wireless communication, and real-time asset management. These advanced systems are now widely utilized by enterprises and colleges. Comprehensive and reliable Wi-Fi networks effectively support intelligent warehouse management. These networks meet office requirements, facilitate asset management, and develop high-quality research environments for RMIT’s RTLS.

Challenges

Wi-Fi technologies feature wide coverage and high-speed transmission. RMIT’s warehouse system is a typical example. The system uses barcode applications, efficient wireless communications technologies, and wireless handheld terminals to provide automatic real-time warehouse management services.

On one hand, using a Wi-Fi network allows RMIT to enjoy cost effective storage, view real-time warehouse information, and prevent errors in counting inventory and asset management. On the other hand, the network also brings challenges to RMIT.

First of all, RMIT houses a large number of electronic devices and Ethernet cables, causing considerable electromagnetic interference. Plus, asset information in the warehouse changes dynamically, causing RF changes. These changes have the potential to negatively impact Wi-Fi performance, including connection and performance problems. To ensure real-time connections between handheld scanners and barcode readers, RMIT needs a fast Wi-Fi network that supports seamless roaming and switchover among multiple Access Points (APs).

To add to this complexity, RMIT has four warehouses that are physically separated from each other. As a result, RMIT needs easy-to-use systems to efficiently connect, manage, and maintain its warehouse networks. Development personnel face challenges in network design, challenges that include densely deployed metal racks, changing logistic information, and constantly moving handheld scanners.

Wi-Fi signals suffer considerable attenuation when passing through metal racks. Because of this attenuation, and without sufficient APs, the network cannot cover the entire warehouse. Scanners in some areas may fail to receive Wi-Fi signals, or the signals received are weak. In such an environment, employees cannot obtain timely asset information or efficiently process services. On the other hand, if the system has too many APs, the network suffers signal interference when the metal racks are empty. Signal attenuation is lowered when racks are empty.

Last, but not least, the warehouse system must meet strict scientific research requirements, a fact that has forced RTLS to play an increasingly important role in logistics development.

Solution

Comprehensive Network Solution is the Key

RMIT must make full use of its wireless network resources to develop this value-added service.

Huawei thoroughly analyzed RMIT’s warehouses and warehouse services and, as a result, developed a simulation environment using the WLAN Planner, a dedicated network design tool. The simulation environment allows RMIT to accurately and efficiently design its network and oversee project delivery.

Proper Network Design Simplifies Wi-Fi Coverage

Once successfully deployed, Huawei’s wireless network completely covers RMIT’s four warehouses. Scanners are able to obtain real-time asset information. The network significantly simplifies warehouse management and improves system management efficiency.

In addition, the WLAN Planner allows RMIT to design wireless channels, which prevents signal interference and improves frequency resource usage. Scanners will be able to roam effortlessly between APs, ensuring efficient network access.

Reliable and Efficient Wireless Backhaul Allows Network Convergence

RMIT’s four warehouses are physically close to each other but have no cable connectivity. Developing an optical network would require high investment costs and a long construction period. RMIT needs a comprehensive wireless network now to connect its warehouses, simplify system Operation, Administration, and Maintenance (OAM), and improve asset management efficiency.

After conducting a meticulous study of the application scenario and RMIT’s requirements for wireless backhaul, Huawei developed a dedicated wireless network solution. This solution uses outdoor APs and high-gain directional antennas to enable large-scale wireless signal coverage, to shorten the project’s development period, and to simplify system deployment.

Benefits

Huawei’s wireless network offers a high transmission speed (160 Mbit/s bandwidth and 5 kilometer single hop), improves security and reliability (with a wide range of working temperatures, along with a dustproof and waterproof design), simplifies deployment and OAM, and lowers investment costs.

RTLS Helps Maximize Solution Value Proposition

As one of the world’s top 100 engineering universities, RMIT has undisputed scientific research strength. The wireless network now provides value-added services to meet RMIT’s requirements.

Warehouse services now support RTLS systems, especially in the field of key asset management. RMIT now implements a Wi-Fi network that can seamlessly integrate with its RTLS.

Moreover, Huawei uses open interfaces to simplify integration with its industry-leading RTLS. These high-performance devices and professional network design have allowed Huawei to develop and deliver RTLS projects worldwide. These projects feature high positioning accuracy: Two to three meters for indoor scenarios, and five meters for outdoor ones.

Huawei’s wireless network solution not only helps RMIT improve warehouse management efficiency, but also provides an experimental environment for RMIT’s research on its RTLS. This high-quality network will meet RMIT’s scientific research requirements for the foreseeable future and will bring additional forthcoming benefits to RMIT.

Huawei Works with Its Industry Partners to Meet Future Service Requirements

As a world-renowned engineering and design university, RMIT fulfilled its high requirements for ICT system development and campus construction. The successful implementation of RMIT’s wireless warehouse network sets a benchmark in the warehouse industry. Huawei leverages its extensive experience in industry solution development, innovative products, and cutting-edge technologies to meet RMIT’s service requirements and to help develop value-added services. This project has proved to be a win-win for both RMIT and Huawei.
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