Distribution Centre Aruba Wireless Mesh Network

Date February 20, 2014 Author Comments Leave your thoughts

Distribution Centre wireless mesh crane camera solution

Our client is one of the largest and most recognisable high street retailers in the UK. Operating out of multiple high streets and out-of-town locations, they supply a wide range of products from footwear and fashion, to sporting goods and equipment.

At their 100,000 sq ft purpose-built distribution centre, our client implemented an automated material handling system to manage the large picking and put-away operation. With each isle of the enormous structure spanning 120 metres, the arrival of boxed goods to the distribution Centre sees them shuttled to a pre-programmed location via a network of robotic cranes. The solution is not only time and space saving, but the automation improves efficiency and eliminates many of the errors associated with more traditional warehouse systems.

With the cranes in operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and moving at high speed over considerable distances, regular maintenance work is generated as a result. To assist in these maintenance activities, it was decided that the installation of wireless IP CCTV cameras upon the cranes would provide enhanced monitoring of their performance when in use whilst increasing productivity for the engineering staff on site by minimising downtime during service and repair operations.

Deployment Challenges

Ensign was tasked with finding a solution to the distribution centre’s support staff requirement for crane-and-box visibility, whilst causing minimal disruption to the already fully-operational site. Our technical architects and engineers were required to design and deploy a solution that would assimilate with the existing structure, circumnavigating areas of RF interference and installation difficulties caused by the extensive racking and the time-critical 24×7 operations.

Our Aruba Mesh Solution

The solution comprised of two key components; an IP CCTV camera, which would be mounted onto each crane, providing the visibility required; and a wireless mesh network topology, built using the Aruba AP104 access points and existing 3600 series Wireless LAN Controllers, to support them.

By minimising the installation work required, the wireless mesh network offered a more cost-effective deployment solution. Not only this, modern Wi-Fi mesh is far less susceptible to RF interference and provides a higher level of throughput for a better performing network.

To achieve the best possible coverage to all 16 of the crane mounted cameras, the Aruba 104 access point on each crane was configured as a mesh AP and mesh portal APs were then installed to the perimeter of the automated area to provide the connectivity to the wired network. The IP CCTV camera on each crane was then connected to the mesh AP via its Ethernet interface.

Matt Harte, Technical Sales Account Manager at Ensign, said: “we opted for an Aruba wireless mesh network as it was the best solution for achieving coverage for streaming video across this large densely racked area.

“In this instance, wireless mesh was faster to deploy, provided superior connectivity for the cameras and was cheaper than a conventional Wireless LAN deployment as much of the costs associated with conventional wireless LAN, such as site surveys and the extensive cabling work, was reduced.”

Since installing the wireless mesh camera solution, Ensign’s client has been able to closely monitor the performance of the cranes in real time, whilst minimising downtime for service operations.

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Author Gregg Meade

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