Warehousing Companies Select Smarter Wi-Fi Technology to Get Around Insane Wireless Problems Facing the Industry

WOW Logistics, One of the Largest Third-Party Warehousing Companies in the U.S., and 25 Other Warehousers Around the World See Ruckus Smarter Wi-Fi as Key to Staying Efficient and Competitive

SUNNYVALE, CA – March 26, 2012 – Ruckus Wireless™ (Ruckus) today announced that its ZoneFlex™ Smart Wi-Fi system has been selected by one of the nation’s leading warehousing companies, WOW Logistics (WOW), and 25 other top warehousing and logistics companies around the world to address wireless instability, coverage and performance issues within massive, noisy operations full of all kinds of RF enemies.

In addition to WOW Logistics, the international warehousing companies that have selected and are deploying the Ruckus ZoneFlex system include:

Adani group (India)
AKAT Cosmetics (Turkey)
ALAN Textiles (Turkey)
American Tire Depot (US)
Arvind Group (India)
Azienda Hervit (Italy)
Burggraf Tire (US)
C&C (Brazil)
Charles & Keith (Singapore)
Cone Distributing (US)
Copart (US)
Four Seasons General Merchandise (US)
Fruit Patch (US)
Gucci (Singapore)
Gujarat Petro Chemicals Limited (India)
Main Freight (Australia)
Makro (Peru/Argentina)
Milfos Dairy (New Zealand)
Pacific Seafood (US)
Peixoto Atacadista (Brazil)
Pontolog Logistica (Brazil)
Toyo Tires (US)
TVS Motors (India)
Wellspun Industries (India)
WOW Logistics (US)
Yankee Clipper (US)
Warehousing Wi-Fi

Warehouses can be incredibly hostile environments for operating Wi-Fi networks because they are filled with metal structures, unfriendly RF obstacles, competing handheld Wi-Fi devices, and sparse amounts of Ethernet cabling. More importantly, warehouses are in a constant state of flux with inventory continually moving in and out of vast spaces. This changes RF conditions, often having a dramatic effect on Wi-Fi performance as obstacles and interference cause connectivity and performance problems.

Wi-Fi is a cost-effective way for distributors to make their warehouse processes more efficient by allowing universal access to real-time inventory information and eliminating counting and picking errors. However, the inability to maintain consistent and high-speed Wi-Fi connections to weak handheld scanner and bar code readers has hampered its effectiveness. Warehousers around the world are now standardizing on advanced Wi-Fi systems that overcome these problems by adapting Wi-Fi transmissions automatically as RF conditions change, using sophisticated directional signaling technology that focuses and steers Wi-Fi traffic over the best path to each wireless device.

Wi-Fi for Managing Inventory

WOW Logistics has overhauled its legacy Motorola Wi-Fi network and standardized on Ruckus ZoneFlex 802.11n products and technology throughout its operations to support its inventory management system and other essential business applications. Currently being installed across warehouses in Wisconsin, Illinois and Idaho, upon completion, WOW expects to deploy 400+ APs to support its operations.

With nearly seven million square feet of multi-temperature food-grade warehouse facilities, WOW’s 23 facilities store a diverse mix of dry and cold products such as cheese, corrugated cardboard, paper and pulp, and food and beverage products. Wi-Fi has become a strategic technology to enable process improvements.

Like many warehousing operations, WOW’s primary wireless application is supporting its inventory management system. Using handheld Motorola scanners, WOW staff constantly accesses the system over Wi-Fi. However with its legacy Motorola Wi-Fi system, WOW faced serious wireless coverage, stability and performance problems that it had been unable to solve using conventional Wi-Fi technology.

“Warehousing environments are brutal on Wi-Fi because everything is always changing and these spaces are full of materials that just kill Wi-Fi signals,” said Dave Christianson, network administrators for WOW Logistics. “We literally have 640-pound blocks of cheese that we store in solid steel drive-in racks. Try getting Wi-Fi to work, and work well, with water and steel. It was a nightmare.”

According to Christianson, one of the primary problems WOW faced was the inability for the existing wireless system to maintain consistent connectivity with Motorola MC9060 and MC9090 handheld barcode scanners. These devices are used by material handlers, forklift drivers and truck loaders for scanning palette and product locations, clocking hours, tracking product movements, tow motor inspection, trailer inspections, driver signatures, calendar entries and MSDS tracking. “This is the lifeblood of our business. If we can’t maintain reliable, high-speed access from these devices, our business is dead in the water.”

WOW is also using Wi-Fi to support wireless humidity and temperature sensors as well as push-to-talk handheld RF radios used throughout their facilities. According to WOW, the FCC is requiring companies to move to narrowband frequencies by December 31 of 2012, as they reclaim licensed spectrum for other uses. These narrowbands provide less distance and use less power and makes it more difficult to enable reliable communications throughout large areas. Consequently, WOW is migrating to Motorola EWB-100 Wi-Fi badges that operate in the 2.4GHz band, and using smart Wi-Fi technology to extend signals.

Smart Wi-Fi at 1/5th the Price, 3X the Responsiveness

After evaluating a number of suppliers including Aruba, Motorola, Cisco and Ruckus, WOW selected the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7962 dual-band 802.11n access points for their indoor requirements, and the ZoneFlex 7762 dual-band 802.11n APs for outdoor applications.

“When we approached other wireless vendors to solve these problems with higher performance and more powerful APs, we were astounded at the licensing costs and the ultimate price tag of over $1 million to upgrade our existing system across our sites,” said Christianson.

In its “Little Chute” warehouse with approximately 400,000 square feet of indoor warehouse space, WOW has deployed 35 indoor ZoneFlex 7962 dual-band 802.11n APs. Outside, because of extreme cold conditions, WOW installed ZoneFlex 7762 APs that integrate an internal heater to ensure non-stop operation in harsh conditions.

Previous Iperf performance testing of its existing Wi-Fi environment yielded 1Mbps of throughput to client devices. With Ruckus ZoneFlex APs installed in the same locations, Wi-Fi performance jumped to 83 Mbps. Developed by the Distributed Applications Support Team (DAST) at the National Laboratory for Applied Network Research (NLANR), Iperf is a commonly used network testing tool that creates TCP and UDP data streams and measures the throughput of a network that is carrying them.

According to WOW, the total price of the Ruckus ZoneFlex system for this one warehouse was 1/5th the cost of competitive alternatives, and the Wi-Fi system was three times more responsive than its previous system in communicating with the handheld scanners.

Looking forward, WOW is interested in using the new Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi network to support location-based services to track where staff and products are located at any moment. Video surveillance is another application that Wi-Fi will be expected to support for WOW.