What's so Good About Our Warehouse WiFi Solutions?

5th Jun 2018

A slightly grandiose title I think you’d agree…but bear with me, there is a reason for my potentially pretentious header. 

We receive all kind of calls here at Ensign Communications, from a wide range of businesses and individuals. Some of those who call have little idea as to what they either want or really need for their business networks and others have very specific and defined requirements.

However, very rarely do we pick up the phone only to receive a direct challenge to prove our value right off the bat:

“So, what's so good about your warehouse WiFi solutions?” 

This actually happened - what a seriously great way to start a conversation!

If You’ll Listen, We’ll Tell You How Great We Are

Far from being perturbed by such a direct demand from a customer, this is the sort of thing we wish would happen more often. 

As most business owners and marketers will tell you, we are all practically dying to tell anyone who will listen just how good we all are, and why you should select us to design, build and support your warehouse WiFi over our myriad competitors. 

Needless to say, the Ensign Communications account manager responded to the direct question in the manner you might expect and we are now moving forward with that particular customers’ project. 

But, as a marketer, these types of interactions always get me thinking about ways to express our value even more effectively and to ask myself questions about what we are already doing and its relative effectiveness. 

So, Why Are We so Good at Warehouses?

A good friend and mentor of mine once told me (paraphrasing the American academic, Michael Porter) that, where market positioning is concerned, you can be one of two things:

1.    You can be the CHEAPEST
2.    Or, you can be UNIQUE 
       a.    (And if you really can’t be unique, then at the very least be DIFFERENT)

Everything is else is bull...not a great deal of option…

As a strictly business-grade warehouse solutions provider it is unlikely that we will ever be the cheapest and with many companies offering the same or a similar set of services we would also struggle to be completely unique (although I could make a good argument for it – maybe that’s for another blog); so what is it that makes us different in the warehouse and distribution sector?

Warehouse Integrators:

Although not the obvious place to start in terms of warehouse infrastructure project chronology, network integration is certainly top-of-the-pops as far as Ensign Communications’ difference and key value is concerned. 

You may find experts exclusive to structured cabling and in warehouse WiFi; you may find experts in Auto-ID, barcode and data capture systems and you will certainly find experts in Warehouse Management systems (WMS). However, the key to business-critical warehouse solutions is the integration of these composite parts to form one harmonised whole. 

For us, successful warehouse or distribution centre deployments are about designing and installing all of the above-mentioned components and then seamlessly integrating them in order to create fully resilient warehouse solutions. 

Whether we are discussing a warehouse, distribution centre or even a manufacturing plant, it is our belief that an elevated view of the operation must always be taken:

Business-criticality doesn’t simply come from the WiFi or the handhelds or the wired network, it’s all of those things that must work in synergy, and the majority of failing warehouses that we encounter have at least one of these elements that is underperforming. Ensign offers a truly end-to-end service, ensuring that our customers can be assured total continuity throughout their infrastructure. 

As the old saying goes: ‘too many cooks spoil your warehouse wireless’. 

Free Network Health Check

RF Expertise:

I once heard someone say that the most underused phrase in the English language is ‘I don’t know’. If more people admitted their shortcomings then we might all get to where we are heading a great deal faster. 

Warehouse WiFi is hard! This is the truth of the matter!

The physics of radio frequency (RF) propagation mean that experts in delivering office WiFi, or WiFi in schools or hotels will not necessarily have the knowledge to overcome the challenges of modern warehouse WiFi. 

The variables which characterise warehouses in terms of RF are endless. The many possible configurations of metal racking, all containing constantly changing levels of stock of varying densities (think about a pallet of plastic goods compared to a pallet of bottled liquid and their varying effects on WiFi performance) are all primary considerations for successful deployments. 

Add to this the very unique state of constant motion the handheld or truck-mounted scanners and computers are commonly in and you’ve got a very complex connectivity scenario indeed. 

To overcome these challenge, our wireless site surveys provide warehouse and distribution centres with a detailed and prescriptive view of the best possible access point locations and configurations…and always with built-in resilience. 

The other factor for warehouses and distribution centres is that, unlike office WiFi, if the wireless goes down the operation cannot simply switch to a wired connection; business-criticality is always at the forefront of our wireless network designs as network downtime in warehousing directly correlates with financial loss!

A Heritage in Handhelds:

Although Ensign Communications has a rich history of wireless deployments in a number of business verticals (from Education and Retail to Hotels, Marinas and more) a quick look at our 30+ year journey exemplifies just how integral barcode scanning and handheld devices have been to the business. 

In 1998 barcode-scanning giant Symbol (now part of Motorola) acquired handheld computer manufacturers Telxon, prompting many of Telxon’s Poole-based staff to transition to Ensign Communications. Since then we have delivered large handheld and barcode scanning projects for a great many businesses such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Jaguar Land Rover, JD Sports, Clarkes Shoes and many more.   

In this subset of warehouse networking understanding the plethora of options available to operators is key to the procurement process:

Pistol grip or ring scanner?; Holster or palm?; Long distance scanning or close quarter? 8-hour battery life or more? 

The variety is endless and thus the risk of either over- or under-specification can be a problem, not to mention compatibility and integration (that word again!) – Ensign Communications has your back

We often provide a number of considerations for loan so that you and your business can really be sure that your handheld investment is the right one. 

Trumpet Blown

It is not often that I would be comfortable to write something so ostentatious – no one likes a show-off after all. 

But, thanks to our very forthright caller, I have chosen to somewhat bend the rules in the hope that this will serve to answer that very prickly but important question; the subtext of which is very clear:

Why should I spend my warehouse IT/ networking budget with Ensign Communications and how can I be sure that they will deliver?

With that in mind, I will leave you with a testimonial from one of our recent distribution centre projects:

“I have always found that, in potentially damaging IT situations, a business can be quite vulnerable – if the problem can’t be fixed internally you may find yourself paying ‘over the odds’ or taken advantage of. However, at no point throughout our entire journey did we feel that Ensign were trying to monetise us.

"Any future work with regards to our warehouse WiFi will go through Ensign first; it is now our company policy now that any IT supplier we use must be able to work with them.”

Symon Reeves, Commercial Director @ ABS Holdings

What Next?

For advice on designing or upgrading your Warehouse, Distribution Centre or Manufacturing Plant WiFi network and associated systems, to the deployment of security solutions like Next Generation Firewalls and Endpoint Network Security, please contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.