Wireless networks are crucial to success in the logistics industry. From real-time inventory management to cloud-based data storage, connectivity helps warehouses function at peak efficiency. Unfortunately, cellular signal strength has not always top-of-mind in the construction of older warehouses. Even new construction projects will face cellular coverage challenges due to signal-blocking materials.
The deeper cellular signals need to travel to get into a big metal, brick, or masonry building, the worse the cell signal will be. Even just stepping inside the warehouse may cause signal to weaken. Beyond building materials, a few hundred thousand square feet of inventory stacked up to the rafters further disrupts cellular signal penetration.
Fortunately, there are solutions to this common problem. WilsonPro cellular repeater solutions are designed to improve cellular coverage in large commercial spaces and warehouses.
Why Is It Important to Have Strong Signal in a Warehouse?
If your warehouse is filled with inventory, you likely have many workers and they’re spread out across huge distances, in-between floor-to-ceiling racks, obscured from view and muffled from hearing–and warehouses are seldom quiet; no one communicates in a warehouse by shouting across the interior space. This communication in commercial and industrial warehouses is often solved by radios, but radios have downsides.
For starters, a radio can only call other radios in the area. Maybe it can call to all the other employees in the warehouse and perhaps the front office, but that’s it. A radio can’t make a call outside the radio’s network. Aside from making it hard for a worker to call home to check on the family, it’s a big safety issue.
If there’s an accident in the warehouse and employees are only equipped with radios, they have to make a radio call, wait for someone to respond, and then relay the emergency information to someone who does have a phone, which then has to be repeated to 911. It causes a slowdown in response time and it adds the chance for errors as the 911 operator is only getting a second-hand account and can’t ask questions directly of the warehouse responders. The lack of cell signals in a warehouse is a safety hazard as dangerous as poorly-stacked inventory or trip hazards.
Benefits of Improved Cell Signal in Your Warehouse
While everyone knows that cell connectivity is useful anywhere, there are many reasons that a warehouse needs it even more than the average space.
What if a salesperson is visiting your warehouse—or a customer—and they need to get a hold of their office to make an important decision that will affect your bottom line. Will that sale be in jeopardy because your customer has to walk outside to the parking lot to make a phone call? Will your purchase be poorly communicated over a spotty connection, causing your order to be delivered wrong? Improving in-building cellular coverage in your warehouse will save you a lot of headache.
And, if your warehouse has been converted into an office, the benefits of having good cell service are right there in front of you: either you do all your business on a landline, inconveniencing both your staff and your clients who come to visit, or you end up moving out of the space and find a new place to do business. In today’s connected world, no business can afford to have a poor cell signal in their office building.
How Do I Improve Cellular Coverage in My Warehouse?
Solving connectivity issues in a warehouse is daunting, as many of these warehouses are old and the brick, concrete, steel, and masonry diminishes the cell signal or nullifies it entirely. Combine this with the fact that industrial areas are often under-served by cell towers, and you’ve got a recipe for frustration.
Cell towers and devices work similar to the way two-way radios do, meaning that a voice is converted to a radio signal, sent via radio waves to the cell tower, which then relays the radio wave back to return the message, converting it to sound. These radio signals are easily disrupted by warehouse construction.
The best way to enhance signal in a warehouse is by utilizing existing strong outdoor signals and amplifying them within the building. Passive distributed antenna systems (DAS) or cell phone signal repeaters for warehouses have proven to be the best and most reliable way to do this. With proper installation, these cellular repeater systems can bring the outdoor signal inside a warehouse.
There’s more to it than simply sticking an antenna on the roof, as appealing as that solution may be. This is because even putting a cellular signal amplifier in one place in a warehouse doesn’t mean the signal will travel through all the walls, inventory, and dead spaces. A site survey needs to be done to get a thorough understanding of exactly what areas need to be covered.
Get a Site Survey t Your Warehouse
A thorough site survey is the foundation for deploying a successful cell signal amplification system within a warehouse, or any structure for that matter. This process assesses where signal is strongest and weakest — from the roof to the interior — to help determine the optimal placement of donor antennas and indoor antennas. The donor antenna is housed outdoors and is used to capture outdoor signal that will be amplified within the building by the indoor antennas. A site survey will also tell the installer how much cable and other materials will be needed for the project.
While many building owners and managers rely on signal bars displayed on their phone, or use the field test mode on their smartphone as a measure of signal strength, a signal meter provides a much more accurate assessment. This device allows you to read the signal level for all frequency ranges and bands to ensure you are amplifying a signal that will work for everyone, regardless of their service provider. A carrier-agnostic signal proves useful in an age where everyone living or working in the building relies on a different carrier network.
The site survey also includes looking at the warehouse floor plan and identifying potential obstacles before the installation begins. The floor plan will also help inform the number of antennas needed and where they should be placed for optimal performance.
The site survey will guide the system design and increase the chances of the most effective results from a cellular signal repeater solution within a warehouse space.
Cellular Repeater System Installation
On the roof of the warehouse a donor antenna will be fixed, usually attaching to a vent pipe or post, or a specially built mount.
Inside the building, the installer will put install indoor antennas, in accordance with the plan they made from the site survey. These will be mounted on the walls or ceiling. Depending on the type of warehouse, these antennas may be hidden completely from view.
Finally, repeaters will need to be installed. These are more tricky as they require a power supply and adequate ventilation. Depending on the model, they can be mounted on a wall or put in a server room.
All of this will be done using the least amount of cable possible, because signals degrade as they travel through cables, so shortest is best.
Especially in a warehouse or manufacturing environment, in-building cellular and data reception allows your staff to connect with coworkers or field agents in real time.
More robust connectivity increases productivity, and improves security and safety systems that need to connect with cellular networks.
If you’d like to learn more about how to enhance the cell signal in your warehouse facility, contact WilsonPro today.