As part of their new ERP implementation and continuous improvement efforts, Intersnack identified the need to automate a number of manual processes such as recording raw material handling, production and movement of finished goods in order to drive efficiency and improve detail and accuracy in reporting.
In order to capture the necessary live data from their factory and warehouses, Intersnack required mobile barcode scanners to read and record data using a wireless network. The wireless network needed to span across Intersnack’s three UK sites to provide operational efficiency and simplify sharing of equipment such as the scanners, laptops and other mobile devices. The wireless barcode scanners collect information from the factory and feed it live into the ERP system, allowing staff to record and save accurate and detailed management information such as up-to-the minute stock levels.
Waterstons have been working with Intersnack (and in their previous incarnation, Union Snack) as their business technology partner since 2001. With extensive experience of Intersnack’s infrastructure and business systems, Waterstons were well positioned to design and create a wireless solution that enables live data capture.
After detailed discussions with Intersnack, Waterstons prepared a proof of concept to test the functionality of the handheld scanners and the new wireless network within the factory environment.
Key data capture locations were identified by studying current and future working practices and detailed site plans. The next step, crucial within any implementation of a wireless solution, was to survey the sites/areas that required Radio Frequency (RF) coverage.
With the data capture locations identified, dedicated wireless surveying software plotted the coverage of a temporary moveable Access Point (AP) to identify the best locations for placement of the final Access Points. Machinery, high racking and other electrical devices can cause significant RF issues and so these also needed identifying as part of the RF survey and AP placement strategy to ensure consistent and reliable blanket coverage and elimination of any ‘black spots’ in key areas.
After reviewing the survey results from the proof of concept, a final solution was designed. This comprised a wireless LAN controller on each site with a number of APs servicing all factory and office locations. As the proof of concept was configured and tested off site to ensure its viability, Waterstons were able to install the solution with minimal interruptions to live operations.
Using a unified solution not only met the original requirement of live data capture throughout the manufacturing process, but a number of other benefits were also achieved:
- Efficient stock and finished product recording leading to reduced wastage and subsequent cost savings.
- Seamless roaming from AP to AP in key wireless locations means there is no need to re-authenticate whilst moving from place to place and ensures no loss of connection. Health and safety around the site is also improved as there are no trailing wires and cables.
- A scalable solution so that should additional APs be required for a particular site, or for a new site, they can be added and updated as necessary and configured within minutes.
- Secure, certificate based and Active Directory integrated wireless access for laptop users allowing staff to seamlessly roam from site to site.
- Guest wireless access using time-based credentials and web-based logon.
- Low administrative overhead as the network administrator can centrally manage multiple APs on multiple sites from a single location.