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3 ways wireless private networks make industrial operations safer and more efficient

Wireless private networks provide reliable connectivity for your remote and critical industrial applications.

The logistics and industrial sectors are digitizing their operations to increase efficiencies and profits. We've recently interviewed Larry Murat, Vice President R&D at Ericsson, on how these industries are transforming.

"Digitization has accelerated over the past year," said Murat. "Businesses that previously had a web page now have digital purchasing and offer delivery. With this transition, they need to address the logistics associated with managing their supply chain and workflow from a mobile perspective."

The move to digital business models has also dramatically increased the data that companies must manage. Manufacturing and industrial businesses collect massive amounts of data on suppliers, orders, products and workflows.

"AI and machine learning can reduce the time it takes you to fulfill services," said Murat. "These technologies can also help you better manage your supply chain and the data it creates. "

"AI and machine learning can reduce the time it takes you to fulfill services," said Murat. "These technologies can also help you better manage your supply chain and the data it creates. But to achieve these results, you need a network that supports your digitization efforts."

The future of WiFi and industrial applications

Many companies use WiFi to support their mission-critical applications and equipment. However, WiFi has limitations that can impact their performance and reliability.

When you deploy WiFi, you typically start by connecting all your computers. Then, you can add the rest of your infrastructure to the network.  But as your needs expand, scaling WiFi infrastructure and reliability becomes progressively more difficult. As loads increase, WiFi can struggle to provide ultra-low latency or consistent KPIs.

Murat believes that WiFi isn't going away, but businesses will become more strategic about using it. 

"We'll continue to use WiFi to connect consumer devices and computers," said Murat. "But we'll transition away from it for industrial applications, video and wide area network mobility."

The top 3 reasons why supply chains are embracing wireless private networks

More businesses are using wireless private networks (WPNs) to improve the performance and reliability of their industrial applications. A wireless private network (WPN) is a custom cellular network built on your site, extending your  secure corporate WAN while providing consistent coverage and bandwidth for your industrial applications.

"A WPN can replace your WiFi or complement it," said Murat. "You can migrate all of your traffic to a WPN if you want to use a single network for everything. If you want to drive more value from your WiFi investment, you can use it for your office computers and move your mission-critical traffic to a WPN." For new sites where legacy infrastructure isn’t a consideration, a WPN can be deployed quickly and configured to separate mission critical traffic from the traditional traffic served by WiFi.

While a WPN has advantages in both rural and urban settings, it is particularly ideal for remote areas that don't have consistent cellular coverage, such as an open pit mine. Since these sites are large, it's hard to scale WiFi across them. A WPN can provide reliable connectivity for trucks and other industrial equipment on these sites. When you implement a WPN, you can:

  • Save money: Applications that need custom hardware and software have short lifespans, as it's more cost-effective to purchase new technology instead of updating what you already have. "Dedicated hardware platforms and hosted solutions can be software- or application-based, instantiated anywhere in your network and built on generic hardware," said Murat. "They help you avoid getting locked into an investment that depreciates starting from Day One."
  • Reduce latency: Another advantage of a WPN is the ease with which you can integrate edge computing—bringing your network infrastructure closer to users so that you can reduce latency. The faster you access data for analysis, the faster you can respond.
  • Prioritize traffic for more reliable service: With a WPN, you can segment your network and improve your quality of service for specific applications. If an application needs the lowest possible latency, you can create a flow that meets your quality-of-service requirements. If a workload needs reasonable speed, but latency isn't as critical, you can scale your bandwidth to support greater throughput. For example, you can give more bandwidth to safety operations and less to social media.

4 ways industrial sites can boost efficiencies with a wireless private network

WPNs can help transform industrial operations. Here are four ways that companies in the industrial sector can use a WPN to make their operations more efficient:

  • Manufacturing: In the old days of manufacturing, you would build an assembly line for a specific purpose—such as producing a particular widget. To make different products, you needed to disassemble the line and reassemble it in a new configuration. This process required extensive downtime. 

Now, flexible manufacturing allows you to reconfigure those pieces quickly. You can enable equipment with highly reliable throughput and wireless interfaces, so the only physically wired infrastructure you need is electricity.

"Because you don't need to rip and replace everything, a WPN dramatically reduces downtime to reconfigure an assembly line," said Murat. "Instead, you simply move the gear, configure it for its new task, plug it in and let it go."

You can also automate the workflows that exist between the pieces of equipment. For example, factory workers might spend a lot of time pushing equipment and supplies around on dollies. You can automate this movement and control everything with WPN infrastructure that monitors where everything is at all times. This helps you avoid collisions and boost productivity.

  • Mining: In mining, safety is paramount, and downtime is costly. A WPN enhances safety and reduces equipment downtime by ensuring your remote assets, diagnostics and sensors stay connected. You can use a WPN to power the massive vehicles used in open-pit mines autonomously. That way, you can limit the number of people on the site and give workers less dangerous tasks.
  • Logistics and supply chain: Automating and digitizing the logistical side of your business can improve profitability. A WPN powers the technology you need to drive efficiencies in your supply chain. With a WPN, you can better track the pieces you use in your products. You can also improve efficiencies when you distribute finished products to end customers.
  • Utilities, oil and gas: Equipment in these industries is often located in remote areas that are hard to access, such as oilfields, substations and pipelines. Traditionally, companies have used satellite or fixed landline networks to provide connectivity. However, these networks restrict mobility and can be hard to support and expensive to connect. "We're seeing legacy networks evolve towards wireless private networks," said Murat. "WPNs offer much greater capabilities and reliability versus basic telephone lines."

Check out this blog post for information on how to choose a wireless private network and measure your ROI.

To find out how a wireless private network can enhance your operations, contact a Rogers for Business representative.