A wireless networking expert shares his take on what’s important in a WPN.
The industrial sector is experiencing rapid change as companies digitize their processes to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. To get perspective on how new technologies are transforming supply chain and industrial operations, we recently interviewed Michael Anderson, CEO of Expeto, a world leader in private mobile networking. According to Anderson, three significant changes are happening in the marketplace:
- Network technology advances offer ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity.
- Internet-of-things (IoT) sensors and greater compute power allow you to crunch massive amounts of data.
- The transition from hardware-defined to software-defined cores can make your business more agile.
"Five years ago, networks required a lot of hardware," said Anderson. "Making a change meant physically altering your network, which was costly and time-consuming. Now, software-defined cores allow you to add new applications quickly and from a central control room."
Meanwhile, industrial IoT allows you to "instrument your business" or put sensors on all of your assets. For example, you can put sensors on factory equipment and vehicles to monitor their performance. You can even collect data and gain actionable insight from assets located in remote areas, such as mining pits, oil fields, and utility grids. What’s more, these sensors form the foundation for fully automating remote processes to improve safety and efficiency.
"You can put high-powered sensors on equipment and gather data that gives you unprecedented insights into your business," said Anderson. "Then, you can use these insights to make your operations safer and more efficient."
How a wireless private network supports digital transformation
To realize benefits from IoT and greater compute power, you need a reliable network.
"Businesses in the industrial space are installing wireless private networks (WPNs) to get consistent bandwidth and coverage for all of their applications," said Anderson.
A WPN is a 4G or 5G cellular network that is custom-built on your site. It provides you with the high-performance network you need to drive innovation and transformation. Here are some of the things a WPN allows:
- Optimized uptime so that you can increase supply chain yields.
- Automated processes to make your business more efficient.
- Prolonged asset lifespans by putting IoT sensors on equipment and moving to a proactive maintenance model.
- Directing skilled human resources away from routine asset maintenance to tasks that drive more value for the business.
- Better energy monitoring to help you reduce your carbon footprint.
Here are three ways a WPN can transform industrial and supply chain operations:
- Improve your agility. A WPN allows you to deploy applications quickly and securely. In the past, you often needed to update your network if you wanted to roll out new technology. This process could take between two and six months. A WPN provides you with a robust network that can support new applications from Day One, without needing to resize or add equipment to your network.
- Protect your corporate data. A WPN contains multiple levels of security, including standard telecommunication and cellular encryption. And, since a WPN requires authenticated SIM cards to access connectivity. All data that passes through your WPN must go through your corporate firewall and are subject to your security controls.
- Increase your safety. A WPN offers high performance and is ideal for data-heavy applications, such as IoT and robotics. When you put sensors on your assets for continuous monitoring, you can detect anomalies before they cause accidents or work stoppages. By using robotics to perform tasks in unsafe environments, you can also avoid putting someone in harm's way.
7 essential questions to ask before choosing a wireless private network
"If you're considering a WPN, start by asking where you have opportunities within your business to drive efficiency," said Anderson. "Once you understand your opportunities, you can look for a solution that helps you realize them."
Here are seven questions to ask before you purchase a WPN:
- Does our WPN provider have a diverse spectrum portfolio? A WPN provides optimal performance when the licensed spectrum it uses best suits what you are trying to accomplish.
- Does our WPN provider have extensive experience deploying wireless networks? Look for a partner who not only has expertise but stability. A WPN can support your business for 10+ years, so you need confidence your provider will be around for the long term.
- Is the network reliable?
- Will the WPN optimize our current workflows? Does it integrate with our existing IT systems? Or will it create disparate processes and integration expenses, such as the need to hire people specifically to maintain the network?
- Will the WPN provide us with timely data so that we can take fast, meaningful actions?
- Is it secure? Can we run processes within our established security measures and software?
- How will you manage your WPN?
This last question is an important consideration: Will you allocate resources to handle the day-to-day admin related to your WPN, or let your team focus on what they do best instead of worrying about your network. A partner can help you implement a WPN that you can repeatedly leverage to create efficiencies, drive growth, and generate more bottom-line results. They can also future-proof your network so that you always have the latest and greatest tools working for your business.
How to predict the ROI from your wireless private network
Start by reviewing your business opportunities and determining which use cases can benefit from a dedicated network and how a WPN will help you take advantage of them.
"You may find hundreds of areas where automation can make your operations more efficient," said Anderson. "These improvements will yield annual revenue or cost savings. Determine how a WPN will help you achieve these financial and operational benefits."
Also, consider the costs of implementing and supporting a WPN versus the benefits you will gain from it. When you perform this cost analysis, consider how a WPN will accelerate the ROI from any new application that you install. Having a high-performance network allows you to implement new technologies faster and see immediate value from your investments.
To find out how a wireless private network can enhance your operations, contact a Rogers for Business representative.