Industrial Wi-Fi provides complete coverage

Monday, 05 February, 2018

Industrial Wi-Fi provides complete coverage

An upgrade of Annex’s Wi-Fi network is saving the packing specialist some serious time and money.

Annex Foods is a dry food and contract packing specialist that partners with some of Australia’s leading food, fast-moving consumer goods, pharmaceutical and retail companies. The company provides innovative solutions for food systems, including single-serve portion control, sourcing and product development capabilities — complementing its extensive experience in contract packing and assembly.

Annex operates from a 20,000 m2 facility in Clayton South, Victoria. The facility uses state-of-the-art automation and relies heavily on communications infrastructure. There is an average of 40 to 60 mobile users using the Wi-Fi network at any one time, with applications supporting 24/7 connectivity for mobile computers, laptops/PCs and automatic guided vehicles (AGVs). The entire facility requires complete coverage, with the capacity to support the needs of all personnel and connected equipment. Any gaps reduce efficiency and cost time and money.

“We were experiencing slow network speeds and dropouts around our facility with our existing Wi-Fi network while using mobile devices,” said the warehouse manager, Rik Crowder. “With the new deployment of our automatic guided vehicles we needed to consider our network upgrade options to rectify any issues with the Wi-Fi that would impact the AGV’s performance and reliability.”

Annex reached out to Southern Rework. Formed in 1995 and based in Melbourne, Southern Rework specialises in point of sale, scanning RF technology, hardware installation and maintenance.

A robotic forklift moving amongst shelving in a warehouse


Southern Rework proposed replacing the existing Wi-Fi network with a new cnPilot indoor and outdoor connectivity solution. In addition to the capacity and coverage increases, cnPilot solutions work with the cnMaestro management system from Cambium Networks.

“Annex could not afford downtime, and they needed clear and uninterrupted communication between inline PLC and AGV while rectifying the coverage and speed issues they were experiencing,” said Evan Boyack, wireless architect at Southern Rework.

Annex also had budgetary parameters to consider. “The expense of rectifying the existing network was outweighed by the cost and benefit of moving over to the Cambium cnPilot and cnMaestro platforms,” said Crowder. “What we needed to do was prove the technology’s potential by measuring the results.”


Twenty-two Cambium cnPilot e500 outdoor access points were deployed across two sites as a direct replacement of the legacy Wi-Fi network.

“The installation was done over two days with negligible impact to the production network,” said Crowder. “All hardware was pre-staged and tested with our legacy Wi-Fi settings as well as the new WLANs to allow for a seamless migration. We now have RF Scanners connected to our WMS, the AGVs are connected to inline PLCs and all PCs throughout the building are connected to the server. In addition, there are now more options for us to leverage on the new Wi-Fi deployment.”

Product shot showing several Cambium antenna units

Equally important, the transition was completed without interrupting operations. “We had zero loss of transactional data that results in inefficiencies (no time loss investigating and searching for stock). We also had zero dropouts, which improves user satisfaction,” said Crowder.

“Our previous system was expensive to maintain and management of the hardware/software was becoming an issue. The cnPilot technology recommended and backed by Cambium Networks and Southern Rework is so easy to deploy and manage with cnMaestro that changes can now be made remotely — sparing costly site visits and downtime.”

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