When full network redesign isn’t in the cards, a refresh can sometimes provide in-the-meantime relief. Learn how Velaspan maximized a pharmaceutical client’s fixed budget to ensure essential wireless across their facility for the foreseeable future.
In 2019, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company faced an urgent and growing problem: Sorely underperforming wireless at one of their Midwestern locations. Connections were dropping and connectivity was compromised in cleanrooms, transit hallways, and on the packaging room floor.
They reached out and asked us to visit, assess the situation, and propose a solution.
Velaspan engineers traveled to the facility and conducted an onsite wireless coverage assessment. After gathering and reviewing results, we performed a remote configuration review. These critical steps are interdependent: Configuration reviews identify opportunities to optimize system performance; this information is more meaningful once we understand coverage – which can only be achieved through a wireless coverage assessment.
What We Discovered
We had suspected the wireless network was dated (our client was unsure of its age) based on several things, including facility size relative to the low number of access points (a reflection of a bygone era when networks were designed for fewer devices). Our wireless coverage assessment and configuration review confirmed that hunch. And under-design was only half of the problem: The network’s existing access points – already so old that they were unavailable through the manufacturer – were beginning to reach EoSL, the point at which supportability comes into question.
What We Proposed
Velaspan recommended what the pharmaceutical facility truly needs to stay consistently and effectively connected: A complete wireless network redesign.
They understood and agreed. There was just one problem: A full network redesign wasn’t in that year’s budget. In the meantime, operations desperately sought relief from increasingly unstable wireless.
Clear that remediation was the extent of what the client’s budget could support, two options existed:
In the first, up-to-date hardware could be added to existing, dated hardware to theoretically offset coverage gaps. But while some manufacturers endorse mixing hardware generations, Velaspan has seen firsthand the problems this can create. We therefore rarely recommend this approach.
As such, we proposed – and the client approved – our second option, which consisted of a three-part makeshift plan:
First, Velaspan would improve the existing network’s configuration. While this would only go so far, it would iron out some connectivity issues.
Secondly, we would add to the existing network about 50 same-generation access points the client had been able to secure through a reseller. Although new in the box, these access points were anything but current – yet could serve as a temporary fix. We evaluated and walked the client through the EoSL implications; ultimately, all parties agreed that the access points’ benefits justified the incurred risk.
Third, we widened the access point conversation and addressed network life cycle as a whole. Velaspan developed a life cycle management strategy and plan for the client that would keep this interim network – and their future network – from hitting the same point of failure and obsoletion.
Once this refresh was greenlit, Velaspan spec’d out locations and created a network design that honored the client’s budget and utilized the 50 new-old access points. We intermittently visited the facility at key junctures during cabling and installation (which was handled by the client’s local vendor). To maximize the client’s investment in new cabling, efforts were made to place access points at locations that would be consistent with the eventual full redesign.
Once the remediated network went live, Velaspan handled post-installation coverage assessment and validation, ensuring a seamless deployment and best-possible results.
Much to our pharmaceutical client’s relief, their refreshed network – designed with an eye toward their future network – provides the stopgap wireless connectivity they need. While not perfect, it sufficiently supports the plant’s necessary functions until a complete redesign is feasible. Emphasis on until: Due to supply chain issues, the larger redesign is experiencing delays outside of anyone’s control. Yet the remediated wireless network by Velaspan endures, allowing the pharmaceutical facility to continue operations as they count down to a complete network overhaul.
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