Associated British Ports upgrades wireless to 802.11 to offer greater flexibility
Associated British Ports (ABP) is the UK’s largest and leading ports group. It currently manages 21 ports and, together with the other transport-related businesses that constitute the ABP Group, forms a UK-wide network capable of handling every conceivable type of cargo. ABP is backed by investment in modern facilities and equipment, and is supported by experienced staff. The Group’s activities cover transport, haulage and terminal operations, ship’s agency, dredging, and marine consultancy. Each port also offers a well-established community of port-service providers.
ABP has been working with Zebra Technologies, through its Partner Empower Value Added Reseller, Renovotec, for over eight years and had been using the Zebra 7535 handheld devices on narrow-band wireless technology. ABP’s customers were keen to gain access to the 802.11 wireless standards to carry out stock checks and similar activities at the Group’s sites across the UK. The challenge faced was how to move to the new standard without impacting day-to-day business operations and to be able to introduce more ﬂexibility and functionality in terms of mobile computing solutions.
The systems that were already in place had been there for several years, but they had only recently come under the direct control of ABP, allowing it to have a much greater impact in the development of the system.
ABP also had initial concerns about the cost implications of implementing an 802.11 infrastructure due to the large physical areas requiring wireless coverage.
The initial step was to carry out a full site survey, conducted by Renovotec, to determine the design of the 802.11 wireless infrastructure. This survey included recommendations for the quantity, location and antennae of wireless access points necessary to provide the required system performance objectives, as well as a cabling/fiber site survey. On-site user confirmed application software compatibility with the older devices, and then a full site installation of the new 802.11 infrastructure was undertaken, again by Renovotec’s own engineers incorporating system testing and commissioning.
The key to success was the fact that all parties worked together for a common goal, with little or no impact on the end-user’s operation. It was also important to make sure that all system design, project management, testing and configuration work was orchestrated up front for ease of implementation as well as proving the concept and technology choice to the customer.
Working closely with Renovotec, ABP established that the proposed transition could be fulfilled in a very cost-effective way. Renovotec spent a lot of time understanding the business and how best to deploy this technology, resulting in a smooth implementation with no impact to the business operation.
By introducing a combination of 25 access points to facilitate the new 802.11 wireless infrastructure and investing in new 7535 handheld computers from Zebra, ABP has managed to execute a seamless transition to the new wireless infrastructure and introduce enhanced mobile features, such as color touch-screen technology through the Zebra devices.
Richard Gillard of Renovotec, said: “Throughout this project it has been very important to maintain a high level of continuity. Renovotec is a Zebra premier partner and was introduced to this particular ABP site through this relationship. ABP had a level of confidence in Renovotec’s relationship with Zebra and was confident that a project of this size could be dealt with by one single point of contact.”
John McMeeking of Zebra Technologies Europe, said: “ABP has been a long-standing customer of ours, and it is great that we have continued this relationship over the years. That it [ABP] has upgraded the Zebra hardware to match the new wireless infrastructure is great, and the feedback to date certainly points to a successful project for all involved.”
“This has been a major project for us and one that needed to be handled with great care to make sure we could change the infrastructure without impacting on the services we provide. The initial feedback we have received is extremely positive, and the operators have reported that they find the new system much faster, therefore improving operational efficiency and productivity. The new handheld units have been very well received with comments made about the screen improvements and increased battery life.”
Daniel Carmichael, ABP