International fulfillment company Distribution Management has connected its robots and IoT devices to a standardized Aruba wireless network. This enables digital transformation initiatives to support the company’s rapid growth and increasing customer demand.
With headquarters in St. Charles, Missouri, and five distribution centers across the U.S., Distribution Management operates a supplies and order fulfillment network that can reach 99 percent of the country within one-to-two days. The company also operates a Foreign Trade Zone that services international needs, and offers managed services for printer fleets, dispatching technicians for troubleshooting and repair, as well as supplying printer repair parts.
Demand from customers
As Distribution Management has grown and seen increased demand from customers, modernizing and streamlining operations, and improving efficiencies and employee productivity, have become key objectives. According to Tom Huck, Distribution Management’s Director of Infrastructure Technologies, the company realized it needed to upgrade its network infrastructure to achieve these objectives.
“We knew that the underlying network foundation would be critical to advancing all of the modernization and expansion efforts we had in mind,” Huck said. “It was pretty clear our existing network couldn’t accommodate our growing needs.”
New distribution models
As the company planned for expansion into larger warehouse spaces, with an increasing number of IoT devices on the network, and new distribution models that would include replacing traditional conveyor equipment with robots, it realized their legacy Cisco network had to be replaced. After evaluating new solutions from both Cisco and Aruba, Distribution Management chose to standardize on Aruba across all of its sites.
Working with partners Insight and InterVision, Distribution Management began installing Aruba access points, mobility controllers, and access switches, as well as ClearPass, so the organization can authenticate every wired and wireless device that accesses the network and begin implementing consistent role-based policies.
According to Jim Adelmann, network administrator for Distribution Management, the new Aruba network is accelerating the organization’s warehouse digital transformation, allowing the IT team to connect a variety of crucial devices including robots to the network for automated inventory management. The robots use the wireless network to check in and “call home” for real-time order details that indicate where to go within the warehouse and how to process orders.
Other devices and applications benefiting from the Aruba network include Zebra barcode printers and wrist-mounted TC52 devices, which warehouse employees use to scan, pick and pack inventory, QubeVu hardware which is essential in viewing and analyzing the dimensions of packages coming through their warehouse so they can be processed properly, and RingCentral softphones for videoconferencing and employee laptops and mobile devices.
From an IT perspective, Adelmann said the Aruba network is providing the kind of reliability, redundancy and always-on connectivity that Distribution Management needed to move forward with their expansion and modernization efforts confidently.
“Had we stuck with Cisco, we would have spent twice the amount of time getting the network up and running. With Aruba, network management is so easy – we had everything rolling within a week,” Adelmann said.
Adelmann also noted that the modularity of the Aruba solutions allowed the IT team to stage everything ahead of time and that the uptime has been “through the roof,” freeing up the IT team to focus on more strategic initiatives. Added Huck, “Lost productivity translates into lost revenue. That’s why having a solid network foundation was so vital to supporting our digital initiatives and meeting our growth and expansion needs.”
Photo: Distribution Management