Factory Wi-Fi without the headache of Fibre

Fibre-free wi-fi

Hamilton and Telford-based Parkburn Precision Handling Systems specialise in providing marine handling systems to many markets - offshore oil and gas, HV power cable, telecommunications, seismic exploration, DSV and general marine & naval handling markets. Their relationship with Exmos dates back to 2009.

In 2012 Parkburn moved their Telford operation to a new, larger capacity manufacturing facility with a factory floor of nearly 5000 square metres. Our not inconsiderable task was to provide network and Internet access at every point where engineers, contractors or visitors might be working… and our challenge was to restrict company network access to PPHS engineers only.

We looked at a number of options. The obvious one - cabling the factory floor - would require multiple runs of fibre cable plus associated, expensive equipment but it would be difficult to stop visitors from plugging into the company network. And on the other hand while installing Wi-Fi would provide Internet services for visitors, it would still require fibre cabling to each Wi-Fi access point.

In response, we designed and installed a mesh Wi-Fi system comprising multiple Wi-Fi access points to give complete coverage to the whole factory. Each access point acts as a bridge, passing network traffic (via Wi-Fi) to its neighbour until it gets back to a single wired point at the factory entrance. In other words, no matter where you are on the factory floor, you’ll find network coverage without having to find a cabled network point to plug into.

To manage network security, each access point requires authentication for either Employees or Guest Services. Guests use a printed token (similar to hotel Wi-Fi) which gives them full access to the Internet but not the company network and automatically expires at the end of their visit. Employees connect using their existing network name and password rather than a shared Wi-Fi code. This means that if an employee leaves the company, shutting down their network account will also revoke their Wi-Fi access.

Our solution is not only much more flexible than multiple wired network points, it also cost a fraction of the price of cabling the factory with fibre and gives Parkburn reassurance that visitors can’t access their company network. In fact, the whole operation has been such a success that Parkburn have installed the same technology in their Hamilton-based Head Office, meaning staff can now use the same access criteria at both locations.