Tapping into Real-Time Inventory Control at Columbia Distributing

Beer and wine dealer solves Wi-Fi signal transmission problems in warehouse using solution from Vivato

Beer and wine dealer solves Wi-Fi signal transmission problems in warehouse using solution from Vivato

San Mateo, CA — March 28, 2005 — Beer and wine dealer Columbia Distributing has tapped Wi-Fi systems infrastructure company Vivato to resolve major warehouse management problems at its Seattle-area facility, the solution provider reported today.

Columbia Distributing is the nation's largest purveyor of microbrewed beer and the largest fine wine distributor in the Northwest, marketing beverages to 85 percent of the region.

After installing 25 traditional Wi-Fi Access Points to manage inventory and customer business in its cavernous, 356,000-square-foot warehouse in the Seattle suburb of Renton, Columbia discovered that those radios couldn't transmit a signal throughout the hundreds of rows of beer and wine, making instantaneous inventory reports impossible.

To resolve the problem, Columbia chose to implement Vivato's Smart Wi-Fi architecture, which provides a cellular-like solution to wireless communications. The Smart Wi-Fi architecture uses high power base stations for broad coverage and Access Point (AP)/Bridges for spot coverage where needed.

Shanuj Sarin, Vivato senior systems engineer, said the entire Columbia installation, from site survey to full deployment, took less than four days. "We first did a comprehensive site survey to determine how to best cover the huge warehouse," said Sarin. "The numerous glass bottles stacked on metal shelves produced a very high multi-path environment, which can be a problem for wireless signals, and the 40-foot-high ceilings were another cause of signal weakness."

To overcome these obstacles, Sarin recommended installing two Vivato base stations and four AP/Bridges to network connectivity.

Columbia warehouse personnel now rely on the Vivato network to monitor supplies for the distributor's Pacific Northwest customer base. The Vivato base stations, measuring about three-feet square, combine packet steering technology and a phased-array antenna to cover up to 12 times the area of other solutions, Vivato said.

Because a small number of Vivato devices are required, the solution provider said that interference is minimal compared to traditional systems that might require scores of transmitting sites. The Vivato system solved the Wi-Fi problem in the warehouse and still allowed the customer to realize a significant cost savings over the previous approach, Vivato concluded in its announcement about the project.

The focus in the retail sector has shifted from managing the movement of goods to managing the information about goods. Read more in "Ramping Up the Retail Supply Chain," in the February/March 2005 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.