UK manufacturers of metal ceilings, distributing products internationally
IP67-rated Cisco Meraki APs provide reliable WiFi for staff, guests, & machinery
Installed Meraki switching for a robust backbone and EMM for mobile workforce
SAS International is a leading British manufacturer of quality metal ceilings and bespoke architectural metalwork. Installed in iconic, landmark buildings worldwide, SAS leads through innovation, cutting-edge design and technical acoustic expertise. Their success is built on continued investment in manufacturing and achieving value for clients through world-class engineered solutions.
In the UK, SAS operates factories in Bridgend, Birmingham and Maybole, with headquarters and warehouse facilities in Reading. The company has recently expanded its export markets and employs nearly 1000 staff internationally. However, the IT infrastructure was operating on aging equipment with connectivity, visibility and security constraints.
James Greene, Group IT Manager, joined SAS 2 years ago. He was tasked with modernising the switching fabric and upgrading from the commercial-grade wireless. Having previously managed a Cisco Meraki deployment, Greene’s team completed the rollout within a matter of weeks. The deployment included Meraki wireless, switching, and enterprise mobility management to their sites, providing an easy-to-manage, feature-rich, deeply granular solution.
“I love the single-pane-of-glass across all of the sites,” Greene said. “It’s key for us with a small IT team.”
Original Networking Challenges
An aging switch fabric, mixed with commercial-grade wireless devices, created a deployment with limited coverage and virtually no visibility into network usage, masking potential issues.
The factories and warehouses are challenging wireless environments, not only due to the physical structure of the buildings, but also due to the metal ceilings being manufactured and the extensive machinery in use.
Machinery on the factory floors had to be managed manually, assets couldn’t be easily tracked and product flow was accomplished via printed tags that were taken back to booths for cross-checking.
Why Cisco Meraki
Unified dashboard allows the IT team to remotely manage the distributed sites and have instant visibility and control over the network devices, as well as the mobile devices used by employees on a daily basis.
The live tools and remote troubleshooting built into the Meraki dashboard allows the SAS team to understand how the network is connected and has allowed them to identify cabling issues during the Meraki deployment that they may have otherwise missed.
With 15 SSIDs per network, the IT team can customise how different user groups, devices, and locations use the network, implementing features like traffic shaping, content filtering, splash pages, and VLAN tagging.
As network use evolves, the IT Team can update settings quickly, scale by adding new devices for increased coverage without traditional controller limits, and increase network functionality in a few mouse clicks.
[Meraki] permeates every aspect of the business. The full visibility is hugely beneficial as a manager. We’ve removed issues, increased reliability and performance, and employees are now very happy.James Greene, Group IT Manager
Working only on weekends over 3-4 weeks, the IT team deployed a series of 802.11ac indoor APs and ruggedised, IP67-rated outdoor APs to support the challenging environment of the manufacturing areas.
With a single range of IP addresses, SAS is now able to quickly and easily configure full sets of VLANs for different data sets, allowing them to be more flexible and secure when passing information across the network.
Greene moved away from having a single point of sign-on with an unchanging password, to customised access based on device and user type using several SSIDs for guests, staff, corporate use, handheld devices, etc.
Various SSIDs are configured for corporate devices logging on with Active Directory, staff using a changing key with content filtering, and guests logging in via a custom splash page.
Meraki PoE/PoE+ access switches with a warm spare provide connectivity throughout the locations. From the remote dashboard, the IT team can configure ports in seconds or disable ports when they’re not in use, providing added security.
Meraki Enterprise Mobility Manager (EMM) has also been deployed on company-owned devices for more efficient usage, allowing the IT team to track assets, restrict application installation, and receive notifications in certain events.
During the initial deployment, the IT Team was able to identify cabling issues that, “we wouldn’t have noticed without the ability to investigate with the Meraki products.”
With an upcoming voice project and continually working to optimise solutions, like cloud storage, the network is now robust enough and reliable enough to support future IT needs.
SAS is retrofitting numerous manufacturing machines with computers. This retrofit, partnered with the new network, allows remote communications between the machines and the designers without having to manually input data at the machines themselves.
The robust wireless infrastructure is changing the manual printing and checking of stock by enabling handheld scanners and creating a more efficient and cost-effective product flow.
Fault mitigation and anomaly detection have been huge benefits of the Meraki solution. For example, the IT team was able to quickly identify a bandwidth issue when a phenomenal amount of data was generated from an automated transfer to a shop machine. They were able to spot the issue, identify the machine, and fix the problem. Before, they would merely have seen there was a network slow down, but would not have been able to identify or resolve the problem.
The full set of VLANs for different data has eliminated the DHCP problems, while the wireless segmentation has vastly improved the network security. Greene has also been able to put Quality of Service (QoS) on specific voice traffic on a dedicated VLAN, allowing for guaranteed quality on the new SAS Unified Communications platform.
Overall, employees and guests have been incredibly happy with the new solution and the IT team is looking forward to continued analysis of the granular visibility to maximise performance on the internal network in the future.
The SAS team will continue to benefit from the included firmware updates and new feature releases that are integrated into the solution, providing them with a future-proof solution as they expand to global sites in the future.