Moving With the Times: How Two Way Radio has Adapted to Modern Warehousing Operations

Two way radio and the logistics industry share a long history. Practical, robust and reliable, two way radio was the first wireless communications technology that allowed teams to stay in touch across large warehouse and processing facilities, helping to improve overall coordination and efficiency.

Nowadays, of course, most of us carry around mobile phones, a younger example of wireless communications technology that is approaching saturation point in terms of individual ownership. Yet in industry, two way radio remains the tool of choice.

If you haven't reviewed your use of two way radio for a number of years, you might be surprised by what the latest models can do. Two way radio technology has undergone its own digital transformation, unlocking a wide range of capabilities which make it better suited than ever to the needs of warehousing operations.

Better coverage

Let's look at an example. Brentwood Communications has a long-standing relationship with PMS International, the UK's biggest importer of mass market consumer products. Brentwood has supplied PMS with two way radios for its giant 500,000 sq ft warehousing facility in Basildon, Essex for a number of years.

When the relationship started, Brentwood provided traditional analogue 'walkie-talkie'-style radio handsets, which have been a mainstay of industrial communications for decades. The longevity of analogue two way radio can be explained by its key assets - it is easy to use, it provides clear audio, it is reliable and robust enough to stand being used for years on end in tough workplace environments.

A drawback with analogue technology has always been signal coverage, however. The two way radios Brentwood supplied to PMS did an adequate job, but were never quite enough to give full network coverage across the whole 500,000 sq ft facility.

The most recent project Brentwood undertook with PMS was to start to upgrade its fleet to digital two way radio. Digital technology gives a bigger output and therefore a bigger signal range, as well as even better audio clarity.

We chose a so-called hybrid model from manufacturer Hytera, which operates in both analogue and digital modes simultaneously. This made it perfect to help PMS migrate onto digital two way radio gradually, as they could buy a few Hytera handsets at a time and still use their old analogue models in the meantime.

Improved safety monitoring

As well as better output and performance, digital two way radios also have the advantage of offering a much broader range of features. This particularly comes to the fore in on-site health and safety management.

Brentwood Communications was also contracted by Lindal Valve to supply two way radios for its UK distribution centre in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. Part of the global manufacturing giant Lindal Group, Lindal Valve is one of the world's largest producers of valves, actuators and spray caps for aerosol products.

The Leighton Buzzard distribution centre is spread out over two large adjacent warehouses. On top of gaining adequate coverage for the whole site, management particularly wanted a communications solution that would help to improve health and safety monitoring and compliance, especially for night shift workers who were often required to work alone using forklifts in otherwise deserted corners of the facility.

Once again, Brentwood chose to supply Hytera models, one model for staff on the shop floor, another for supervisors. The handsets provided for staff were programmed with Man Down alerts, a feature which automatically triggers an alarm if it detects a fall.

These digital models were also GPS enabled, allowing for precise location tracking across the facility. Supervisors were provided with a Hytera model with a screen, which was set up to act as a handheld dispatch console, including being able to identify the location of every member of staff on shift.

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