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Wi-Fi at LG Electronics

How Wi-Fi improved work collaboration at LG Electronics

LG Electronics India Limited implemented a Wi-Fi solution at its Noida manufacturing plant. The implementation has improved the flow of business information and given the plant a neat cable-free look. by Abhinav Singh

The Indian subsidiary of the Korean major, LG Electronics, LG Electronics India Limited (LGEIL) has a large presence in the Indian consumer electronics, IT peripherals, and PC market. The company believes in innovation. And going by this belief is in the process of unwiring its manufacturing plant that sprawls across 47 acres in Noida near Delhi.

Built in early 2000, LGEIL's Noida manufacturing plant has 500 employees who are equipped with notebooks. Out of these, 100 already access the Wi-Fi network. The remaining 400 will be unwired by May 2004, if everything goes as per schedule.

Business at LG

Arindam Bose, Head IT, LG Electronics India Limited said, “The goal of the Wi-Fi implementation is to improve collaboration between employees within the manufacturing plant thereby leading to better decision making, helping them meet their deadlines.”

The plant manufactures TV sets, refrigerators, washing machines, air-conditioners and microwave ovens. 50 percent of the Noida plant's 47 acres is built up, and the rest is free space.

Stepping ahead with Wi-Fi

Half of the built up area has gone live with the Wi-Fi network including an entire administrative block. The other half will be covered within the next two months, including the manufacturing building.

LGEIL plans only to purchase Wi-Fi enabled Centrino notebooks. The company is Wi-Fi enabling existing notebooks that have already been provided to employees by means of WLAN cards from Cisco. Plant employees use notebooks from LG and IBM at this point of time.

Bose explains, “We have started purchasing Wi-Fi enabled notebooks to ensure that our employees are able to use their PCs not only within the manufacturing plant but even at Wi-Fi enabled hotels, airports, and at other companies while on assignment.”

Lotus Notes, MSystems (the internal ERP system), and Internet access are the applications deployed across the Wi-Fi network.

No evaluation exercise was conducted for the Wi-Fi implementation as LG has a global relationship with Cisco. Bose says, “LG Electronics has a strong relationship with Cisco at the global level and so we didn't use a stringent evaluation process.” The company uses Cisco Aironet 1200 Series AP access points.

A smooth implementation

LGEIL decided to deploy the Wi-Fi solutions in the first week of February 2004 and the first phase of the project went live in a month's time.

Bose explains, “Designing the architecture for the Wi-Fi network was a smooth process as the area in the plant is wide and open. Our office has a clean environment. Putting up access points and other devices was a simple task.”

A three-member team was involved in the first phase of the implementation of which one member represented the systems integrator and the other two members were from LG Electronics.

The total project cost is expected to touch between 40 and 50 lakh, out of which the first phase of the project costs Rs 10 lakh.

Protocol

The 802.11b wireless protocol is being used in the Wi-Fi network which allows 11 Mbps bandwidth.

Bose says, “There are ten access points in the current implementation that are spread across the plant's administrative block. We have around ten users per access point. We expect to deploy 50 access points in the next two months once the entire built-up area at the plant is unwired.”

The maintenance activities of the Wi-Fi network are performed by Cisco.

Besides the usual IDSs and firewalls, LGEIL uses the SSID Security protocol to secure the plant's Wi-Fi network. Bose says, “The SSID security protocol automates the allocation of IP addresses to Wi-Fi users.”

The company plans to roll out Cisco's Secure ACS as an additional security measure by the end of June 2004.

Advantage Wi-Fi

The benefits of the first phase of the implementation have been manifold. Other than the free flow of information and better co-ordination between employees, the implementation has resulted in a cleaner office area with fewer cables.

Bose says, “Cable management is a big challenge and a lot of money goes into maintenance. With the Wi-Fi network going live, there will be fewer cables and the company will save a lot of money that goes into cable maintenance at present.”

The next step

By the end of May 2004, the entire built-up area at the Noida plant will be Wi-Fi enabled. All the 500 notebook users will have access to the Wi-Fi network by then.

However there are no plans to upgrade the existing 802.11b wireless protocol. Bose says, “We have found this protocol to be quite sufficient for our requirements and we will continue with this for the time being.”

40 more access points will be added to the existing ten. Post-implementation, six user support engineers will be assigned to manage the entire network. This team will be fully trained on wireless support services.

The company will expand its presence in India and will set up a second manufacturing plant at Pune. The second plant will be ready by June 2004, and will also be Wi-Fi enabled.

The writer can be reached at abhinav@expresscomputeronline.com

<In a nutshell>
The company

LG Electronics India Limited (LGEIL) is the Indian subsidiary of the Korean consumer electronics and computer peripherals major, LG Electronics. It has a large manufacturing plant spread over 47 acres in Noida which is in the process of being Wi-Fi-enabled. LGEIL will also set up a second manufacturing plant at Pune, which will also go wireless.

The need

LGEIL deployed a Wi-Fi solution at its manufacturing plant in order to improve employee collaboration, allow better decision making, and help personnel meet their deadlines. The company also wanted to Wi-Fi-enable all its 500 notebook users at the plant.

The solution

The company used Cisco Aironet 1200 Series AP products to set up the 802.11b Wi-Fi network.

Benefits

100 notebook users are already on the Wi-Fi network. The flow of business information has improved, and has consequently improved co-ordination. The office area looks cleaner with fewer cables, and network maintenance costs have dropped. 400 more notebook-users will be Wi-Fi enabled once the implementation is complete.

 
     
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Copyright 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Limited (Mumbai, India). All rights reserved throughout the world.
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