Building a Greener Connection

access point

January 12, 2024

In a significant technology initiative, Mars Petcare recently partnered with Interstates on the installation of numerous wireless access points across multiple facilities. This project not only enhances Mars’ operational capabilities but also showcases the expertise that Interstates brings to large-scale, technical installations. According to Brett Reimer, Ohio Regional Manager at Interstates, “It was a nine-month-long commitment that varied in scope across several sites, ranging from 10 to 15 access points to up to a couple hundred depending on the size and requirements of each facility.” The most intensive of the access point projects took place in Columbus, OH, at Mars’ largest wet pet food facility, which required the installation of approximately 200 access points.

Mars initiated the project in order to transition toward fully digital, paperless operations, a move in alignment with its recently announced Net Zero Roadmap initiative to cut the company’s carbon emissions in half by 2030. The company planned to deploy hundreds of iPads for data collection and process management as well as incorporate robotics for internal logistics. According to Reimer, Mars realized that “it couldn’t operate its iPads or robotics efficiently without a more robust Wi-Fi system.” One of the critical reasons Mars selected Interstates was our ability to deliver a consistent solution across multiple sites. Reimer explains, “We could give the client a uniform, high-quality install across multiple sites. We could also generate reports on the performance of each access point, which was crucial for Mars.”

Strict Rules and Tight Deadlines

Interstates had to navigate several constraints on this project, from stringent food safety rules to dealing with remote, third-party IT. “Working with a third-party IT provider required a lot of extra coordination and impacted when we could perform our work,” says Reimer. This required Interstates to be highly adaptive and continuously communicate with various departments. It was also challenging to complete the installation in a fully operational facility. Interstates team members had to work closely with plant operators and seize moments to execute their installations so that they didn’t interfere with production.

A Successful Turn-up

Every single one of the 200 installed access points at the Columbus facility was turned on without any issues. Toby Hitchcock, Project Manager at Interstates, notes, “Interstates’ thorough safety culture and work ethic were key reasons why Mars was and still is very pleased with our work and time on site.” The client feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with Mars noting that Interstates’ work was performed “ten times better even though it was ten times more complicated” than the work of other contractors on similar projects.

Beyond the technical success, the project helped the client achieve greener operations. “One of the goals for Mars was to reduce its carbon footprint,” says Hitchcock. With the newly robust Wi-Fi system, Mars can efficiently use tablets instead of paper, helping the company make strides toward its environmental goals. An additional win was the collaborative effort involving Interstates’ national traveling team and regional offices across different states. Reimer says, “We had four regional offices working on this initiative, including our low-voltage team from South Dakota to help with the CAT6A and fiber terminations. This project was an excellent way for the different regional offices to work together.” Ultimately, this wireless network project paves the way for future robotics and automation at Mars’ plants, directly contributing to greener operations and enabling the use of new, efficient technology as it’s developed.