Love’s Travel Stops
Fueling Centers and Convenience Stores
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores is a family-owned chain of more than 330 truck stops and convenience stores across 39 states. The company’s principle of "Clean Places, Friendly Faces" guides its growth and has positioned Love's at the forefront of the travel center and convenience store industry. With more than 10,000 employees nationwide, any network performance hiccup can impact the point of sale process, from the checkout counter to Love's advanced freight and truck services. The result affects worker productivity, as well as the overall customer experience, jeopardizing Love’s goal of serving the nation’s drivers with superior service and innovation.
Love's Travel Stops now uses AirMagnet Survey Pro to plan wireless network access points. The company also uses AirMagnet Spectrum XT during both planning and after installation to scan for interference. And after installation, Love's uses AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer to identify and troubleshoot performance issues beyond interference. The result helps the Love’s network team deploy wireless access points intelligently and battle outside interference from a wide range of devices—even the occasional gaming console and WiFi jammer.
AirMagnet Survey PRO, AirMagnet Spectrum XT, AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO
"I really like the AirMagnet solution. It's the best tool I use on a regular basis, taking the guesswork out of our wireless networks. We know the best place to locate our access points and can see any network interference in areas that may impact performance. Without AirMagnet, we'd essentially be left with educated guesses and simply hoping for the best." – Patrick McHenry, network engineer at Love's Travel Stops
The Love family opened its first gas station in 1964. Fifty years later, the Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores chain includes more than 300 locations in 39 states. The company ranks ninth on the Forbes list of the 500 largest private companies – quite a transformation for a venture that began as a single store in Watonga, Oklahoma.
The Love's chain features two primary types of stores. The larger type—known as Love's Travel Stops—sit next to interstate highways and offer amenities ranging from well-known restaurant chains to trucking supplies, showers and RV dump stations. The smaller Country Stores serve as fueling stations, with an attached convenience store.
Love's guiding principal of "Clean Faces, Friendly Places" serves to fuel the company's growth, innovation and a strong customer service ethic. The company is passionate about serving drivers with clean, modern facilities stocked with on-the-road necessities such as fuel, food and other supplies. Love's also continues to develop innovative ways to serve drivers with tire care centers, roadside assistance services, minor maintenance and parts centers, and help for drivers paying freight bills through Love's Financial – the company's freight-factoring group. All of these services depend on technology supported by an expansive wireless network.
Connecting more than 300 Love's locations requires vigilance and technology. The company's network consists of a data center, combined with more than 600 access points and 1,000 switches and routers. Seven network engineers and technicians sit at the center of it all.
“Keeping each Love’s location connected is an ongoing challenge, especially with our heavy reliance on wireless connectivity to drive business operations,” said Patrick McHenry, network engineer at Love’s Travel Stops. “We need to set up each store for the best wireless performance possible. That means planning access point locations to provide optimal coverage for each retail and business system in the building.”
In the past, the Love's network team relied on industry best practices to survey its retail shops for access point locations. While those best practices identified what would normally be the best location, they couldn't account for the unpredictable interference sources common in Love's Travel Stop locations. Love’s network team used integrated scanning features within each access point to monitor for interference and then adjust frequencies to maintain performance specifications, but the process was far from ideal.
"Before we started using the AirMagnet solution, it was really a best-guess situation," said McHenry. "We constantly battled a barrage of random interference sources, ranging from our in-store microwaves to neighboring Wi-Fi networks. This interference wreaked havoc on our point-of-sale systems and UPC scanning guns, which hurt customer service. The integrated interference monitoring worked to a certain point, but required a lot of memory and decreased access point performance. It wasn’t a good trade-off."
Given Love's tremendous growth trajectory (opening up to 20 new stores each year), the cost of access point setup and maintenance was a considerable concern. Before the AirMagnet solution, the central network team was only equipped to manage access point planning and interference for nearby stores, calling in specialists and networking consultants to address issues at far-flung locations. With consultant rates up to $5,000 per incident, per store, this arrangement was unsustainable.
Love's Travel Stops needed a better way to plan access point placement, monitor for interference and optimize performance. The answer came from NetScout and its AirMagnet Survey PRO, AirMagnet Spectrum XT and AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO solutions.
AirMagnet Survey PRO is the industry's most accurate wireless site survey software for planning performance, security and compliance across 802.11n/a/b/g/ac wireless LANs. The software calculates the ideal quantity, placement and configuration of access points, factoring in outside and unpredictable interference sources, many of which are common at Love’s locations. AirMagnet Survey PRO can be integrated with Spectrum XT to collect data, model pre-deployment scenarios, generate customized reports and conduct detailed end-user capacity planning. This enables engineers to make channel selection decisions, based on the identification of interference sources during a one-time survey of the location.
"AirMagnet is a lot easier to set up and use than any other solution I've encountered in the past,"" said McHenry. "Plus, the reports are much better. They provide a solid baseline and spell out exactly what is going on with our wireless networks. They’re very easy to understand, so I don’t even have to translate the reports for my non-IT colleagues."
Using AirMagnet Survey PRO and AirMagnet Spectrum XT, Love’s Travel Stops has improved how it positions wireless network access points and combats interference. This is especially needed since the stores encounter a large variety of interference sources.
"You’d be surprised at how much interference is thrown off by a bank of microwaves," said McHenry. "We also have to compensate for neighboring apartment complexes and stores, since their WiFi networks can interfere with our own. We have to combat that interference and position our access points accordingly. AirMagnet helps us to do that with absolute certainty and ease."
Love’s also uses AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO to identify and troubleshoot performance issues beyond interference. Any network performance hiccup can impact the point of sale process, from the checkout counter to Love's advanced freight and truck services. The result affects worker productivity as well as the overall customer experience.
"I'm constantly surprised by the range of devices AirMagnet finds that affect our network performance," said McHenry. "For example, I have found game consoles on our network from time to time. Needless to say, our employees shouldn't be gaming at work or on our network, so we now have systems and processes in place to shut them down immediately, once AirMagnet finds them."
"I really like the AirMagnet solution," added McHenry. "It's the best tool I use on a regular basis, taking the guesswork out of our wireless networks. We know the best place to locate our access points and can see any network interference in areas that may impact performance. Without AirMagnet, we’d essentially be left with educated guesses and simply hoping for the best."
With the help of the AirMagnet solution, Love’s is now able to send a single member of its network team to outlying locations to manage access point planning and troubleshooting, allowing them to cut out external expenses and increase efficiency.