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Bolstering Onshore Manufacturing for Critical Communications Applications

Bolstering Onshore Manufacturing for Critical Communications Applications

by Walter Magiera, Chief Commercial Officer, Filtronic

It is recognized that the pandemic highlighted a need to shorten supply chains to make them more resilient. This has led to U.S. OEMs looking for domestic suppliers for products they might previously have imported or commissioned to be manufactured offshore under contract.

This trend toward supply chain rationalization has provided a competitive advantage for Filtronic, which has expanded production capacity at its Salisbury, MD facility to meet growing demand for its critical communication products, and in the process has chalked up two notable customer successes.

Back in June, we announced that we had successfully re-shored from China the manufacturing of a vital communications product for the critical communication market. Leveraging our proactive working relationship with our leading OEM client, we were able to bring back critical product assembly, test and inventory from the offshore facility to our Salisbury factory in the USA. This move improved equipment lead times and client support. Thanks to our technical knowhow, local team of seasoned technicians and the use of a cloud-based Manufacturing Execution System (MES) platform, we were able to manage this complex transition smoothly and efficiently within the customer’s requirement for a six month timeframe.

The need to re-shore the product supply chain to deal with the changing dynamic of the geo-political landscape was a challenge, and it required a rapid response from Filtronic. As well as realigning our operational facilities and processes, recruitment posed another challenge. With the benefit of a wealth of local RF expertise, we were fortunate to be able to recruit personnel with previous experience in critical communications product assembly. Additional equipment was procured and reallocated, enabling us to rapidly replicate the production line at the former facility. At the same time, we were able to implement product and process improvements, improve workflow and logistics, all leading to a significant reduction in lead time on these critical communications products.

The transition took place smoothly and rapidly, meeting the client’s quality standards and passing an extensive and rigorous customer audit, enabling timely recertification. This enabled our client to meet its country-of-origin targets without a drop in production.

Another recent achievement has been our successful development of a customized Tower Top Amplifier (TTA) system aimed to supply a U.S. critical communication OEM, which is also being manufactured in Salisbury. This development project exceeded client expectations in terms of both performance and time to completion, and at the same time has halved order-to-shipment time.

Our client had been searching for a new domestic supplier for TTAs due to product obsolescence and technological advancements, and it’s existing supply chain was unable to meet the challenging specification. Filtronic was an existing supplier for other critical communications products, so they approached us with this requirement, which included a range of product enhancements such as more consistent performance between sites, reduced time-to-market, and ease of ordering as well as a desire for simpler installation.

Filtronic completed this total product development from inception through to product qualification in less than six months. The new TTA not only meets the existing specification but also delivers all the performance improvements the customer required, including smart redundancy. Additionally, we were able to exceed our client’s goal of reducing inventory and to decrease the order-to-shipment time down to two weeks from the industry standard of four weeks.