Producing Hybrids Produces Results – Article published in EPP Magazine
Producing Hybrids Produces Results – Electronic Packaging & Production Magazine (EPP), November 2002 Issue
Department of Defense (DOD) contractors are feeling increasing pressure to minimize costs. To alleviate this pressure, many DOD contractors have turned to outsourcing as an efficient, cost-effective method of producing many of their systems.
One such case of outsourcing producing positive results occurred when Raytheon Company, a Massachusetts-based leader in defense, government and commercial electronics, divested their most complex hybrid circuits to Mass Microelectronics, a design/development firm who would then outsource the actual production of the hybrids to Natel Engineering.
The divested hybrids included well over 100 circuit types, with high volumes needed for several of them.While not a manufacturer, Mass Microelectronics serves as a high-end supplier and would provide the circuits to Raytheon. Raytheon, who formerly manufactured the hybrid circuits in their Quincy, Mass. and Tucson, Ariz. facilities, uses the hybrids in their Patriot missiles, RAMs, Sidewinders, Sparrows, J-Stars, Stingers, Hawks, Mavericks, and Standard missiles. At this time, Raytheon also divested production of F-15 and F/A-18 radar hybrids to Mass Microelectronics.
A hybrid manufacturer
After researching the market, Natel Engineering of Chatsworth, Calif. was chosen as the major supplier. Natel offered both a history in military manufacturing and a highly sophisticated automated process. Natel Engineering Co. is a contract manufacturer of MCM, COB and hybrids.
The relationship between Raytheon, Mass Microelectronics and Natel began with Natel overseeing the transfer of Raytheon’s key manufacturing and testing equipment from the former manufacturing facilities on the East Coast to Natel’s fully-certified hybrid manufacturing facilities in Chatsworth and Simi Valley, Calif. In moving the equipment, which occurred in a series of stages, Natel provided timely delivery, expert handling, and efficient management.
As part of the transfer, Raytheon’s equipment was integrated with Natel’s established systems and equipment. Natel analyzed the systems, made any necessary upgrades or modifications, and then, selected the best equipment for each process. For example, Natel used Raytheon’s test equipment for testing, thus ensuring maximum quality control of the end product. However, for assembly, several processes were automated using Natel’s automatic lines.
Another key part of the transfer was “gold unit testing.” Before the test equipment was disconnected at the Raytheon facility “gold unit testing” was performed. Before manufacturing began at Natel, “gold unit testing” was performed again to ensure that the test equipment was calibrated properly.
Raytheon was pleased with Natel’s ability to meet their stringent schedules, especially given the fact that Raytheon had continued their production schedule when they divested the products, and this schedule remained during the transfer of equipment. Natel’s reputation as an experienced and reliable manufacturer held true once they began producing the circuits. Natel maintained the schedule in the midst of a complex transition of a large number of hybrids in the middle of production.
Natel gave each product line their full attention, thus assuring Raytheon of the end product’s quality. “We greatly appreciate the outstanding support and dedicated efforts of Natel,” said Jessie Huebsch, the lead member of Raytheon’s Integrated Product Team. “Natel’s experience and contacts in the microelectronics industry were invaluable in helping us bring material into our shop in record time to meet our critical program needs.” By transferring the manufacturing of the hybrid circuits to Natel, Raytheon was able to maintain their tight production schedules with complete confidence.
Since assuming the role of supplier, Natel has more than exceeded Mass Microelectronics’ and Raytheon’s expectations, earning Raytheon’s Supplier Excellence Award Certificate of Appreciation for their outstanding work on the hybrids used for F-15 and F/A-18 radar programs. When presenting the award, Raytheon’s sub-contract manager, Ken Duimstra, said, “At every turn, Natel has been willing to expend resources to accommodate our needs. It is for this reason we were proud to present to them this recognition.”
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