Mini-Circuits’ RF test solutions team is a prime example of how the company’s quality policy translates to enduring customer relationships and steady product line growth.
Led by VP of Test and Measurement, Chi Man Shum, the RF test solutions department designs and builds software-controlled building blocks for automation of lab and production test environments. If you’re wondering what exactly that means and how it fits within our full portfolio of RF/microwave components and assemblies, don’t worry—project manager and mechanical design engineer, Jeff DiGaudio laid it out for us.
“Customers will typically come to us with certain testing requirements—whether they’re testing actual products or still in the development phase,” DiGaudio explained. “They may have their own test system set up that they’re looking for us to execute, or we will work with them to create a custom solution that gets them to where they need to go.”
Generally, these test systems are built into a rack-mounted box. Because each solution is custom-designed and built for proof of concept, the production volume is lower than that of a typical assembly line for smaller, discrete components, with a typical order ranging from just one to five pieces. That being said, the department averages 80 to 85 unique models—175 to 200 total units—a month! “That’s a lot considering the complexity and custom nature of our product,” DiGaudio said.
While the majority of Mini-Circuits’ test equipment ends up going into production after being shipped off to customers, the Test Solutions team has managed to create efficiencies around inventory utilization by grouping some of the more commonly requested products into families and building up stock for future orders. This allows them to be more agile in responding to customer requests, especially from regular customers. For systems that have too many configuration options to produce ahead of time, the team uses an efficient modular approach.
“As orders come in, we can grab the various hardware modules and put them together almost like a set of Legos and quickly build to the customer’s configuration,” said DiGaudio. “Because we’ve stored the necessary modules, we can better react when an order comes in and turn things around very quickly.”
The RF test solutions customer base is a microcosm of Mini-Circuits’ markets overall, ranging from telecom giants to big names in aerospace and defense.
“Today we could be working on something for a telecom customer using a certain type of technology and tomorrow it’s something completely different,” DiGaudio said. “There’s always something new and challenging.”
Like many of Mini-Circuits’ products and services, the test solutions offering started as an idea from Mini-Circuits’ founder Harvey Kaylie and has grown over the course of seven years from one customer, one box and one engineer to the thriving department it is today—a trajectory DiGaudio attributes to Mini-Circuits’ quality commitment and corporate vision. Test solutions has consistently been one of the company’s fastest growing product lines year after year since its inception. With 5G infrastructure and consumer devices around the corner along with a number of new defense applications, the test and measurement market will remain an area of growth for Mini-Circuits in the near term.
“It all goes back to the Mini-Circuits quality policy—to provide products and services to our internal and external customers that will meet stated requirements, exceed expectations and continuously be improved,” DiGaudio said. “In working toward those three tenets, we’re achieving our vision of being the preferred supplier to our customers.”