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Hughes Network Systems, LLC
11717 Exploration Lane
Germantown, MD 20876 USA
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John McEwan, Senior Vice President of Operations, North America Division
In this issue, we speak with John McEwan about the latest developments in the company’s manufacturing operations.
Can you talk about the importance of the manufacturing operations within the overall Hughes business strategy?
The manufacturing operations group is an integral part of the Hughes family and is vitally important because it gives us a strategic advantage over our competition. We work closely with Engineering to develop new products, new technologies, new sources of supply and new processes. This close relationship and close proximity helps to reduce time to market for new products. In-house manufacturing also allows us more flexibility in terms of scheduling, as we can react quickly to changes in product demands—which is especially important for consumer products. Companies with long supply chains from Asia do not have the ability to reduce or increase demand without incurring higher logistics costs or higher inventory levels. Having manufacturing operations also allows us to competitively build our low volume, high mix products which many outsource suppliers would not consider building.
What are the latest manufacturing technology trends at Hughes now or in the near future, such as 3D printing and robotics?
We continue to improve our processes and introduce new manufacturing technologies where it provides benefit to the business, such as employing robotic assembly to lower product cost. But the benefits have to outweigh the investment. For example, 3D printing is not cost-effective for high volume manufacturing, but is ideal for small batch or prototype runs. In future, as technology evolves and equipment becomes cheaper, prints faster and justifies the investment, then we would consider deploying 3D for more than prototype work.
The guts of all electronics is the printed circuit board assembly, or PCBA, which is done by a high-speed Surface Mount Technology (SMT) machine. As our product designs demand more densely populated circuits in a much smaller area, SMT equipment must keep pace. Our current equipment can place passive and discrete type components as small as 1mm X 0.5mm and semiconductor Ball Grid Array components with a pitch of .035mm. As design demands dictate smaller and denser, we evaluate available equipment and make the appropriate decisions.
Does Hughes have any “green initiatives” in place within its manufacturing operations?
A lot is made of the words “green initiatives.” In manufacturing operations, it means conserving energy, reducing waste and recycling. All of our equipment is energy efficient and the factory utility usage is very well managed by Jim Muir’s facilities team. We have zero fossil fuel consumption within Shady Grove other than our delivery truck and our backup generator. As far as reducing waste, packaging materials for inbound supplies is probably the biggest contributor. We manage all packaging to minimize the volume and, wherever possible, utilize reusable packaging. Non-reusable packaging, called dunnage, is still recycled and we receive payment for all of our recycled packaging materials.
We also have a very active recycling program. We recycle all ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, cables, power supplies, and packaging from product returned from the field that is unrepairable or scrap. Even the printed circuit boards are recycled to ensure environmentally safe disposal.
What does the future hold for Hughes Manufacturing?
From green initiatives, to continually improving production processes and advancing ISO certification, our team of skilled pros is always focused on ways to improve quality, while meeting evolving customer demands and running the most efficient and cost-effective operation possible. It’s what we do to help keep the company the industry leader that it is.