When companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Ericsson and Motorola consider you a world leader in the design and manufacture of RF and microwave filters, duplexers and sub-assemblies, you know you’re in some pretty good company.
K&L Microwave, Inc., a subsidiary of the Dover Corporation (a $4.5 billion Fortune 400 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange), is based in Salisbury, Md., and designs and manufactures a full line of RF and microwave filters, duplexers and sub-assemblies, including ceramic, lumped element, cavity, waveguide and tunable filters. Its wireless products group consists of high-performance receive-and-transmit filters, delay line filters, duplexers and diplexers, combiners, receive multicouplers and wireless system assemblies for base station infrastructure requirements.
K&L’s microwave and RF filters are designed to pass specified sets of frequencies while rejecting others and are used in systems such as satellite communications, radar, radio communications, fire control radars, telemetry applications, missile guidance systems, mobile radio base stations and air traffic control and communications. The company is ISO 9001 certified and offers customers the most extensive filter-based product range in the industry from 3 KHz to 40 GHz.
“K&L’s mission is to produce high-quality, cost-effective solutions based on our customers’ specific needs. By controlling internal design and production processes, we can ensure and guarantee high quality and exceptional product performance,” says Bob Shiley, K&L’s vice president of sales and mar-keting. “Our team is committed to achieving excellence through aggressive investment in research and development, capital investments in manufacturing technology and the use of proven and innovative designs.”
It all started more than 30 years ago in a 1,400-square-foot facility manufacturing custom filters primarily for the military sector. Today, with facilities occupying more than 200,000 square feet in the United States, China, Dominican Republic and the U.K., K&L is the industry’s premier filter supplier for both military and commercial markets, specializing in products used in base station and other wireless telecommunication applications. Over 506 employees represent the engineering, sales and marketing, manufacturing and support personnel that enable K&L to support their broad product and customer base.
K&L rapidly responds to its customers’ needs by using a high level of vertical design integration and fabrication resources. “The explosive growth of the wireless communications industry, in particular, has ignited the need for suppliers to improve lead times for new designs,” says Shiley. “An enormous library of over 30 years of proven designs is maintained within K&L’s engineering management system, giving our engineers control of each design and quick reference for re-orders and modifications.”
It’s a series of sophisticated software tools that help K&L engineers respond quickly to new requirements and requests. The tools allow for precise synthesis and accurate modeling of filter performance. Engineers render typical performance plots, new product designs and transfer synthesis files to manufacturing once the customer places an order. K&L also employs 35 RF and microwave design centers which support a broad range of both purchased and in-house proprietary software. Designers operate high-speed microcomputers, or Digital Equipment Corporation minicomputers and K&L is able to certify all new designs through computer simulations prior to machining a single part.
Once finished with design, the K&L team is committed to meeting customer demand through efficient, high quality and high volume production. K&L’s fully equipped CNC machine shops house more than 15 numerically controlled milling machines, including CNC milling machines and CNC lathe operations. The machines are programmed through geometry transfer from CAD workstations, followed by graphic manipulation on CAM workstations. An in-house plating shop, more than 135 network analyzers, RF power testing facilities, intermodulation test facilities, plus a full environmental testing facility adds to K&L’s exceptional manufacturing resources.
Quest for quality
K&L Microwave has established a management philosophy of continuous improvement, accomplished through team-based organization activities. Its ISO 9001 certification forms the foundation of K&L’s quality management system or QMS. “Lean manufacturing, an integrated closed-loop software tracking system for corrective and preventive action, focused factories throughout the company and extensive training for all personnel contribute to our quality policy and mission,” says Shiley. “Manufacturing product groups are organized as focused factories, managed by cross-functional, co-located leadership teams.”
Manufacturing and process engineers prepare manufacturing operating procedures (MOPs), which are visual documents at each workstation, that outline the pro-cesses for that workstation. For a flexible work environment, operators are trained in a variety of MOPs. In addition, quality assurance specialists work with the process engineers to identify and establish processes that require statistical process control. This team audits the processes on the production lines and keeps a variety of data via charts and graphs that support problem solving and improvement opportunities.
Because quality assurance and continuous improvement affect all areas of K&L, local corrective/preventive action teams manage any problem or improvement opportunity identified in processes from sales and engineering to accounting and human resources. Trained in the use of the PDCA Cycle of Improvement, corrective action teams address a variety of opportunities. Most importantly, systemic improvements result in better cost, delivery and service for K&L customers.
“Continuous improvement requires decision making at the core of the problem or opportunity,” says Shiley. “Personnel development deploys the knowledge and tools required for people to make intelligent decisions. A skill-based matrix exists for each function within the company, providing us with a foundation for defining and implementing skill development programs for all personnel. Such plans lead to personnel career advancements, employee satisfaction and, ultimately, a motivated company team.”
K&L has consistently set the technological pace in the RF and microwave industry not only through aggressive investment in research and development but also through capital investments in manufacturing technology. “This allows us to continually produce new products, improve existing products, provide industry leadership and maintain an excellent worldwide reputation,” explains Shiley. “We are strongly committed to providing the investments nec-essary to maximize our engineering, manufacturing, administrative equipment and personnel. Through these investments, K&L is able to guarantee its products are the most competitive and highest quality available.” K&L’s design team understands today’s demands for new, enhanced technology. As companies grow and expand, K&L’s expert engineering staff works hard to develop technology that will keep the company and its customers at the top of the industry.