Technology Today

2015 Issue 1

Raytheon Advanced Products Center:
RF Subsystem Manufacturing and Integration Excellence

The Raytheon Advanced Products Center (APC) provides radio frequency (RF) technology design, development and manufacturing for the U.S. Department of Defense programs, producing key products for RF subsystems, including RF modules, micro-interconnect circuits, radomes, structural composites and antennas.

APC provides strategic enabling technologies for Raytheon’s critical radar, missile, electronic warfare and communications businesses and for other targeted global markets. The APC is located in Texas, with manufacturing facilities in Dallas and McKinney, which were recognized for manufacturing excellence: Industry Week Best Plant (2009), Texas Award for Performance Excellence (TAPE, 2010), and Association for Manufacturing Excellence Plant (2011).

Use of the Shingo Model1 and the Capability Maturity Model Integration2(CMMI) assessment in 2014 have furthered this benchmark, allowing the center to improve resource utilization and support with an overall reduction of the manufacturing footprint. APC is currently at CMMI level 3 with manufacturing advancements attributable to a focus on factory efficiencies, collaborative management tools, and quantitative analysis tools supporting actionable information and continuous improvement.

APC is organized and equipped to efficiently build highand low-volume products (averaging 150,000–200,000 RF modules per year). Co-located engineering expertise and optimized factory design processes combine for very producible, high-yield designs while internal prototype and test laboratories facilitate rapid design development and smooth transition to production. Three plants comprise APC’s main manufacturing facilities: 1) RF Microelectronics (RFME), 2) RF Products and Components (RFPC), and 3) RF Subsystems and Integration (RFSI).

Figure 1. APC automated work cells for transmit/receive modules located in the

RF Microelectronics Factory

The RFME factory offers state-of-the-art manufacturing of microwave and millimeter wave products, including transmit/receive (T/R) modules, T/R integrated multichannel modules (TRIMMs), and array panels for air, space, ground and shipboard applications. Examples of these work cells are shown in Figure 1. The factory has delivered more than 2 million T/R modules and more than half a million module-less T/R channels for TRIMMs and panels. Statistical process controls and real-time performance analysis contribute to the achievement of high yields with minimal scrap and rework.

RF Products and Components Factory

The RFPC factory has been operating for more than three decades, producing high performance, complex radiators, circulators and interconnect substrates for microwave and millimeter wave applications. Substrate manufacturing capabilities include thin films, thick films and polymer on metal circuits. Advanced production techniques, including metal deposition, wafer bumping and chemical etching as well as other core processes provide for significantly increased product robustness and yields with reduced cycle times. Combined with other optimized core processes, these capabilities meet the production needs of both current and next-generation RF products. RFPC has built over 16 million interconnects and more than 150,000 circulators. Figure 2 shows the APC automated radiator-circulator production line.

Figure 2. APC automated radiator-circulator production line located in the RF Products and Components factory.

RF Subsystems and Integration Facility

The RFSI facility is home to one of the world’s largest co-located antenna test ranges (see Figure 3) and provides a showcase for state-of-the-art missile radome and antenna fabrication equipment and semi-automated processes. This extensive complex features 15 indoor and seven outdoor test ranges, serving diverse component and system level testing needs. Here, products ranging from next-generation prototypes to high-volume precision subassemblies are designed, built and integrated. RFSI incorporates advanced manufacturing capabilities, including structural composites fabrication, resin transfer molding, antenna and electronic assembly, material characterization, evaporated deposition, and radome and active electronically steered array (AESA) subsystem integration and test (see Figure 4).

Figure 3. Indoor and outdoor range facilities at the RF Subsystems and Integration facility

Figure 4. RF radome and AESA subsystems are assembled at the RF Subsystems and Integration facility.

Collaborative Management in a High Volume Environment

APC has established comprehensive capabilities to monitor, measure and control multiple levels of business execution, from contract receipt to product delivery. The systems the APC employs provide real-time business process execution information and metrics to all disciplines across the enterprise to facilitate daily monitoring and control business activities. Factory teams, engineering support teams, program teams and APC leadership use these systems for both real-time decision aids (plan monitoring and action adjustments) and to analyze and define performance improvement plans (immediate, mid-term and long term). Figure 5 highlights the more important tools utilized by APC manufacturing. A daily tier-structured accountability system envelopes the usage of these tools. This structured communication approach ensures quick communication flow across the enterprise. Daily meetings start with operators and end with the general manager, ensuring the right levels of the organization are responding to time critical actions (see Figure 6).

Manufacturing Improvements Through Accelerated Quantitative Analysis

Data analysis resulting in actionable information is essential for continuous improvement within an automated manufacturing environment. APC has adopted an approach to accelerate and simplify the data analysis process with dynamic data mining and interactive visualizations. This approach enables targeted improvements of incoming supplier components, improved test verticality and a significant reduction in root-cause analysis cycle time, ultimately driving higher yields and predictability. This lean approach to analyzing data greatly increases APC’s responsiveness to variation across a wide variety of product families, enabling stakeholder understanding and support for technical and business decisions.

One of the tools utilized by APC for data analysis is JMP®, a statistical analysis solution from SAS Institute, Inc. In comparison with the historical analyses performed by way of spreadsheet applications, APC has shown an improvement in hours, and in some cases days, with regard to the amount of time spent on similar tasks using JMP. This gain in efficiency returns valuable time to technical teams for additional or advanced analyses which dig deeper into supplier component data, and more specifically, its impact on functional performance observed during module and unit testing. For example, a recent detailed parametric analysis performed as part of a gauge repeatability and reproducibility (R&R) study at a supplier enabled a proactive part binning scheme, addressing distribution offsets from monolithic microwave integrated circuit-tomodule performance, and significantly improving APC product yields.

Figure 5. Key tools utilized across APC manufacturing

Additionally, on a separate antenna production program, JMP provided a statistical analysis with visuals for all 200 test parameters in less time than it would have normally taken to summarize just 30 key performance parameters. The ability to summarize the information on just several normalized capability plots allowed the discussion to focus quickly on the highest risk design parameters.

APC partners with Raytheon program teams and critical suppliers to drive quantitative analysis on parts data and parametric test data and plans to use the lessons learned in these pilot activities to deploy standardized analysis practices across all factories and programs.

Figure 6. Tiered accountability system


APC provides Raytheon with state-of-the-art RF design, manufacturing and integration capabilities focused on its three main facilities: RFME, RFPC and RFSI. During the past 30 years, through innovation and collaboration with its customers, APC has significantly increased the performance and reduced the cost, size and weight of its RF components. APC continues this trend through innovation such as factory automation, collaborative management techniques and quantitative analysis tools.

1The Shingo Model™ introduces Guiding Principles on which to anchor current initiatives and fill the gaps in efforts towards ideal results and enterprise excellence.
2 CMMI®(Capability Maturity Model® Integration) models are collections of effective practices that help organizations to improve their processes. A CMMI appraisal evaluates the organizations
capability against the CMMI model at five different levels of maturity.

Ted Jones, Patrick Wilde and Leonard Wittenberg

Share This Story

Top of Page