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Mini-Circuits Formula for Success

September 11, 2009
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Harvey Kaylie received his bachelor’s degree from CCNY and his master's degree from NYU. He has written numerous papers regarding communication components and subsystems, and has received patents on various RF circuit and subsystem designs. Kaylie has also presented papers on manufacturing and quality concepts relating to world class manufacturing. He founded Mini-Circuits, a worldwide leader in RF and microwave signal processing components, in 1969. As President of Mini-Circuits, he has pioneered many technical breakthroughs of high volume and high quality component manufacturing for use in wireless, telecommunication and communication products.

He is a member of IEEE, a sponsor of many radio amateur and IEEE chapter events.

MWJ: Mini-Circuits was founded in 1969. How does the industry today compare to back then?

HK: The industry today is much bigger and much more sophisticated than in 1969. In 1969 R&D was geared toward achieving improvements in performance and to introduce new products that would extend frequency bandwidth, provide state of the art performance, etc. Today the focus is on enhancing performance, utilizing modern technology to reduce size and reduce cost. The specifications for products today are a lot more detailed and demanding as compared to that of 1969. In 1969 the industry was very close knit and more entrepreneurial than it is today. It was much easier founding a company than now.

MWJ: Which markets seem to be holding on the strongest despite the economy?

HK: The military market has been strong and continues to be strong.

MWJ: Do you think the business environment for the industry is turning around or will soon?

HK: Many companies have taken the approach to put an effort to reduce cost and to develop new products that provide more functionality, performance and lower cost. Consequently many new developments are taking place in preparation for companies to be more competitive in the marketplace. Therefore, we are seeing an increase in orders for products that satisfy these new development requirements. However, it is my expectation that the marketplace would not be returning to the high level of output in the near future.

MWJ: Any markets rebounding faster than others? Is Asia poised to start growing sooner than the US?

HK: The markets in Asia have been rebounding much faster than in the US. In particular, we are seeing an uptake in demand from China and India.

MWJ: Could you comment on the Global picture for Mini-Circuits with regard to where the demand for your products is coming from and where those products are being manufactured? Has there been a shift toward “built in America”?

HK: Aside from defense, we do not see a shift toward built in America. The percent of manufacturing from Asia has increased relative to America. The marketplace is extremely competitive and production cost is a key factor in meeting competitive requirements.

MWJ: Do you expect the stimulus package with its rural broadband initiative to have any impact on Mini-Circuits business by way of your customers?

HK: We are quite hopeful that the stimulus package initiative will improve the business of our customers which in turn will improve our business. However, we have not seen the impact as of yet.

MWJ: What market(s) do you expect to be most promising over the next year?

HK: The military market continues to be promising in the next year. We are also seeing an improvement in the medical electronic arena and in digital cable and satellite applications.

MWJ: What are some of the new capabilities that customers are asking for?

HK: The demand for improved products is a very strong driver for many of our customers. This means higher IP3 amplifiers and mixers, smaller size power splitters and couplers, and higher level of reliability of the components. As an example, we recently introduced our electro mechanical microwave switch which covers DC-18 GHz. Typical lifetime in the industry for this type of switch is 1 million cycles. We are able to achieve lifetime of more than 100 million cycles. The result is improved reliability of switching and much lower cost per switch cycle for our customers.

MWJ: Cost drives a lot of the purchasing process. Where does Mini-Circuits focus its efforts to keep costs as low as possible?

HK: Mini-Circuits is focused on processes and we are putting a very big effort to review our processes in order to remove non-value added steps in the process. Mini-Circuits was fortunate to have won the Rockwell Collins Lean Award for improving our processes by reducing waste.

MWJ: Can you give us a good example of how the effort to reduce the cost of a component translated into a technical innovation?

HK: Mini-Circuits manufacturers mixers in quantities of millions. In order to reduce cost, we looked at all the steps in the manufacturing process, were able to innovate and in fact, received a patent on our innovation. As a result of this innovation, we are now able to, in a single machine, singulate mixers from a strip, mark the case, electrically test each component and finally package the units in tape and reel. This entire operation is performed in approximately 5 seconds per unit.

MWJ: What do you think about the quality of engineers today? Are they as good as their predecessors or just different?

HK: I think the engineers today are different from their predecessors. The predecessors had a much more hands on approach to design and to understanding the dynamics required for a good design. Their interacting within a system was much better understood in the past.

MWJ: How does Mini-Circuits find and retain talent?

HK: Mini-Circuits recruits talent by the normal means; by advertising on the website, by referrals from engineers to whom we are familiar with and by participation in campus field days. The environment in Mini-Circuits is very challenging, demanding and rewarding.

Engineers feel the excitement and energy of our engineering group and company. Consequently they are improving to build up their skill set as well as meeting difficult challenges. At Mini-Circuits we consider our members as the most important aspect of our business. Consequently, we have many activities and opportunities for rewarding the engineers.

MWJ: Do you see products out there that you hope to see a Mini-Circuits component inside someday or one that you are particularly proud to have had your parts designed in?

HK: Mini-Circuits is very proud to have designed and built high power amplifiers in the very early response to remote detonation of bombs in Iraq. We received feedback from the military on how our units saved American lives. Our units were so robust that even when a Hum Vee exploded and the box containing our amplifier was thrown about 200 feet from the vehicle, our unit still worked perfectly. This was a very proud moment for Mini-Circuits and our members that we were able to help our forces in Iraq.

MWJ: That's a great story, your team should be very proud. Thanks Harvey.

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