What’s the history of Southwest Microwave?
Founded in 1981, Southwest Microwave's initial products were perimeter intrusion detection systems and 23 GHz wireless closed-circuit television (CCTV) transmission equipment. Although the Microwave Products Division (MPD) was established in 1987, its roots go back to Omni-Spectra and the development of the OSM/SMA connector.
The goal was and is to provide the highest performance interconnect products for microwave and millimeter wave applications. It is an engineer founded, engineer managed, technology focused organization. Today, Southwest Microwave has its own 50,000 sq ft modern facility with in-house RF, microwave, millimeter wave and electrical test capabilities. We continue to focus on high-end products to increase end-product performance.
Tell us about your products and any specific markets or applications where you focus.
Southwest Microwave provides interconnect solutions up to 110 GHz, including SMA, 3.5, 2.92, 2.4, 1.85, 1.0 and 0.9 mm connectors. We offer specialty products such as board-to-board push-on connectors and high density, multi-coax contact/cable assemblies.
What separates us is the performance and the extremely low variability of all our products. We compare data from connectors built 10 years ago with those built today, and the VSWR frequency response curves are nearly identical.
The markets we serve reach across commercial communication equipment, test and measurement and the aerospace business, where we are focusing on high frequency and performance-driven applications. We recognize the world around us wants it smaller, faster, lighter, with more functionality — and don’t sacrifice performance to get it. So our board-to-board solutions are the smallest. Our coax cable contacts not only fit a 0.047 flex coax, but they are not much larger, allowing unheard of packaging densities without sacrificing millimeter wave performance.
How have you optimized your manufacturing supply chain to meet both performance and cost goals?
We have been and are working very closely with our supply base over the last few years, communicating expectations in terms of quality, on-time delivery and cost. Clearly defining the expectation and validating the supplier’s success are key to our success. We are in the fortunate position of having a good mix of mature and new suppliers, allowing us to address the increase in the market for higher frequency connectors.
What’s the geographic distribution of your business, and where are you seeing the most demand?
Southwest Microwave is a global supplier with an even market split between the domestic and international markets.
As our world becomes smaller and companies leave the U.S., the lines between domestic and international blur. A customer who in the past bought domestic and took delivery domestic, now buys international and takes delivery domestic — or can be buying international and taking delivery international and then shipping to a domestic site. Many of our customers also have a domestic and an international footprint. We are pleased to see their growth and its effect on Southwest Microwave.
From a product group perspective, the demand for our new cable assembly products is largely domestic.
Describe the trends you’re seeing in the market, particularly where your customers are pushing the envelope and you’re focusing R&D.
Frequencies are increasing, driven by 5G, WiGig and autonomous driven vehicles, which focuses on frequencies from 50 to 100 GHz. We have a very broad product offering in that range, with market leading performance. Our board-to-board and SSBP cable multi-pin solutions (based on 0.9 mm coax technology), together with our 1.85 and 1.0 mm connectors, are designed to meet these requirements.
Most of our competitors are using the MPM or SMPM technology. We did not follow that trend, knowing the disadvantages of the technology, and have developed a push-on solution (SuperMini board-to-board) that eliminates and addresses most of these, such as number of mating cycles, mating forces and performance.
We see a lot of communications activity in the millimeter wave spectrum through E-Band. What are the challenges to miniaturizing coaxial connectors for these frequencies, and how are you solving these challenges?
The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength, the shorter the wavelength, the smaller the parts, until you lose the mechanical integrity of the connector. A challenge with these applications is in the performance requested by that market. We cannot sacrifice performance just because the parts are small and difficult to manufacture. Our ability to design and manufacture miniaturized products with very low variability allows us to successfully address the needs of that market. We invested heavily in manpower and equipment with this focus, as we see the future of Southwest Microwave serving these markets.
You have many competitors, from large corporations to “mom and pop” operations. What makes Southwest Microwave stand out?
One word: performance.
We are known in the industry for high performance products, and with the increase in frequency, the number of suppliers is shrinking. The “mom and pop” shops are often not able to make the necessary investments to serve the high frequency market, and the large corporations focus more on volume than performance. Several of them are not focusing on these applications, and some are just not willing to make the investment.
What’s your background and the career path that led you to the GM role at Southwest Microwave?
I have an MSEE from Johns Hopkins University. Working for Herley Industries, I designed microwave subassemblies for 16 years and led operations for 10 years. During those 26 years, I participated in and led the technical and operations activities, achieving substantial organizational growth. In 2008, I moved to Arizona with Crane Microwave in technical management and then migrated to operations management at L-3. In each organization, Southwest Microwave was a supplier.
Over the years, learning what makes a well-functioning team — and recognizing the impact of one that is not — has helped me to put a team in place that is expanding Southwest Microwave’s footprint in the marketplace. The result is a strong focus on the customer’s perspective from the leadership of Southwest Microwave’s Microwave Products Division.
What gives you the most satisfaction in your role?
We continue to raise the expectations for our suppliers and ourselves. People — in many cases exceeding those expectations — allow us to meet challenges like maintaining Southwest Microwave’s reputation of providing consistent, high performance connectors, while addressing the organizational changes and growth required to meet a significantly increased demand in the marketplace. I get satisfaction from seeing the people and the organization being successful at meeting these challenges.