Congratulations on Anaren’s 2017 celebration of its 50th year in business. Can you tell us about how the company was founded?
Advances in radar and radar guided missile technology in the 1960’s were a significant focus and concern of the U.S. Military. As a result of the 1967 Arab – Israeli War, our government had an urgent need for technology that could detect, identify, and counter radar guided munitions. As a result, in late 1967, two Syracuse, NY – based engineers decided to leverage their research and expertise in microwave technology to create our company in this beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Our founders, Hugh A. Hair and Carl W. Gerst Jr. began Anaren Microwave, Inc. (aptly named after their wives Anna Marie and Renee) to develop and manufacture Instantaneous Frequency Measurement receivers in a small facility with just a few employees in Syracuse. It didn’t take them long to achieve some stunning successes. Despite the company’s diminutive size at the time, they caught the attention of defense prime contractors like Hughes, Northrup, Grumman, and Raytheon, who became some of our first customers and remain customers to this day. Anaren was careful to focus on innovative, highly engineered, high quality solutions that allowed the company to grow and prosper in the defense industry. In addition, as a result of the continued focus on innovation and engineering driven solutions, we have successfully expanded into the satellite communications and commercial wireless markets as well.
How has the company grown since those early days?
The company has grown significantly, especially in the last 20 years, and we are currently experiencing substantial growth in our business. Since the late sixties, Anaren achieved significant growth through product line expansion predominately focused on the defense electronics market. The significant growth in the last 20 years has been driven by using our engineering expertise to gain larger content in defense electronics applications as well as applying our engineering expertise and manufacturing technology to the satellite and wireless communications markets. We aggressively pursued automated manufacturing and testing, accelerated product development, and marketing throughout the years, and these core competencies, coupled with our innovative culture, positioned us well to succeed in these new markets. It’s exciting to report that we now have about 1,000 employees world-wide and that through a number of strategic acquisitions we are able to operate successfully in many markets with tremendous opportunity for growth. We are now considered a strategic partner by a number of leading defense electronics OEMs, we have industry leading manufacturing technologies, we can build our own high frequency, high density circuit boards and ceramic products, we have an international presence with an operation in Suzhou, China, and for several years now, we’ve been building a strong foothold in the Internet of Things (IOT) space. To me, that is particularly significant in our 50th anniversary year. I believe that we are firmly rooted in microwave technology while at the same time innovating in new technologies and markets like the burgeoning IOT business. It’s a great place to be at this time of our history.
What are some of the significant developments that shaped the company over the years?
So, that’s a very good question because technology has changed and evolved so spectacularly since Anaren was founded. One constant though has been the never ending challenge to reduce size and weight while improving performance. No matter what market, defense electronics, satellite or wireless communications, our customers have always challenged us to constantly innovate in order to stay at the forefront. I believe we’re celebrating 50 years in business because we’ve always been able to meet those challenges. Imagine the typical satellite for instance. Satellite payloads must have the smallest size, lowest weight, and best power efficiency. This is known as SWaP – size, weight, and power, and that is a constant driver as it translates directly into dollars. Change any of those variables and you change the cost of the product and value proposition of the system. Our expertise in advanced modeling and manufacturing technology has led to development of RF signal-distribution networks, beamforming networks, and many other components and modules that have met or exceeded the SWaP variables in a positive way. That is why Anaren is a trusted supplier and partner to the leading OEMs in all of the markets we serve.
Is there any particular product customers would recognize as specifically Anaren?
If I had to pick on a specific product that has been particularly successful, I would be inclined to nominate our Xinger family of surface mount passives. These components, which we introduced in the mid 1990’s to support the rapidly expanding cellular telephone market, set a new standard for size, performance, power handling, and cost in an easy to use SMT package. Xingers are very much a point of pride and continuing revenue for us.
Can you tell us how Anaren developed some of its keys technologies like the Xingers?
Innovation is our culture and even clearly stated in our tag line of ‘What will we think of next?’ Anaren has always been an engineering driven company with a focus on applying its technology to industry challenges. We aren’t a ‘build to print’ shop, but we invest in developing and or acquiring leading manufacturing capabilities that are optimized for high frequency performance. By hiring top engineering talent, providing them with state of the art modelling tools and manufacturing capabilities, and encouraging them to collaborate internally with their peers and externally with customers, we have established our culture of continuous innovation.
What are the markets you are most excited about this year and where you expect the most growth?
I am very excited about every segment of our business and the exceptional growth prospects for our business. In our wireless business, we are experiencing record wireless infrastructure demand and developing new products for next generation 5G applications which will continue to drive growth for years to come. In our Space & Defense business, we are experiencing record orders as a result of our engineering expertise and manufacturing capabilities that position Anaren as a trusted technology partner to Space and Defense OEMs. This enables the capture of increasing content in communication satellite and defense electronics applications. We continue to invest in expanding our engineering capability, technology base, and manufacturing capabilities, and we pursue synergistic acquisitions to better serve our valued S&D OEM customers as well. And lastly, we have been investing for several years to develop a software/hardware ecosystem and development platform and wireless module product line for Internet of Things (IOT) applications. As a result, we just recently formed a new IOT Group and hired Jeff (Jeff Liebl) to run it. He will drive the effort to help customers understand how we turn the IoT model on its head, seeing the world top down -- from a cloud and applications and monetization view, rather than from a sensor up perspective. We can now offer a single platform that can enable embedded wireless systems that are protocol agnostic (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc…) and that can simultaneously generate mobile apps. Plus we can enable cloud instances that provide raw or symbolic data in real or archive time. With a single IoT ecosystem our customers can prototype and get to market faster than anyone else. I think that’s the ace we hold for 2017.
What types of projects is the Space and Defense group involved in and what is the outlook on that sector?
The Space and Defense Group continues to be strong revenue generator for Anaren and we look forward to strong performance from this division in 2017 and beyond. As you may know, Anaren was recently awarded the largest contract in its history, a major contract with Lockheed Martin to supply assemblies for the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) in support of the US Missile Defense Agency. Overall, the Space & Defense Group anticipates significant growth over the next 4 to 6 years as a result of the significant investment being made globally in Space based infrastructure and the modernization of radar systems. We are very well positioned with enabling technology, partnering with a number of leading OEMs to supply critical components and sub assemblies for these satellite and radar applications. As a result, we are seeing record order growth in our S & D business segment and it involves more than just one of our product lines and more than one manufacturing facility. With this growth, we are hiring professional engineering positions, technical support, and manufacturing positions. In fact, we currently have over 70 job openings across our three United States locations.”
What does Anaren’s 50th anniversary mean to you personally?
I believe that Hugh Hair and Carl Gerst Jr. started this company knowing that a fundamental respect and appreciation of employees would be a cornerstone to making Anaren a successful company. I share that belief and we have made plans to celebrate our employees this year, rather than rallying around the company name. I’ve made several statements about innovation, dedication, engineering acumen, and so on. What these words really mean is that we are privileged to employ exceptionally talented individuals and I want each and every one of them to know that whatever we say about 2017 and Anaren’s anniversary, all of our achievements clearly flow from their dedication and efforts. That is really what we are celebrating.