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ADTRAN in pictures - Part 2 - A trip down the manufacturing line

ADTRAN makes its own products in Huntsville.   The company has two low-rate production lines that it uses for manufacturing its own prototype runs of new products — typically a couple hundred units — low-rate production of products, and surge/burst rate production of products to meet the needs of customers who realize they need a couple of hundred widgets of XYZ by COB yesterday.

Company officials state having their own in-house production capability is a unique asset, allowing them to refine products and rapidly provide equipment to customers when they really need it. It also allows them to intimately understand the costs in producing a product, allowing for more effective pricing negotiations with suppliers to keep costs down.

Steady higher-volume production runs are done in China, using the exact same equipment and processes in Huntsville.


If you want to get wonky, building a quality product starts with establishing the appropriate mindset; hence the ADTRAN quality statement banners hung around the manufacturing lines.

ADTRAN_Pallet_of_partsIf you don’t want to be wonky, then a product starts with a couple of pallets of all the parts necessary to build a run.


The boxes are opened up and all the various parts are sorted, put onto reels for feeding the machines on the production line, put into cubbyholes for each machine on the process, and then reels end up on carts to move to the machine.  (Apologies to ADTRAN if I have confused a few of these steps; it is hard to take pictures, listen to the description of what happens where, and avoid stepping over the black-and-orange warning line at the same time.)


A closeup of the cubbyholes and all the reels stacked in place for individual machines.


Reels holding little parts on a tape are transported on carts to the machine they are needed.  As a circuit board moves into the machine from the left-hand side, it stops, the tapes feed in little parts to the machine, all the parts get placed on the circuit board, and then the board moves down the line to the right.

BUT let’s start from the beginning of the line, rather than jumping to the middle by following the carts.  It all starts with a blank circuit board.


Blank circuit boards get loaded in at the beginning of the line.  Then they move right to get solder paste printed on them, AND then they go through the stop with the reels and little parts inserted into the board.


The assembled board gets a visual check to make sure that all the parts are on and in the right place before moving on to….


More soldering! And then some gentle baking to melt the solder and make all the necessary electrical connections, where then the product moves to…


More inspections and on-line testing!   What, you think this is like making burgers down at the local drive-through? No-no-no…


After testing (See all those racks of TEST equipment in the picture), the product may be boxed and either go to the warehouse or to  another location for more … TESTING….


If a product has passed all that testing, it goes to the ADTRAN distribution center under lock and key — Actually, it’s lock and card key and 24×7 video surveillance so products aren’t tampered with before shipping, hence all the verbiage about C-TPAT controlled area.  The extra security allows ADTRAN to more easily ship out products overseas.


And here’s the end of this story — the shipping area with shelves and shelves of ADTRAN products waiting to be shipped to good IT and network administrators around the world.

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