Integra Optics automates production of its optical components to keep pace with industry

Integra Optics is using three robots to automate and speed up its production of optical components. (Pixabay)

Integra Optics has implemented fully automated production systems for fiber-optic components in order to meet its revenue goals and keep pace with the telecom industry's growing needs.

David Prescott, president of Latham, New York-based Integra Optics, said his company started automating its production systems late last year in order to speed up the production of its fiber-optic components, which include transceivers. Integra Optics, which was founded in 2007, currently has $40 million in annual sales, but it's looking at the automated production and delivery processes as key factors for reaching its goal of $100 million in annual sales by 2022.

"It (automation) came out of myself looking at the long-term growth of the business and long term growth of the industry, with the industry going from $4 billion in optics to what some analysts estimate to be as much as $40 billion in optics in the next four years," Prescott said in an interview with FierceTelecom. "So that's going to be a lot of optics and a lot of processing of optics."

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Integra Optics bills itself as a third-party alternative to original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the fiber-optics components space. Integra Optics' products interoperate with OEM platform hardware companies.

Integra Optics has 300 customers worldwide, including service providers such as Verizon, Charter and Sprint. While service providers are currently Integra Optics' main focus, Prescott said the company is also branching out to serve enterprise customers.

"We are driving heavily into the enterprise market space at this time," Prescott said. "We started an initiative about a year ago and it's actually growing very quickly. We're finding a lot of traction in the enterprise space with a lot of our 40 Gig and 100 Gig optics."

Privately held Integra Optics stands to benefit from industry initiatives such as "fiber deep" by the cable industry. In general, service providers of all stripes are trenching in more fiber, especially in greenfield environments.

Prescott said Integra Optics follows the various telecom industry efforts, such as the Facebook-designed Telecom Infra Project, that are seeking to split up optical components into smaller pieces.

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"The mechanical automation actually puts us in a driving point because a lot of those projects move more and more towards who has inventory and who can ship," Prescott said. "As they unbundle in a lot of those projects, and move towards more white boxes, there becomes a supply chain issue. That's where our mechanical automation really starts bringing value to the table. There are a lot of initiatives out there to drive fiber to every business and every home."

Integra Optics uses three robots in its production facility, each of which were designed to cut typical turnaround times from weeks to days while also keeping pace with the increased demand. Integra Optics' engineers designed the software for the three robots, which Prescott said were similar to the robot arms that are used on an automaker's production line. The "Rosie" robot is responsible for receiving optics and performing inbound testing. It also handles product fulfillment, programs and verifies the coding of optics and places them in Integra Optics’ brand packaging.

The "Mac" robot manages the inventory, organizing the storage and accessing of transceivers, while the "Lectronimo" robot takes care of the preparation and packaging of transceivers before they’re shipped.

Prescott said that Integra Optics has 80 employees, but when the robots came online, jobs were reduced by 10 to 12 that formerly included the processing of the optical components.

"We don't look in terms of replacing or reducing the number of jobs because the staff we have here is all electronic technicians," Prescott said. "It frees them up to do more advanced functions and advanced jobs as we continue to grow."

Prescott said Integra Optics' primary competitors, none of which have implemented automation production to date, included Halo Technology, Precision Optics and Champion ONE.