ADTRAN manufactures all of its prototypes, as well as 30 percent of its products, in-house and on-site in Huntsville, Ala.
Keeping both prototyping and low-rate manufacturing capabilities in-house allows ADTRAN's engineers to optimize designs for reliability and squeeze out cost when it comes to high-rate manufacturing.
"When we've produced a bunch of [items] in house, we know what the parts should cost when we approach suppliers," said an engineer.
A prototype run may number anywhere from 200-400 units before a product goes into low-rate production. A small number of prototype units are built and physically tested, both electrically and environmentally. Some of the initial devices are tested to destruction, typically by baking them and seeing where they fail. The information is then taken to refine the design and make it more reliable.
Once a design is physically and electronically optimized, then a larger run of units is produced and supplied for network level and applications layer testing. The apps people like to get more units up front so they can test as many scenarios as possible in parallel to get the test done faster.
Our slideshow of ADTRAN's assembly line begins here.