Hughes: Innovation And Training at New Maryland Facility

Mike Tippets, Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at Hughes
Mike Tippets, Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at Hughes
We spoke to Mike Tippets, Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at Hughes about the manufacturer's new facility and educational initiatives
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Hi Mike, please Introduce yourself.

I'm Mike Tippets, Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at connectivity provider Hughes.

Hughes has built a manufacturing facility and 5G incubation center in Maryland. Why? 

Hughes has operated a manufacturing facility in Maryland for more than 30 years. We were notified the lease of our previous facility was not going to be renewed, and this created the need for a new facility. In researching potential locations, we found an amazing opportunity to partner with Montgomery College and the Pinkney Innovation Complex. 

Our work with 5G and private 5G networking gave us the opportunity to utilize the manufacturing facility as a test bed for these technologies. It also allows us to tap into local talent and provide educational opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career in engineering or manufacturing.

What goes into manufacturing satellite modems and terminals? Who uses them? Why are these technologies so important? 

Satellite modems or terminals are used to receive and transmit signals to a satellite. They are used in homes, businesses, government facilities, and provide connectivity for internet access and other connectivity requirements. 

A satellite modem or terminal is like a computer, it has a printed circuit board (PCB) and a variety of chips that are soldered to the PCB. The PCB is then placed inside an appropriate housing with external connections that are also connected to the PCB. The assembly of the device involves placing the correct components in the correct places on the PCB and verifying their functionality. 

As the world becomes more connected, people need internet access for education, employment, commerce, and entertainment.

When a home, business or government building is in a rural area where terrestrial connectivity isn’t available, the use of satellite connectivity becomes essential. In some cases, the satellite connection is used as a backup to existing connectivity in the event the primary connection is disabled or damaged. 

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How are advanced robotics being used in the facility to enhance results? 

We are using robotics to perform final assembly steps and packaging. For example, our robots place the PCB in the housing, seal the housing, test the seal, place in packaging, and palletize the individual units. Robotics streamline and increase our manufacturing efficiency, while giving our engineers the time they need to focus on complex tasks.

What do you think of the existing safety concerns surrounding manufacturing robots? Does Hughes have a specific approach to this? 

We take safety precautions to ensure we’re protecting our employees or anyone else who visits our facility. For example, the robots in our facility are in a fixed location. They are contained inside protective shielding. Our team has created an environment to make sure there are no human interactions near or involving the moving robotic tools. 

The Pinkney Innovation Complex. Could you tell me more about the educational initiatives that are happening there? and how it’s working to address the ongoing hiring crisis and digital skills gap in US manufacturing? 

We’re excited to collaborate with Montgomery College’s Pinkney Innovation Complex in providing students with hands-on learning experiences with cutting-edge technology. MC students can pursue either internships or shadowing opportunities here at the EXM facility.

Additionally, as the first manufacturing facility on a U.S. community college campus, EXM is an opportunity for students to gain a mentor in the engineering field and potentially have that invaluable mentorship experience.

Ultimately, students can develop real-world skills and build competencies that they’ll be able to use outside of educational spaces. 

Apart from educational initiatives, what steps do you think global manufacturing needs to take to inspire younger generations to take up careers in manufacturing?

Providing educational support is the number one thing that manufacturing companies can do. That means making the decision to take an educator-like role and offer this different style of learning, such as hands-on learning.

It also means offering the space where students can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom such as theories, concepts, and designs to real applications. This enables students to master techniques and problem-solving skills.

Another step manufacturers can take is participating in or facilitating discussions around STEM to inspire younger generations. Our team is looking forward to contributing to these meaningful discussions with the students at Montgomery College.

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The Hughes EXM facility produces US-made hardware and helps invest and train local communities. It employs 400 engineers, technicians, and manufacturing staff. Would you say you're proud of this?

Yes, we’re very proud to say we employ hundreds of professionals at our EXM facility in Germantown.

Not only are we investing in the local community, but we’re also actively training and fostering our country’s future engineers. We made a conscious decision to host our production in Maryland to best serve our clients and to be a positive contributor to the region’s local economy. 

Reindustrialization is a rising trend in manufacturing. Do you think more US manufacturers should embrace reindustrialization? 

It’s important for Hughes to be able to manufacture in the U.S. For example, we’re working with the U.S. Department of Defense by providing secure manufacturing capabilities that are vital to their work. Our partnership with the DoD is a testament to how we’re constantly at the forefront of technological innovation driven by the most highly-skilled, expert engineers in the industry. 

What is Hughes planning for the next twelve months?

We’re excited to ramp up production and invite students to our facility to learn about the engineering and the manufacturing process. We’re also looking forward to continuing to provide the essential connectivity products and technologies that our customers need.

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