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April 1, 2019 manufacturing awards

CPI Radant expanded from fighter jets to in-flight entertainment with its new Hudson expansion

CPI Radant workers assemble a radome, which is used to enclose radar antenna.

Balancing defense sector contracts with commercial production is not as easy as simply finding new customers. When the Radant Technologies Division of Communications & Power Industries (CPI), located in Stow, wanted to expand its commercial production capabilities, company leadership knew it was time to take the leap and open a new facility.

For decades, the Radant division of CPI has specialized in manufacturing radomes, reflectors and structural composite products. The equipment it manufactures is used onboard fighter aircraft and submarines, mostly for communications and radar purposes. But in the last several years, CPI Radant has expanded its work on a system the average civilian is more likely to encounter while traveling long distances: in-flight entertainment and connectivity. That shift, however, has required speeding up production to meet the needs of a different market.

“For years we've been building things one one or two at a time,” said Tim Smith, president of CPI's Radant Technologies Division. “And we had to find a way to learn how to build eight or 10 in a single day.”

Faster timeline

CPI Radant not only had to figure out a way to speed up production, Smith said, it had to come up with a plan for producing several pieces of equipment at once. So, when the company designed its new facility, located in Hudson, leadership made sure to employ lean manufacturing principles to reduce waste and improve efficiency.

“We had to expand our capabilities in order to handle the higher volume productions required by the commercial industry,” said Smith.

The fact is, he said, the defense sector moves at a much slower pace. The government sometimes plans out orders up to 10 months in advance; the commercial industry often needs orders to be completed within 60 days.

Doubling output

Paul Fortier, northeast regional manager for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, helped CPI Radant plan out its expansion. The lean principles CPI Radant employed were integral to its growth, he said.

“To take their technologies and be able to utilize them in a different application really contributed to their success,” Fortier said.

And metrically speaking, CPI Radant appears to be doing quite well since it made the commitment to expansion. The company has added some 70 jobs and has effectively doubled its output.

“It's a bold move when you're going to go that way,” Fortier said, “and it certainly paid off.”

Read about the other WBJ 2019 Manufacturing Excellence Award winners

Manufacturing Excellence Award, Large Company - AIS

Manufacturing Excellence Award, Small Company - Organomation

Green Manufacturing Award - Acorn Deck House Co.

Rising Star Award - New England Optical Systems, Inc.

Collaboration in Manufacturing Award - Carpe Diem Technologies, Inc.

Workplace Development & Productivity Award - SLIDEWAYS, Inc.

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