How Airgain Solved Inefficiencies to Design and Build Wireless Connectivity Products Faster

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Industry

Telecommunication

Company Size

50-200

Location

San Diego

The Background

Based in San Diego, California, Airgain is a telecommunications company focused on streamlining and simplifying wireless solutions across a wide range of industries. Specializing in three primary markets—consumer products, enterprise-class systems, and automotive fleet management—Airgain works throughout the wireless networking ecosystem to help companies build, secure, and enhance high-performance wireless networks. 

Airgan’s large portfolio of products include embedded modems, asset-tracking tools, and 5G connectivity devices, and its broad range of advanced antennae power wireless networks in the enterprise, government, and public safety sectors. As Victor Blair, Vice President of Operations at Airgain, succinctly put it, “We are a design engineering company of products that make wireless solutions simpler.” 

Challenge 

Because Airgain designs and manufactures such a wide array of wireless devices, its systems and RF engineers spend a lot of time sourcing and comparing parts. Historically, some engineers would rely on Microsoft Excel to compile different components into an ad hoc chart, using spreadsheets to compare features and specifications. “That was time-consuming,” recalled Airgain’s Electrical Engineer Shaun Riddering, who would meticulously transfer information from a myriad of different sources into Excel to produce a comparison chart. 

When it came to sourcing and procurement, Airgain’s team was engaging in a similarly laborious process: engineers manually checked individual sites to make sure that specific parts were available and that those parts fulfilled the company’s stringent requirements. “I would have to scour the internet to make sure that distributors had stock,” said RF & Systems Engineer Kevin Holland. Not infrequently, Holland would end up having to visit three or four sites just to confirm the availability of a single component. 

 “I would have to scour the internet to make sure that distributors had stock.”

Adding to the engineers’ list of intensive tasks was the matter of obtaining compliance reports for the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive. As with putting together comparison charts and confirming availability of components, securing the reports was slow and cumbersome, requiring team members to track down the requisite documentation individually for each and every part. While procuring these RoHS certificates was crucial for Airgain’s compliance and due diligence protocols, it mucked up workflows and often left engineers stretched thin. 

Between the manual research needed to compare and source parts and the time required to secure essential compliance reports, Airgain engineers were regularly mired in inefficient information-gathering practices—a less-than-optimal, occasionally frustrating status quo that made their jobs harder and hampered the speed and effectiveness of the company’s overall manufacturing process.

Solution

Although Airgain did have an electronic parts management platform, it wasn’t necessarily helping the company’s engineers carry out their work locating the best available components and ensuring that they were RoHS-compliant. They needed something else. An alternative platform that would not only let them find the qualified parts they needed but also simplify their resource-gathering processes. “The company [is pushing] to use a lot less resources to do a lot more work,” Blair said. “As a result of that, we need tools that are much more efficient and much more effective in our best practices.” Blair was the first person at Airgain to identify Z2Data’s supply chain risk management platform as potentially being the solution they were looking for. After setting up a demo with the product, he was immediately impressed.

“The dashboard was amazingly satisfying to me because I knew it was going to really facilitate the effectiveness of what we were looking for in a tool internally.” 

To consolidate the company’s sourcing and procurement efforts and accelerate its ability to gather critical compliance information, whatever platform Airgain chose would have to be accessible and easy to navigate. After all, these were busy engineers juggling multiple projects, and they were sure to be ambivalent about investing their time in a lengthy, complicated onboarding process. On this count, Z2Data appeared to be a strong fit. Compared to the company’s previous platform, “When you were on the tool, it was much more intuitive,” Blair said. “We didn't have to do as much drilling to get into the product itself.” That navigability and ease of use were among the chief factors in Airgain’s decision to switch to the Z2Data platform. 

Result

Since implementing Z2Data’s SCRM platform, Airgain’s team members have seamlessly incorporated the tool into their day-to-day operations. Engineers like Holland have used Z2Data’s Part Risk Manager and Compliance Manager features to help them locate and confirm availability of specific components when developing new products. “If I'm designing something new, I’ll use Z2Data to look and see if the part that I am planning on using is readily available,” Holland said. Having immediate access to critical information on suppliers and sourcing dependencies, all gathered into a single trustworthy source, is a far cry from the kind of tedious internet-trawling Holland was engaging in before Z2Data. 

The platform has proven to be just as essential to the manufacturing of existing designs. Riddering, who’d previously assembled his own comparison charts using Excel spreadsheets, is now utilizing Z2Data’s Part Risk Manager to streamline and centralize that pivotal task.

“I’ve found the comparison tool within Z2Data to be very helpful ... If I’m looking for a replacement part for an existing design, I can line up however many alternates I want to look at and look at the specs line by line and see where things are the same and see where things are different.”

Finally, the platform’s compliance capabilities have shored up a major inefficiency for Airgain engineers who’d previously had to track down RoHS certifications for every individual component. Now, using Z2Data’s Compliance Manager, Riddering and Holland simply upload a bill of materials (BOM) and get comprehensive compliance data for products and parts. “It's made getting a compliance report for an entire BOM much easier,” said Riddering. 

Blair pointed out that the effortless access to reliable compliance documentation has had a positive downstream effect, too.

“From a high level standpoint, it’s given us a lot more credibility with our customers ... The fact that it’s third party data really gives it much more credence, rather than the previous data that we would submit.”

Blair is 100% certain, in fact, that accessing and deploying Z2Data’s compliance information has improved Airgain’s relationship with its customers and provided a boost to its overall reputation. And for a major telecommunications company with clients and customers all over the world, that’s no small thing. 

Better Component Selection

Increased Efficiency

Resilient Lifecycle Management

Vic Blair

I’ve found the comparison tool within Z2Data to be very helpful...If I’m looking for a replacement part for an existing design, I can line up however many alternates I want to look at and look at the specs line by line and see where things are the same and see where things are different.”

Vic Blair
Vice President, Operations
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