When I said yesterday that digital measurement expert Tektronix (NYSE:TEK) has delivered positive surprises four quarters in a row, I simply hadn't dug any further back than that. The analyst expectation outperformance should come as absolutely no surprise to us, given that the company has never underperformed those forecasts and met rather than exceeded expectations only once in the 39 quarters where analysts have had an opinion.

So sales were $5 million stronger than expected at $268 million, and pro forma net income landed at $0.35 per diluted share and beat the Street by $0.02 per share. On the other hand, the company is filling orders faster than they are coming in.

Management sounded positive in the comments accompanying the report, and the instruments segment did see a 13% increase in order volume. In particular, the brand-new oscilloscope and spectrum analyzers on which management seems to be pinning its hopes for the future has met with strong customer demand.

The communications side of operations looks much more lumpy. Because of the "timing of a few large orders," order volume was down 19% year over year in that segment, though last quarter saw a 65% jump and another "double-digit" boost is expected next quarter. Fair enough, especially since communications orders tend to be much larger and less frequent than orders for instruments, according to Tektronix's filings.

It's funny to see a company with a multibillion-dollar market cap and up against respectable competitors like JDS Uniphase (NASDAQ:JDSU) and Agilent Technologies (NYSE:A) behave like a tiny growth stock in some ways, seemingly vulnerable to uneven order flows. That's what we have here, but in the end it shouldn't matter much. Tektronix has a substantial order backlog to work off before coming around to filling new ones, so operations are humming along at full throttle. Carry on, gentlemen.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure is well-rounded in and of itself.