Case Studies

Sustainable Pest Control

Our Customer is the global leader in environmentally sustainable pest control. The product uses a mating disruption technology to protect crops in large and small farms around the world. Every 30 minutes, over the course of growing season, the product dispenses an aerosol spray containing a synthetic pheromone that disrupts the pest mating habits. This blankets the farm with the scent, making pests unable to pinpoint the location of a mate. Due to the pests’ short lives, they expire before reproducing. The aerosol is non-toxic, leaves no harmful residues on food and does not leach into soil or groundwater. When the customer needed an updated design of the product, they turned to PCH for a complete solution. Quality, cost, and time-to market were critical factors in this project and the customer was confident that PCH could deliver.

Development and Engineering
7 weeks

The challenge

The customer’s challenge centered on a redesign of the automatic dispensing device, or cabinet, used to dispense the aerosol can of pheromone. The cabinet comes free of charge with each can of aerosol. The existing cabinet was expensive to produce, and reliability issues required the customer to establish a refurbishment facility specifically for the cabinet product. A simplified cabinet design would reduce cost, improve reliability and durability, and simplify the user experience.

Our customer required a product that could survive in harsh outdoor conditions while integrating an electromechanical system designed to maximize efficiency at lowest cost. The product is used in farm settings such as vineyards and orchards for 250 days per year and needed to run on two AA batteries for the duration.

A short project timeline required quick development and decision-making grounded in cost and performance related design considerations. A locally-based partner made close collaboration throughout the product seamless and facilitated essential field testing.

Only a seasoned partner, with deep expertise in developing custom manufacturing solutions, a global footprint, and a proven track record bringing world-class products to market on time and within budget, would be up to the challenge.

PCH solution

Enter PCH. The customer turned to PCH to support this project based on our unparalleled 24 years experience and expertise in product design engineering and development, supplier network management, manufacturing, personalization, fulfillment and distribution.

The project involved two main sprints – a three-week architecture phase and a four week build phase. PCH initially worked with the customer to develop an aerosol can adapter for the device. This was a new, custom part that would be attached to each can during the customer’s filling process. Once assembled, the adapter provided large, robust features that allowed the can to be securely connected to the device enclosure, while minimizing the tolerance stack-up between the spray valve of the can and the actuator mechanism (which automatically depresses the valve every 30 minutes). The custom-design meant that the adapter also forces the load path during a drop event, to pass from the can to adapter to enclosure, thereby minimizing the risk of damage to the assembly and actuation valve. PCH leveraged its network of over 1,000 suppliers to meet the requirements of the adapter’s unconventional power architecture – sourcing the right motor to drive the gear train and understand current requirements to estimate power draw.

Once the adapter was approved for integration into the filling process, the part break-up work stream began. PCH first established the initial part count, system layout and carried out early design for manufacturing (DFM) reviews. This led to dividing the product into two sections. The top section contained the electrical assembly and actuator mechanism (motor, gear-train and cam) and was sealed to IP54 to protect the contents from dust and moisture. The bottom section housed the can attachment mechanism, a quarter-turn, snap-fit assembly to allow simple, intuitive user assembly of the aerosol can into the device.

Complex electrical and mechanical part development and actuator mechanism design followed and PCH’s broad capabilities were in play throughout. With the actuator mechanism, for example, PCH’s electrical engineers and firmware and mechanical engineering teams created the automatic system that could press the valve of the can 12,000 times (every 30 minutes) at a force of 6.5 pounds over 250 days using only 2 AA batteries.

PCH collaborated closely with the customer at every stage. As product development was underway, regular consultation between the customer and PCH’s DFM and China sourcing team drove cost-effective design decisions. This real-time collaboration also informed integration decisions like integrating an over-molded gasket for sealing, rather than assembling a separate gasket part, ultimately optimizing the product design and cost.

The result

PCH was ideally placed to support this project through its end-to-end platform. These capabilities were used to maximum effect to deliver the most efficient product design and achieve the performance and cost goals.

During the kick-off meeting at the customer’s domestic facility, the PCH team scoped an aggressive schedule that focused on a making the design as simple and efficient as possible. This involved minimizing part count, size and complexity while optimizing key components choices for the motor, gears and batteries. Throughout the project, PCH provided mechanical, electrical and firmware engineering development services, from explore to build, industrial design, user interface design, supply chain management and sourcing, and DFM.

Component choices for the motor, batteries, switches and temperature sensor (along with smaller board level components) were key to the success of the program for hitting cost and performance targets. A range of options were provided by the sourcing team for each component, enabling the team to make smart decisions based on cost and performance considerations.

A strong working relationship between PCH and the customer was established and continues to flourish. The PCH team became an extension of the customer’s in-house team, working closely with their manufacturing engineers, and customer care representatives at every stage to verify the new design and ensure it improved all pain points of the previous product.