Signature Control Systems Inc. hit a sweet spot with the second generation of a rotational molded pedestal-mount housing for golf course sprinkler controls.
Golf course customers indicated they wanted a plastic pedestal, said Brian Smith, SCS president. The company responded with a first-generation product in 2002, dubbed the G1.
``We responded with our opinion on the design [and] then realized from a design and delivery point of view that there was a big question mark about the manufacturability,'' Smith said during an office interview in Irvine. ``Our first attempt gave us a good indication as to what the market wanted, and G2 is the result.''
SCS completed the G2 design of its Aurora-brand central control system in June 2004, and shipped its first commercial product three months later - to Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
Each SCS plastic pedestal-mount controller/satellite unit sells for $1,000-$7,000, depending on the complexity of the electronics. An 18-hole golf course might have 10-50 boxes, each controlling as many as 100 sprinkler-head valves.
Mainland Products Inc. of Ontario, Calif., built tools incorporating the G2's ``simplistic for assembly'' design, according to John Hammond, Mainland vice president.
G2 features a double-wall tongue-and-groove arrangement. The design has a cocoon-like locking mechanism, a weather-secure internal hinge and strength at connection and stress points. The housing needs to perform in hot and cold temperatures and dry and wet climatic conditions without losing its form.
Previously, G1's exposed hinge allowed water ingress leading to metal corrosion.
The double-wall construction allows the inner wall to remain cooler. A hollow air pocket helps to protect the electronics.
The rotomolded components include a top lid, a spine and two interchangeable doors. Roto Dynamics Inc. of Anaheim, Calif., uses dozens of pounds of linear low density polyethylene with ultraviolet stabilizers in molding a housing's components.
The boxes come in compounded granite colors of green or gray.
``Our forte is what goes inside the box,'' Smith said. ``What we put inside the box is very different from what our competitors put inside the box.''
More markets beckon. ``The intelligence is applicable to other markets,'' he said.
Others in the irrigation control market use rotomolded housings and, in at least one instance, a high-pressure injection molded unit.
Smith has decades in the business. In his native South Africa, he operated water-management firm Sovran Pty. Ltd. and developed cutting-edge technology, computer software and lightning protection techniques. He sold Sovran in the mid-1990s to James Hardie Corp., now part of Toro Co. of Bloomington, Minn.
After leaving Toro, Smith joined longtime irrigation equipment maker Thompson Manufacturing Co. He acquired Thompson'a successor firm, Union Tools Irrigation Inc., in April 2000 and reorganized the business as Signature Control Systems.
At that time, SCS made housings exclusively of coated stainless steel, but Smith listened to the customers and saw an opportunity for polymers.
``There is a market for plastics out there, just as there is a market for metal,'' he said. Housings in plastics are projected to account for about 80 percent of SCS 2005 revenues with the remainder in metal.
SCS employs about 20, including field technical service personnel and, as of Jan. 1, the firm established a support staff in Paris.
Through representatives, ``We have been in the European market for more that five years,'' Smith said.
Globally, more than 45 distributors represent SCS, including operatives in the Middle East and Far East.