Contract Manufacturing Success Story

Big Belly Solar

Columbia Tech


James Poss and some of his Babson College business school classmates had an idea for a solar powered trash compactor for use in public places. It would use solar power to compact and store five times the trash in the space of an ordinary trash receptacle. By reducing collection trips it would cut labor and fuel use, and lower greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. Mr. Poss approached Coghlin Companies with the goal of taking their idea from an initial prototype through a cost-reduction and design for manufacturability (DFM) and into full production.

Pre-Production Design and Engineering

Coghlin Companies was challenged with significantly reducing unit cost, while addressing several design and performance issues. Coghlin improved the compaction drive efficiency to reduce power consumption, reduced the frame/enclosure costs maintaining the unit’s structural integrity, and improved the ease of use and maintenance.

Coghlin Companies thoroughly analyzed the power system and eliminated all unnecessary power draw. Working closely with a sheet metal supplier, Coghlin identified then optimized the design and minimized cost through material selection, fabrication techniques, and reduction in non-automatic operations. Coghlin incorporated ergonomic standards to ensure fail-safe waste depositing and easy access for bag removal.

Coghlin Companies achieved this while decreasing cost per unit by an astounding 32%.

Capital Equipment Contract Manufacturing

Once redesigned, engineered, and prototyped, Mr. Poss engaged Coghlin Companies to produce the solar trash compactors. Coghlin used its expertise in capital equipment contract manufacturing, logistics, and field support to quickly and cost effectively produce the solar powered trash compactor for Mr. Poss. By leveraging Coghlin Companies capabilities, Mr. Poss avoided the capital costs and management required to build a production facility, allowing him to focus on market development and sales.


Today the company now known as BigBelly Solar is the global leader in on-site solar compaction systems. BigBelly Solar products can be found in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago; high traffic locals such as beaches, parks, and the Portland Zoo; universities such as Georgetown and Arizona State University; and stadiums such as Fenway Park, and Gillette Stadium’s Patriot Place lifestyle destination facility.

What can Columbia Tech do for you?

Contact Columbia Tech today to discuss your organization's needs and aspirations. Columbia Tech can help you grow, thrive and profit.