Solar Builder

JAN-FEB 2019

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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26 JA N UA RY / F E B RUA RY 2 0 1 9 when it does arrive and not having the right equipment on site to complete delivery. "These issues create confusion and unnecessary slowdowns that impact the overall progress of the project, which ultimately affect our bottom line," Perron says. "With that good communication, detailed receiving becomes a breeze, which enables greater efficiency in the field and a reduction of shrinkage as a whole across all our inventory. Good communication also means that general management of the hundreds of POs we place becomes easier administratively for both of us because we know how each other thinks." The onus is on the supplier to engage and get this process started and have a rolling action plan and process. "Suppliers who don't respond to calls or emails in a timely fashion, or who don't alert us to potential availability or delivery problems ahead of time make it harder for us to stay on track," Perron says. "Likewise, suppliers who do not take responsibility for their mistakes and try to push the expediting costs onto us, or fail to consult us on order modifications, won't keep our business for long. We understand that not everything goes according to plan — sup- pliers just need to provide real-time updates so we can come up with contingency plans to overcome obstacles." Nexamp changed its ordering practices over the years to stan- dardize equipment orders as much as possible, which in turn reduced the possibility of human error on both sides. This helps suppliers by streamlining the process and lets everyone focus more on other potential challenges. "Another area where we have improved is in jobsite delivery. We now try to arrange just-in-time delivery as much as possible so we can keep things moving and suppliers don't have to deal with a backup of stock or materials," Perron says. Hunter-gatherers The concept of suppliers providing more than just a product has gone from novelty to expectation. Perron points to greater visibility into the supply chain as a huge new supplier development. "This makes it easier for us to plan accordingly and anticipate any obsta- cles before they become a serious setback," he says. Other positive changes Perron has seen include more generous terms and conditions, expediting options, an ability to maintain higher levels of inventory for individual companies that warrant it based on volume and, in some cases, preferential pricing. This expectation was driven by innovations and consolidations throughout the supply chain. Consider OMCO Solar, a roll former that has been a supplier and contract manufacturer for just about every racking and tracker company you know. Over time, OMCO realized it could also provide its own factory-direct, branded rack- ing solution, which yielded additional customer benefits. "Companies that are able to collaborate and leverage partner- ships and co-market them will drive more commitment from their customer because of that deeper level of partnership," says Eric Goodwin, director of solar business development with OMCO Solar. Goodwin is an advocate for business relationships that are more than transactional. One way OMCO does this is by leveraging its supply chain capabilities, such as provide a monthly index of steel pricing versus location for established customers. This is in addition to regular communication, going over cost roadmaps and collaborat- ing on R&D and problem-solving. "It's good to hear from each other when it's not just a problem," Goodwin says. "The customers we like to grow with are the ones we can communicate with and always have each other's back. When you have project execution issues and change orders on contracts, most of those things are impacted by not having a good kick off process or handling of expectations." OMCO recently implemented an internal process aimed to enhance customer touchpoints. A purchase order coming in kicks off a cadence of actions and scheduling of activities internally to keep everyone on the same page during each project. "There's at least one communication planned each week leading up to delivery. Once we start deliveries, we have someone on site to assess every- thing so nothing is missed." Communication Keys Upfront and clear expectations can help build relationships and smooth the processes of solar project construction. Conti Solar highlights these key areas for stepping up communication efforts: Schedule Being able to project the delivery of supplies is vital to the success of a project and staying on schedule. Cost Understanding the cost of the supplies up front allows developers to accurately model the total cost of the project early on. These projections are necessary for the developer to understand if the project is economically viable. You risk the project not being able to pencil if the supplier raises cost. Issues Mitigating risks and potential issues up front is the backbone of trusted EPCs. When issues arise, having a strong relationship with a supplier who is committed to working through a project's success is a sought-after partner. Engineering Getting the right data up front to bid correctly with geotech, borings, etc., is another important element. It sounds simple, but there are myriad complexities to the equation.

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