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With the overall production capacity released, how can photovoltaic companies optimize the supply chain to achieve a balance between production and sales?

In 2005, Wuxi Suntech, China's first photovoltaic company, was listed in the United States. Subsequently, the launch of the "Golden Sun Project" and various subsidy policies pushed China's photovoltaic industry into a period of rapid development. After 20 years of changes, China's photovoltaic industry has moved from subsidies to grid parity, and has entered a stage of development that improves quality and efficiency.

At the same time, due to the company's core technology, production capacity expansion, cost advantages and multiple export incentive policies, China's photovoltaics continue to occupy more international market shares with more competitive products. In the process of exporting photovoltaic manufacturing overseas, supply uncertainty will bring great challenges to delivery. It mainly includes two aspects: uncertainty of raw material delivery and uncertainty of production and manufacturing. Therefore, doing supply chain operation and maintenance safely and efficiently is a compulsory topic for every enterprise.

Core challenges of photovoltaic supply chain management:

Supply chain planning will encounter several core challenges such as demand forecasting, production planning and resource arrangement, procurement planning and supply of raw materials, quality management and control, etc. The formulation and deployment of the overall supply chain plan is the work of the planning department, and ensuring that relevant information is provided accurately and timely is closely related to each department. For the collection of the above information and data, many companies still rely on manual labor to complete it, so the following work scenarios often occur.

•The sales department summarizes component and cell order information weekly or monthly, and arranges the shipment of the next order based on the order's advance payment, promised delivery date, and delivery status. Finally, the sales department will use Excel to summarize the estimated sales information, and then manually adjust it through experienced sales managers/directors. Finally, a forecasted demand table is prepared and sent to the planning department. However, the above information may be pulled from ERP and is often not comprehensive.

•The Purchasing Department uses Excel to summarize purchase order information and expected order arrival information for battery cells, auxiliary materials, and packaging materials on a weekly or monthly basis. After manual verification, it is submitted to the planning department. However, we also face incomplete pull of ERP information, such as missing logistics information or loss of timeliness, so the expected arrival information needs to be updated manually.

•Due to the lack of data in the ERP system, the warehouse department often does not pull inventory data directly from the system. Instead, it counts the inventory once a month and draws it into a table. After verification, it is fed back to the planning department.

•The production department summarizes production status on a weekly or monthly basis, such as current order completion status, production line saturation, estimated delivery of orders, and expected changes in production lines. Finally, it is summarized to the planning department through a form.

•The technical department will also submit BOM and process information to the planning department in form. However, the BOM used by many enterprises for operational planning is not consistent with the BOM in the ERP system, and additional information is needed.

•After the planning department receives the Excel tables submitted by each department, they summarize them into an overall table and then apply them to the preset Excel formula template for calculation. If the departmental enterprise does not preset Excel, manual adjustment will be used. The planning department often cannot use the system to calculate the planning logic on the Excel sheet, because no single system can complete the consideration of production capacity, production line adjustment, alternative materials, risk and quality, etc. In the end, it still relies on manual adjustments. At the same time, because the information chain involved is long, the deviation between the actual situation and the plan is also difficult to analyze. Moreover, the information on the front end changes frequently, and real-time data feedback cannot be achieved.

As a professional consulting company that has been deeply involved in the field of cloud computing for many years, Hitpoint Cloud can help companies minimize uncertainty through processes and systems. For example, this can be achieved through the photovoltaic industry manufacturing distribution solution PVMDS based on the Oracle NetSuite cloud ERP system. The Oracle NetSuite logistics management module can help companies collect logistics process information, estimated delivery dates, etc. in a timely manner. At the same time, it helps enterprises optimize work scenarios by leveraging the planning model and execution capabilities of the NetSuite system.

•PVMDS can rely on one system to support the planning capabilities that can only be provided by the combination of APS, MRP, and Excel. It can provide three model optimization plans: "Limited capacity production line production plan for components, cells, and silicon wafers", "Time and quantity dual-dimensional material procurement plan", and "Production line resource optimization production plan." And the PVMDS system platform supports user-customized adjustment models.

•The sales department does not need to use Excel to summarize order data. The system can directly collect order data such as frame orders, down payments, balance payments, and promised delivery dates in daily processes. At the same time, you can also use the system forecast model to directly obtain forecast demand through CRM business opportunity management and quotation management in PVMDS, and complete estimated order data in the daily sales process.

• PVMDS can support the entire photovoltaic procurement process and help logistics and procurement departments simplify their work. Purchase orders, delivery dates, and quality information in the system can be real-time and accurate. The purchasing department can abandon offline ledgers, and the import and logistics departments can also collaborate with purchasing through the logistics module.

•Production information can be synchronized in real time through a complete system solution, and the status of each work order can be accurately obtained in the system. Future work order arrangements, production line capacity status and maintenance arrangements can also be managed using the PVMDS production capacity calendar.

•PVMDS highly matches the technical characteristics of the photovoltaic industry. The system BOM capability can support various components and cell conditions, such as cell replacement materials, production line loss rate, etc. Therefore, the technical department can start making BOM from the quotation stage.

•The plan execution of the planning department can be automatically completed by the system. The system can ensure that the plan is carried out on schedule and avoid errors. At the same time, dashboards and planning tools are provided to make multi-department collaboration and adjustments easier and more controllable.

Successful practice - based on reality, higher than expected

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, SEG Solar is the leading solar photovoltaic module manufacturer in the United States, with a complete global supply chain and providing high-quality solar modules. As of the end of 2023, SEG’s global cumulative shipments exceeded 5GW. It is expected that by 2024, the company's module production capacity will exceed 5.5GW. In order to improve business automation and achieve business traceability, SEG Solar needs a global system to help the company ensure the compliance of U.S. and global business.

Benefit improvement:

•Improve production capacity in the United States, achieve local market and local production, and greatly improve business automation.

•Realize the traceability of the entire supply chain. By inputting any component serial number, pallet number, and cabinet number, the source of the procurement and production chain can be queried.

•Accurately conduct quality management and traceability to meet 30-year high quality assurance requirements.

•Customized and configured order management to realize flexible supply chain and order-based accounting management;

For the current stage of market-oriented development of the photovoltaic industry, on the one hand, it still needs innovative technological development to improve effective supply to meet demand. On the other hand, it is necessary to use the power of data to drive the market and penetrate more use scenarios to maintain sustainable development of enterprises.


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