Having the correct components, on time is crucial for successful solar project installation. Here are some tips for choosing a good supplier and ensuring efficient solar component ordering.
1. Perform project planing and forecasting before ordering components. A good supplier can help you put together forecasting information, such as how many product units you will need and your time frame, to avoid rush, panicked ordering. Even the best guess forecast is better than none. Having a plan in place with a supplier team will ensure reliable fulfillment and make placing the order easy.
2. Look for a supplier that will work with you on your project’s success. Have a critical eye of your supplier’s ability to execute fulfillment. There should be no difference between ordering from a manufacturer or distributor. The key is in execution. Be wary of “call center” type supplier that simply punch in the order and never contact you again. Look for a supplier who can also serve as a type of project manager or partner.
Look for responsiveness. Does an actual human answer the phone when you call? Are your emails answered in a timely manner? A good supplier will be proactive and reach out to you prior to delivery date and check in to see how the site is doing. A good supplier is also knowledgeable of various transit times and routes of different freight carriers. In these ways, a supplier can help prevent extra costs from having idle crews.
3. Engage with supplier fulfillment and field services teams early on. Lead time and planning are critical when ordering components. It’s useful to engage with the fulfillment team before the purchase order is submitted. Begin with establishing credit terms and providing an estimated delivery date. A targeted delivery date helps the supplier plan and prepare inventory so it’s ready to ship. Schedules often change after a project is underway, but with proper planning and communication, the supplier can facilitate a smooth delivery. Also, engaging early on with a good field services team will ensure the project will be ready for installation and turn-on.
4. Provide a well written purchase order. This will ensure reliable fulfillment and delivery. Make sure the purchase order includes an accurate delivery address and a delivery point of contact with a cell phone number and email address. The contact information is important because many solar projects are located in rural areas. A good supplier will coordinate smooth delivery to these remote sites.
These tips were provided by Gail Hibbert and Janelle Oltman of Chint Power Systems Americas in a podcast. Listen to the full podcast here.