Over the last decade the solar industry has matured to the point of becoming a viable alternative to conventional energy. This meteoric growth has placed increased pressure on supply chains with the demand for shorter lead-times and lower costs.
In 2012 and 2013, BCI formed a partnership with a high-growth solar systems provider. BCI’s mission was to develop a robust, reliable supply chain that could support weekly shipments of over 500 containers.
BCI’s Scope of Activity included:
- Finding the right partners in China.
- Establishing a joint venture with a large metal fabricator located in eastern China, and co-investing to build up capacity.
- Opening a logistics, project management, and quality supervision office dedicated to solar in Suzhou, China.
- Production and quality audits of sub-suppliers.
- Cost negotiation with sub-suppliers.
- Enforcement of Non-Disclosure Agreements to assure confidentiality.
- Project planning and forecasting between customer, JV and sub-suppliers.
Manufacturing Engineering and Tool Development
- Tooling plan—including investment in tooling—to ensure capacity goals.
- Engineering review of new product designs and new tooling issuances, conducted from BCI’s Pittsburgh office.
- Oversight of structural and mechanical testing of new parts.
- Catalogue and inventory of samples.
Demand Planning and Customer Service
- Production plans, from sub-suppliers through to shipping logistics.
- Order fulfillment reports to the customer on a routine basis.
- Project tracking reports, all the way to field installation, to the customer on a routine basis.
- As the total number of projects steadily increased, BCI’s demand planning team become integrated with the customer’s supply chain team.
- Issuance of detailed quality plans.
- Quality audits of all facilities, including sub-suppliers.
- Statistical data captured and analyzed on a regular basis to keep track of process reliability.
- Designing form, fit & function tests into the production line.
Packaging and Containerizing
- Developed a plan for packaging, container loading and shipment of ocean containers.
- Packaging needed to prevent damage during loading, transit and unloading.
- Packaging needed to support field installation by shipping field-friendly pre-assemblies.
- Packaging needed to minimize dunnage to reduce job site waste.
- Part and package identification, including bar coding, was critical to facilitate receiving, staging and shake-out at the job sites.
- BCI routinely sent representatives to the job site to inspect, investigate and evaluate solutions for improvement.
- BCI frequently provided onsite deployment and management of field crews for sorting, retrofit and repair of components and assemblies.