Weak supply chain practices are costing the global solar industry up to US$500 million a year, according to the International PV Equipment Association (IPVEA).

Ahead of a forum on the topic at next week’s EU PVSEC event in Amsterdam, IPVEA said the industry needed to get to grip with factors such as delayed or lost shipments and missing inventory that are causing significant annual losses.

IPVEA said the industry had worked hard to cut costs in manufacturing and balance of systems, but said supply chain optimisation was an area it now needed to look at to reduce costs further.

“When you ask most people what is the supply chain, the immediate answer is moving trucks from one point to another point, and moving shipments,” said IPVEA managing director Bryan Ekus. “That's not supply chain, that's logistics.”

IPVEA said supply chain included logistics and information technology, but covered other factors as well.

“The key word is collaboration,” said Hellmann Logistics' global head of renewable energy, Holger Meyer. “It is all about collaboration in the company, as well as with your partners along the supply chain.”

IPVEA said the need to address supply chain issues was increasing in step with solar’s continued expansion worldwide.

“The complexity starts when you are moving out huge volumes into a number of countries,” said Meyer.

IPVEA will be bringing together representatives from across the PV value chain on 24 September at the PV Production and Energy Storage Supply Chain at EU PVSEC. Further information is available here.