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Smarter supply chains for a brighter solar future

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By Jen Tan, VP of APAC Sales and Energy Solutions (and former Global Planning and Logistics VP); Agnieszka Schulze, Global PR Manager, REC, Singapore

As other entrants in the solar industry scramble to build greater efficiencies into their supply chain, the leading companies focus on manufacturing strengths such as zero-defect quality along the entire supply chain. When it comes to supply chain excellence, the solar industry as a whole is playing catch-up. However, there are players who have already made substantial progress here, having already adopted ‘lean’ practices to eliminate inefficiencies at source. REC, the largest European brand of solar panels and a world leader in the industry, is maintaining its strong position. The company’s practices and principles are explained in detail in this paper.

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Forecasting the evolution of a young, dynamic industry is by definition an uncertain business, and solar is no exception. Rarely, if ever, do the numbers broadcast by any of the various bodies involved in the PV prediction game tally, and even historical deployment rates remain the subject of hot debate. The paradox is that getting forecasts broadly right is going to become increasingly important over the next few years, particularly for those involved in producing the equipment that will support whatever levels of demand come to pass. As discussed by Gaëtan Masson, director of the Becquerel Institute, on p.110 of this issue of Photovoltaics International, although global PV demand appears in rude health, complex political and economic conditions in many individual markets mean the question of how vigorously it will continue to grow in the coming years is less than clear. Yet for the upstream part of the industry, correctly forecasting PV market developments will be critical to ensure the right investments are made along the value chain in technologies that will help spur PV to new levels of competitiveness and thus drive continued demand.

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