Top 5 Ways Mass Manufacturing Science Can Improve Solar Installations

Over the last several years there has been much discussion about the difficulty of lowering costs associated with solar energy system installation. At Sustainabilist, we believe that manufacturing science--one of our areas of expertise--holds the solutions to these problems. After conducting interviews with top solar industry thought leaders, we’ve identified a number ways in which solar installation and maintenance could be vastly improved through proper implementation of a complete QA/QC processes. Here are the top five:

#1: Data-driven Education for Contractors

Proper data gathering for QA/QC can enable a company to decrease the cost of human errors in the installation process by initiating a feedback loop using education tools that are targeted to increase the efficacy of individual contractors on the jobsite.  Several companies in the space are using early versions of these tools, and have managed to pay for their own QA/QC efforts off of the financial improvements garnered from improved contractor performance. One company that we spoke to cited that the entire program was paid for by the reduction in roof damage alone.

#2: Enable Manufacturers to Improve Products

Currently, many manufacturers work with a few large accounts in order to design custom equipment that satisfies the process of those few companies, while everyone else has to adapt or work around the result. By collecting standardized feedback for manufacturers, our industry can provide them with critical information that can enable product improvements for the whole industry. In the field, these improvements can decrease on-site failures, increase first-time install success, and minimize warranty costs for the manufacturers themselves.

#3: Decrease On-Site Rework

From our own interviews and data we’ve seen across the industry, re-work of solar energy system installations occurs with roughly 30-50% of residential sites that are installed. Doing proper QA/QC can help diagnose common system failures before and during install, decreasing the number of reworks done post-inspection and avoiding high post-install O&M costs that are attributed to deferred maintenance.

#4: Decrease the Need for Inspections

By focusing on process-oriented installation practices, we can decrease the number of times that sites have to be inspected in order to determine if installation was done correctly.  In manufacturing science, this is often seen through the lens of design for assembly (DFA), a technique which designs parts to be put together properly in an intuitive manner that is hard to do incorrectly.  

#5: Increase Revenue for Solar Financiers

Proper QA/QC can increase upside for financiers, decrease downside risk, and ensure tighter limits on payback periods for projects. These benefits are gained by enabling lower insurance payments, reducing O&M costs, and decreasing installation cost as described in the bullets above.

This list is far from complete. Massive cost and efficiency benefits can be gained by applying modern mass-manufacturing science to the solar installation business. If you’d like to learn how this could help your business, regardless of scale, contact us today.