The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that as much as 64% of a new solar system’s bill can be attributed to soft costs. Soft costs include a range of items from taxes and supply chain costs, but one of the highest expenses on the list is installation labor. Reducing these soft costs would allow resources to be reallocated to improving quality of service, which would increase customers’ overall return on investment and satisfaction.
With the growing breadth and geographic coverage of their services, the efficiency of processes is a major challenge. How does a growing company like SST maintain promises like “completing a service call every 6 minutes” to current and potential customers while staying on top of expanding services?
This is not a new problem, as many companies (solar and otherwise) have faced the test of scaling efficiently without compromising quality and brand. Influenced by the team’s experience in emerging technologies and emphasis on client servicing, SunSystem has continuously explored new partnerships which enable them to raise the bar in the solar industry in various areas including soft cost reduction, increased response speed and higher quality service and customer satisfaction.
As an example, gathering project site details and the timely communication of these details to the office are crucial in ensuring process measurement, control and visibility into projects at every step of the way. A 2013 PMI study emphasizes how poor communication is the primary factor in the failure of projects one-third of the time. Data gathering and communication becomes a major stumbling block in solar projects. As the number and complexity of projects increase, the amount of details and communication grows exponentially.
The way most companies deal with the increased volume of work is to throw more bodies at the problem. But this not only drives up costs and wipes out profits, it sometimes exacerbates the situation since personnel are not adequately trained and coordinated. While SST has continued to add staff to power growth, the key to its success has been to put as much emphasis on ensuring their employees have the right tools and training to be efficient at what they do.
“Classroom training and on-the-job learning have served our crews well, but we wanted to take it one step further,” said Nick, the Director of Commercial Services at SunSystem Technology. “As we continue to grow and expand into additional states, we make sure that our crew members, new and old, have instant access to site specific data and technical support.”
After vetting multiple solar software technology solutions, SST chose to work with advanced mobile field technology provider Scoop® Solar. The mobile cloud-based business platform enables non-IT managers to configure and update work apps™ for any stage of a typical solar project, saving SST time and money in IT implementation.
When it comes down to minimizing labor soft costs, SST has configured the Scoop Solar software to provide clear and consistent instructions to field personnel while ensuring a steady stream of data and communication from the field to the office.
“Being able to communicate with our field crew members instantly in a much more comprehensive way is changing the way we provide on-site support and have the entire team’s expertise available even though we cannot physically all be on-site,” said Snow.
“With savings like these, we can better invest our resources into fulfilling commitments to our customers and quality of work.”
By enabling their employees to utilize mobile technology in everyday work processes, SunSystem is also branding itself as a great place to work that is attractive to multiple generations.
Now that field employees have access to a practical tool for gathering data, running checklists and communicating remotely, Snow is finding project execution, troubleshooting and field reporting are much faster and more accurate. The software also enables a highly efficient means for determining project status, which will lead to more timely and fact-based updates to the customers that SST services.
Snow reports that although they have only recently begun implementing Scoop Solar’s mobile business technology, they have already witnessed an increased in customer satisfaction and increased speed of team communications. As one specific example, generating a client facing commissioning report that used to take upwards of 6-8 hours are now accomplished with a one-click operation. He predicts that these numbers will continue to improve, now that field and office employees alike can capitalize on the latest mobile technology to effectively communicate remotely across projects.
“If we want to continue pushing the growth of solar as the leading source of renewable energy in the United States, we need to strive for innovation everyday,” said Snow. “Solar companies shouldn’t settle for the status quo on how certain processes should run, because the processes that got you here might not get you where you want to be.”
With a successful history of finding and implementing new game-changing technologies, SunSystem continues to deliver on its promise of maintaining and increasing quality in the face of rapid growth. “Ultimately to ensure the overall success of solar industry we need a lot more strong, efficient and vibrant solar companies. We hope that the work we are doing at SST can be an example of how continuous innovation is a critical component of this success,” said Snow.