3 Reverse Logistics Challenges That Solar Manufacturers Must Consider

Like a rocket waiting on a launchpad, the solar industry is poised for liftoff. Industry experts anticipate that growing interest in renewable energy sources, environmental concerns, and the telecom industry’s rollout of 5G will increase demand for both residential and commercial solar energy installations. It’s a period of both opportunity and peril for solar manufacturers. Rapid growth is a dazzling prospect—more sales! more revenue!—but don’t forget that sales is merely the beginning of the customer service journey. Sales without a robust reverse service logistics plan equals unhappy customers and lost opportunities. You may think your solar company is ready for liftoff, but are you prepared to meet these three reverse logistics challenges?

Reverse Logistics Challenge #1: Meeting Customer Expectations

Consumers now expect free shipping, next-day delivery, or even same-day delivery. Those expectations are rolling over into the B2B marketplace too. If a unit fails, customers want a replacement installed within a few days (if not a few hours in mission-critical situations). Meeting your SLA obligations depends on having service units in inventory and repair technicians close to customers.

Solar manufacturers and installers are experiencing record growth and the growing pains that come with it. All those new customers have plenty of choices, and 91% of B2B purchasers report being influenced by word-of-mouth referrals from industry colleagues. Good service builds your brand and industry reputation.

Ideally, you plan for expansion and warranty service at the same time. Otherwise, your sales and marketing departments do the hard work of gaining new customers but lose their repeat business because service was subpar.

Reverse Logistics Challenge #2: Harnessing the Power of Big Data

Many solar manufacturers are eager to tap into a growing global market but aren’t sure if they have the resources and infrastructure needed to succeed. How do you know for sure?

Geospatial modeling is a planning and risk management tool that shines in the solar market. It can help you design and strengthen your service supply chain by using location-based data sets to build visual models of your operations. Use it to spot trends, analyze data, and identify potential trouble spots. It helps you find and fix bottlenecks before they affect your customers.

Here’s an example. There’s an international push to expand solar power in Africa, and your company is considering an expansion. Geospatial modeling can help you look and learn before you leap into an unfamiliar market. Use it to answer these questions:

  • How will the lack of transportation infrastructure in some areas affect the supply chain?
  • What types of significant weather events (for example, dust storms, monsoons, and droughts) could affect operations?
  • How many forward stocking locations will you need and where should they be located?
  • What are the income levels and economic growth potential in specific countries or regions?

The sky’s the limit for solar manufacturers to use geospatial modeling as a tool to plan for growth and manage risk. Hard data is always more valuable than personal biases and assumptions.

Reverse Logistics Challenge #3: 5G Growth and Scalability

The energy paradox of 5G is that low-latency 5G networks could reduce the energy consumption of individual devices such as smartphones while simultaneously requiring more energy to support 5G infrastructure, data centers, and digital devices.

Of course, solar manufacturers know that the sun is shining above every dark cloud. The upside to increased energy consumption is the telecom industry’s focus on renewable sources of energy to power the transition. Solar power is a critical part of long-term competitiveness for telecommunications companies.

Solar manufacturers must have the resources needed to scale backend support with frontend production. Any solar company that outgrows its service infrastructure is going to be dealing with a lot of unhappy customers. Remember the importance of word-of-mouth to your brand’s continued success.

A household user whose solar hot water heater is out of service for several weeks due to a replacement part shortage is certainly going to mention it, both in-person to peers and online. In that case, a solar installer might lose a customer worth $20,000. The stakes are a lot higher in B2B. Service failures could cost you millions in both new and repeat business.

Are You Ready? Flash Global Can Help

There are no small reverse logistics mistakes in today’s hyper-competitive global marketplace. One service stumble and your competitors are ready to pounce.

Before expanding, decide how you plan to handle reverse logistics. Calculate the cost of providing warranty services such as regional distribution centers, repair depots, technicians and transportation to far-flung locations. A reverse logistics partner can help you scale your warranty services and expand your company’s footprint.

Flash Global already has a global footprint with reverse logistics and supply chain experts on the ground in more than 130 countries. We have the experience and expertise to help you enter new markets.

The countdown has already started. Contact us to learn how we can help support your mission.


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