As solar companies try to increase capacity to meet demand, optimizing their day-to-day processes via workflow automation becomes a necessity... Here are 6 ways workflow automation is helping solar companies and their field teams shine bright.
#1 - Automate asset management
When adding to your solar farm assets, you’re going to need to improve and manage efficiency.
Soltage, an independent domestic solar power producer, automated their asset management process in order to cement energy infrastructure reliability. The company used cost-effective, cloud-based strategies to increase the number of assets under management by almost 60% and the number of megawatts under management by nearly 130%. Soltage carefully chose a workflow management solution to support their future growth and continue to prove ROI. Automation also enabled their field workers to optimize time spent on reliability checks and monitoring, by being able to remotely access any necessary information that could then be cross-referenced with their own checklists.
#2 - Streamline field-to-office communication
Project managers spend approx. 75-90% of their time communicating with their field teams and often with clients, so being able to clearly communicate information for approval or cross-checks is critical to a smooth overall workflow.
Solar Europe’s recently published report not only revealed that communications to remote sites is central to efficiency, but also pointed out that the quality of communications relies on whichever infrastructure the asset owner chooses. Workflow automation is a core part of an overall communications infrastructure -- connecting remote sites and field teams on and off-shore to the office -- and also fostering a collaborative environment.
#3 - Optimize operations & maintenance (O&M) processes
During the process of automating your team’s workflows, you’ll dissect all of the various processes they work through on a daily basis. You can isolate any inefficiencies and pinpoint where you’re pouring money down the drain in terms of O&M costs. When you know what the mission-critical tasks are, you can then implement workflow automation to take those redundant, manual tasks and complete them faster and more efficiently.
Field teams and office teams will know exactly what’s happening every step of the way. They can adjust workflows in real-time for project-critical decisions and communicate them to each other. Further, your daily workflows and processes will be documented and securely stored; which sets you up nicely to sail through any of those unexpected onsite inspections that we all know and love!
#4 - Secure data anytime, anywhere
Ordinary clouds may steal your sunshine, but there is one big cloud that’s sure to actually brighten your day -- the document storage cloud 😉
Cloud storage for documents brings multiple benefits for solar companies -- from a consolidated library of all documents that can be immediately accessed, to the peace-of-mind in knowing that when it comes to audits, inspections or urgent necessary document amendments, everything is just a tap away on a tablet or a click away on a computer.
Data center load is expected to grow seven percent a year up as far as 2020, in line with the steady global increase in demand for renewable energy and the gradual shift to a digital-first mindset. Workflow automation heavily utilizes digital document storage, replacing all those dusty shelves and heavy paper binders.
#5 - Keep health & safety on-track
When working in any sector of the energy industry, the risk of injury is high. Potential hazards for Solar energy field teams include arc flashes, electric shocks, falls, and thermal burns. Field teams especially need to be alerted to any previously encountered hazards, and kept up-to-date on any sudden weather or job task changes that could impact health and safety.
After a full health and safety checklist has been completed -- based on a thorough inspection of your Solar farm -- the information can be used to inform field teams of potential hazards, and any necessary precautions can then be taken to ensure their safety. Workflow automation ensures the fastest turnaround time for documenting, submitting and managing checklists and incident reports.
#6 - Ace your audits
Preparation is key when getting everything in-order for audit time, but audit prep shouldn’t mean having to spend late nights trawling through paperwork.
Compliance is a topic that always sparks conversation, and for good reason -- non-compliance penalties are creeping up in severity. For example, new regulations governing the commercial installation of solar panels on all solar farms in Queensland, Australia recently came into force. The regulation also applies to projects that are currently underway, bringing lots of extra, unexpected paperwork come audit time.
With workflow automation, changes can be made, communicated and acted-upon in real-time. So even with a regulation change like this, projects can continue to move forward with as little delay as possible. This allows the office to breathe easy at audit time, knowing that documents have already been gathered and securely stored in the cloud, where they’ll be easily accessible to auditors at a second's notice.