NetSuite Inc. (NYSE: N), the industry’s leading provider of cloud-based financials / ERP and omnichannel software suites, today announced a number of new solar industry customer wins as businesses have adopted NetSuite’s cloud business management solution to power growth in the rapidly expanding solar market. New customers announced today, including Qbotix, SimpleRay, Sustainable Power Group (sPower) and Technica, are relying on NetSuite to run their mission-critical business processes from procurement and inventory management, to order-to-cash, to sales and support. With NetSuite, these new customers are enjoying many benefits including reduced IT costs and administrative overhead to channel resources into a laser focus on innovation, superior customer service and end-to-end business efficiency. These and other innovative solar industry companies, such as Suntech America and Sunetric, have achieved new degrees of agility in the highly competitive and fast-paced solar industry.
Solar Industry Market has Huge Growth Opportunity but is Facing both Business and Technology Challenges
After generating a record 4.2 gigawatts of new solar installations in 2013 in the U.S., market researchers expect an additional 5.2 to 6.3 gigawatts of capacity to be added in 2014, building on the U.S. position as the world’s leading solar market outside of Asia-Pacific.1
Solar industry distributors, manufacturers and power producers face volatile market conditions and huge cost pressures. Frequently, these companies have in place fragmented on-premise ERP and other software and systems that obscure visibility into key financial and operational metrics and require high degrees of manual administrative and IT labor. This diminishes agility to respond to emerging challenges and opportunities and introduces needless costs in lost productivity and IT systems maintenance. These legacy systems leave distributors and manufacturers struggling to maintain optimal inventory levels in the face of constant price fluctuations; for instance, solar panel prices have fallen between 60 and 70 percent in recent years to a record global low of 63 cents per watt as of Q2 2014.2 Companies with overstock are often forced to sell at a loss as solar panel pricing continues to drop. These pricing pressures add to the need for full visibility across the solar supply chain and balance sheet, as well as forward-looking demand and financial forecasting to anticipate market changes. At the same time, many solar industry distributors and manufacturers have not fully capitalized on their ecommerce potential because of standalone websites that don’t integrate with inventory and financial systems; while manufacturers face obstacles in managing and optimizing component procurement and production to meet fluctuating customer demand.
Meanwhile, few power producers have in place software that supports project accounting with time and expense management so that costs can be accurately attributed to a specific project to monitor and optimize profitability for field work involving large consulting teams. The financial reporting at the end of a month or a quarter—typical with legacy software—leaves these firms challenged to manage costs, revenue and cash flow. In addition, standalone systems and data silos make it difficult for a power producer to take full advantage of the array of U.S. federal and state, as well as international subsidies and other incentives designed to encourage the use of solar and other renewable energy sources.
NetSuite, a Unified Business Management Software Suite Helps Solar Industry Tackle Challenges
NetSuite’s integrated cloud solution for ERP, CRM, ecommerce and professional services automation (PSA) is increasingly the solution of choice for fast-growing solar industry distributors, manufacturers and power producers. These innovative companies report that they are driving new revenue, expanding into new markets and product lines, and gaining a competitive edge over rivals with NetSuite’s single, unified business software suite. These companies have gained real-time data on inventory, sales, customers, suppliers, financials and more to make faster, data-driven business decisions.
SuiteCommerce Provides Cloud Omnichannel Commerce Platform for Solar Industry Manufacturers and Distributors to Expand Sales Channels and Deliver Seamless Customer Experience
With NetSuite SuiteCommerce, distributors and manufacturers can build out their B2B channel sales while NetSuite OpenAir PSA gives project-based companies a complete cloud solution for project accounting and management, time and expense reporting, and resource optimization. As a result, NetSuite’s solar industry customers have dramatically improved their financial and operational efficiency and visibility into key metrics. By moving to cloud-based business software, these companies have also eliminated the high time and cost penalty of IT infrastructure and personnel while gaining the agility to scale the business, execute mergers and acquisitions, efficiently manage subsidiaries and introduce new products far faster and more cost-effectively than is possible with antiquated in-house systems.
“Entrepreneurs and visionaries in the solar industry need solutions that support their limitless potential, not antiquated business software that can choke growth with manual data chores, IT inflexibility and the diversion of essential resources,” said Ranga Bodla, Wholesale Distribution Industry Lead at NetSuite. “The success that our solar industry customers have achieved attests to how innovators can truly transform their businesses with cloud ERP.”
Solar industry customers such as Suntech America and Sunetric take advantage of key NetSuite functionality to drive efficiency and growth with ability to:
- Manage the business with a real-time, 360-degree view across all functions, including financials / ERP, CRM, ecommerce and service engagements.
- Improve supply chain operations with integrated, real-time inventory and order management, and build demand forecasts to reduce excess stock and the risk of stock-outs.
- Streamline the lead-to-order-to-cash lifecycle with integrated marketing, CRM, warehousing and order fulfillment capabilities.
- Improve production control and efficiency with integrated workflow-driven processes in NetSuite Work Orders and Assemblies.
- Expand the B2B online sales channel to reach new customers with the award-winning NetSuite SuiteCommerce ecommerce platform.
- Efficiently manage subsidiaries and international business with multi-entity financial consolidation and multi-currency conversions in NetSuite OneWorld.
- Adapt software to unique business needs with rich customizability in the SuiteCloud Development Platform.
QBotix, Technica, SimpleRay and sPower have realized bottom-line business benefits since implementing NetSuite to support core operations:
Manufacturers Build Speed and Precision
QBotix (www.qbotix.com), manufacturer of the rugged Robotic Tracking System (RTS) that uses robots on a monorail track to optimize the positioning of solar panels and deliver projected cost savings of up to 20 percent, selected NetSuite as a fast-growth platform shortly after the company’s launch. Going live in January 2013 after a rapid one-month implementation and replacing an initial QuickBooks system, NetSuite supplies a scalable foundation for growth to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup. QBotix was named to the 2014 Fast Company list of the 10 Most Innovative Companies in Robotics and recently attracting $12 million in funding from global energy giants E.ON and Iberdrola. With NetSuite CRM and supply contracts in place to equip installations generating over 80 megawatts of power, QBotix has a seamless lead-to-order-to-cash system as it scales its base of commercial- and utility-scale solar power generation customers across the U.S., Japan, Europe, Australia and Latin America. NetSuite’s real-time inventory, work order and bills of material (BOM) capabilities help streamline production of the steel trackers by manufacturers globally and manufacturing of the robots in Silicon Valley. The QBotix RTS delivers increased energy yields of up to 45 percent, project cost savings of up to 20 percent, and increased installation flexibility.
“Our objective at a very early stage was to establish a scalable platform that could grow with us, rather than piecing together technologies that we’d have to revisit as we grew,” said Mike Enock, QBotix VP of Operations. “NetSuite has met our requirements with a scalable solution that delivers integrated lead-to-cash CRM capabilities with financials, inventory management and assemblies.”
Technica (www.technica.com), an importer and fabricator of components for printed circuit boards in the solar and electronics industries based in San Jose, Calif., has increased its efficiency and sales visibility since implementing NetSuite in 2012 to replace an aging Sage MAS 90 that needed frequent troubleshooting by a third-party consultant. The company has also dramatically improved on the poor data accuracy and visibility that managers and sales personnel coped with in Sage while eliminating the need for in-house IT infrastructure. Technica has seen a 30 percent efficiency gain by using NetSuite work order automation and lot number flexibility in fabricating and accounting for multiple components from a single sheet of material, replacing time-consuming inventory adjustments. Sales reps can see real-time inventory on demand, have better opportunity management to drive sales and benefit with a single, unified customer view through NetSuite CRM. NetSuite OneWorld supplies subsidiary management and financial consolidation across Technica and a sister company, National Graphics Supply, owned by a common holding company. Technica also takes advantage of OneWorld’s multi-currency capabilities to purchase from suppliers in Euros and British pounds.
“With Sage MAS 90, we were calling in our consultant about once a week,” said Gregg Johnson, VP of Finance and GM at Technica. “NetSuite has an environment that with the right developer, you can pretty much do anything, and it’s all in the cloud. NetSuite allows us to open up information to be seen and used by all employees for the good of our company and our relationships with customers.”
Distributors Streamline Inventory and Order Management
SimpleRay (www.simpleray.com), a one-stop solar distributor selling a wide range of solar panels, chargers, inverters and other equipment based in St. Paul, Minn., implemented NetSuite as a scalable platform for rapid growth, with revenue expected to double in 2014. NetSuite replaces a half-dozen disparate systems, including QuickBooks and a Volusion-based website, with an integrated solution covering financials, inventory and order management, CRM and ecommerce with the SuiteCommerce solution. Selected over Epicor and a Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) system that was four times as expensive, NetSuite has been instrumental in enabling SimpleRay to pivot its channel focus from a mix of B2C and B2B to strictly the wholesale market, selling to installers, roofers, electricians and other B2B buyers. With NetSuite, the time to quote orders has been reduced from hours to 10 minutes, while an employee previously dedicated full-time to data entry tasks has been repurposed in a sales capacity. SimpleRay leverages multi-location inventory management in NetSuite for two warehouses in Minnesota and Northern California, as well as a drop-ship model with some manufacturers. Named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies, SimpleRay has new scalability as its order volumes grow beyond 200 a month and its SKU count beyond 3,500.
“Our business is a lot more straightforward and transparent with NetSuite,” said Geoff Stenrick, SimpleRay President. “We’ve automated a lot of processes, we can quote orders a lot faster and track invoices in real time. NetSuite has enabled us to organize the business and scale up a lot faster.”
Power Producers Gain Financial Visibility and Forecasting
Sustainable Power Group (www.spower.com), a leading independent power producer (IPP) that owns and/or operates more than 130 utility and distributed electrical generation systems across the U.S., switched from QuickBooks to NetSuite shortly after its creation in 2012 amid rapid growth. Going live in mid-2013, NetSuite supplies a standardized environment that helped smooth sPower mergers with other solar companies, Tioga Energy and Silverado Power, both of which also ran QuickBooks. Headquartered in Salt Lake City with an office in San Francisco, sPower utilizes NetSuite to manage the sale of electricity to utility customers, including Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, and distributed generation customers, including municipalities and school districts, usually with sPower on-site solar installations. While on NetSuite, sPower has grown its generating capacity more than 6-fold, to 43 megawatts, while launching dozens of new projects. sPower employs a single finance professional using NetSuite, compared to the three or four employees that would be needed with QuickBooks, and can forecast financials and analyze budget vs. actuals across multi-year, multi-million dollar investments with NetSuite Financial Planning, the budgeting solution powered by NetSuite partner Adaptive Insights.
“We wanted to be in the cloud and have scalability and depth of functionality in NetSuite that QuickBooks doesn’t offer,” said Brent Peterson, sPower Director of Finance. “NetSuite gives us the ability to grow—we’ve been able to take on new projects without hiccups and track and allocate expenses as we need to and get live reports quickly and accurately.”