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Auditing suppliers: PV European firms foster their quality through their providers

polycrystalline modulepicture

ISOFOTON new polycrystalline module

Photovoltaic industry is increasingly raising its quality standards and demanding a higher product`s quality level. In order to improve quality processes and products, leading European manufacturers have started auditing their suppliers during the last years. In order to produce a top of the end quality module, they want to control the quality of raw materials used by their suppliers, and the manufacturing process and product design.

To audit their suppliers, European manufacturers check the module encapsulant, backsheet, cells, junction box and connectors, among others. These indicators will confirm the module`s performance, efficiency or degradation level.

A partnership to reach excellence

Auditing is a key tool in addition to international quality certifications and manufacturer/supplier agreements to ensure minimum product quality standards. It is a step further to ensure, “first-hand”, the quality of raw materials used in the manufacturing process and the methodology and controls within it. Through this process, all criteria involved in manufacturing process can be verified and controlled.

Moreover, the auditing process creates a “true” partnership between the European manufacturing firm and its supplier: all players in the value chain work together to develop the best-in-class product to the final client. Both manufacturer and supplier assess de process and can raise product and process suggestions and improvements in both directions. They share their expertise and work together on a more reliable and efficient final product.

This win-win relationship also contributes to the improvement of the client needs understanding: through this auditing process, the manufacturer assesses if it’s appropriate to develop a new product to satisfy new needs.

In Europe, German firms, followed closely by Spanish, are the leading companies to implement auditing process with their suppliers, mainly because of their industrial tradition and expertise on PV industry. For instance, ISOFOTON develops regular audit to its suppliers, an activity that the company launched more than 3 years ago.