SunPower has manufactured PV panels and solar technology for over 30 years, including the technology that powered the zero fuel airplane 'Solar Impulse 2' in 2016.
Solar panels are a long-term investment for the consumer, whether homeowners or corporations, and a 25-year Combined Power and Product Warranty is now attached to each panel sold.
The rising popularity and falling prices of renewable energy sources since 2005 means providers must introduce new products faster and more efficiently, across the globe.
SunPower must be able to provide power information to the consumer or installer quickly, and - in the event of a warranty claim - be able to trace issues throughout the supply chain back to the raw material, for the duration of the warranty. To calculate import duties, the Company must know exactly the country of origin of each cell in every solar panel that leaves its premises.
SunPower had already seen the benefits of using MES software to meet traceability and compliance requirements. Increasing environmental regulations, and the build of a new factory in Ensanada, Mexico, led SunPower to leverage new opportunities offered by the combination of plant automation and MES software.
SunPower redesigned its manufacturing system to combine smart equipment, improved processes, plant automation and MES software, with a goal to deliver ROI within 12-18 months.
The general objective was for the new Mexican factory to produce about 3000 high quality modules, i.e. 1 Megawatts per day, at full capacity. To achieve this, it quantified throughput, Capacity per line, Reduction in Direct Labour and Cost / Watt targets. Choosing the processes that would be automated was a crucial step, based on their cost and quality impact.
MES software now plays a central role in making plant operations smarter. It integrates with the PLCs, various devices throughout the lines and Oracle ERP, to offer scalability at minimum investment, and is easy to learn and master.
The manufacturing system has delivered on traceability and compliance requirements as well as on efficiencies.
SunPower is a specialist in solar innovation and sustainability, headquartered in Silicon Valley with employees around the globe. Besides the Ensanada plant in Mexico, SunPower leverages the benefits of Shopfloor-Online MES at four other assembly plants.
"Shopfloor-Online MES empowers the machines with intelligence so they know what they have to do."
Nikhil Padhi, Project Manager