In the sphere of clean energy, innovators all over the world are preparing new machinery and equipment to market. From photovoltaics, the ecosphere of renewable energy innovation is growing daily. These companies are on the forefront of huge energy breakthroughs while battling the challenges presented by fluctuations in fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources. But now more than ever governments and private industries are flowing huge sums of cash to bring equipment to markets all over the world. Engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs from Boston to Bay Area, Brussels to Bangkok are in the race of a lifetime. The problem is, can they make the technology work, and when they do, can they scale? These are the billion dollar, maybe trillion dollar questions.
PV Magazine predicts within Arizona, California, Connecticut and 7 other states “the 2021 state legislative sessions are underway and multiple solar, renewable energy, and clean energy bills are being considered”
Another observation from renewables magazine explains how “The offshore wind energy industry is one of the fastest growing renewable energies in the US and globally. As an industry in its infancy in the US, it will require companies currently in industries from oil and gas, boating and transportation, and aerospace to civil engineering, composites, and steel manufacturing to diversify into offshore wind. This diversification will create a local supply chain that can meet the growing demand and project pipeline along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts.”
With investors, governments and entrepreneurs buzzing about how to solve these problems, the question remains, how do we go big?
For many investors the answer is clear: working with an equipment contract manufacturing company is the way to focus on technology and markets and leave the manufacturing capital expenses and experience out of the equation. For those folks, we’ve identified some considerations when the time comes to select a renewable energy equipment contract manufacturing company
New product introduction engineering and onboarding.
Ideas for clean and renewable tech typically come from startups, innovators and even the top secret basements of huge manufacturing OEMs. With a focus on the functionality and viability of a new pierce of machinery, many manufacturing areas are overlooked that are related to prototype, pilot and scale production phases. Great Contract manufacturing companies for renewable energy completely understand and are prepared with engineers and manufacturing personnel to deal with the handover from tech innovation to production preparation. Key aspects here are manufacturing readiness support, in other words, is the design consistent with manufacturing best practices like an indebted bill of materials, CAD models, and detailed prints. Is there a testing plan involved. Has DFMA (design for manufacturing and assembly) been applied to the design? Does the machine even work? These questions are all early phase considerations that the OEM team may not be able to overcome.
Understanding of engineering and physics
In any sector of the renewable energy industry, whether its photovoltaic, energy storage, wind or fuel cell technology, there are critical physics parameters that will apply. The physics will drive design, material choice, environment and ultimately efficiency. This is a very important distinction in contract manufacturing that OEMs have to be aware. Contract manufacturing backed with engineering experience is an enormous advantage to the clean energy innovation industry. Your scientists and engineers will be able to successfully communicate and collaborate with a team of engineers rather than build-to-print contract assemblers. Getting the right people in the room on both sides of the table and translating the technology to actionable manufacturing is not as easy as it may seem.
Investor and grant relations
Talk about a hot topic. In the green energy world, there’s a heated competition for investment, grant and other funding. In almost every case, the those with the big wallet are going to ask you to provide evidence that you have a manufacturing plan. Whether their goal is to solve a long term energy problem or provide ROI, no investor is going to spend a dime on a clean tech company without a long term manufacturing plan. We suggest you partner with credible contract manufacturers that can provide a long term road map. Even better, they should be willing to bring investors into the facility to do their own due diligence. Being prepared with this information ahead of the “ask” is a most crucial point. Don’t get blind sided by this statement “We’d love to invest, but we don’t think you have a plan to pull it off”
Scale up capabilities
Building off the last point the real question is how do we scale up. When you solve your energy problem, scaling is the answer. Power grids, fuel cells, solar plants and other technologies have a massive potential for scale ability. Which is practically the goal of every innovator once the machinery or equipment is proven. If you’ve successfully addressed all the points above, scaling shouldn’t be Too hard and it will be the next natural step. But the physical constraints are still there in manufacturing. Have you considered whether your contract manufacturer throughput can be? Have they provided evidence that they can keep up with your projections? Is there a roadmap for scale? You absolutely do not want to have to find a new machine manufacturer after 2 years of solid success and suddenly a huge orders comes about and it’s out of the Manufacturer’s safe volumes for production. Right size your demands to the company earlier rather than later to avoid this difficult pitfall
Clean energy experience
Machinery and equipment manufacturing is not all created equal, but luckily the foundations are about 65% common. But if you’re in this realm the last 35% matters. A manufacturer that specializes in food processing equipment will have a big hill to climb to learn the tenets of alternative energy equipment manufacturing. Pushing eclairs around an assembly line is a lot different the pushing electrons through a solar cell. Get evidence of success in solar, wind, fuel cell or other clean technology segments so you can be sure they understand the problems you are facing in front of you and able to provide solutions.
Despite everything you may have heard, finding the right Contract Manufacturing company is not easy. At the least it will take weeks of due dilligences, site visits and deep vetting. Check out our Guide to Contract Manufacturing for Outsourcing Machinery and Equipment to help pave the way for you and your team.