Solar PV installation projects are very diverse in terms of their scale. Utility solar farms can go up to GW level capacities, while residential rooftop installations are typically less than 10-15 kW.
Large scale utility solar projects are often managed with a complex ERP solution. But the same solar ERP software may not be suitable for simpler, fast tracked residential solar projects.
Instead, simple Google Drive apps can be integrated and customized as ERP software for smaller and simpler rooftop solar projects. Let’s see how to do that.
Let us first examine what smaller solar installers expect from a basic ERP software to manage their rooftop solar business.
By definition ERP is a resource management solution. In the context of a rooftop solar business, you want to manage the resources flowing through different business processes – ideally by connecting those processes together.
The main processes in any solar business are – sales >> project execution >> maintenance. Project execution is the most resource intensive and complex process.
A solar ERP software should be well capable of connecting these processes together with customized workflows.
Requirement: automating and interconnecting multiple business processes with customized workflows
Any solar business is operated by a team of salespeople, design engineers, project managers, installation engineers, store managers, purchase managers etc.
Everyone’s work is inter-dependent on each other. An ERP solution must enable them them to easily communicate and collaborate with each other.
These team members are usually working from different locations. The site engineers and project managers spend most of their time on site. They need mobile friendly solutions to connect with the rest of the team, even from site.
Requirement: cloud based collaboration and communication tools, mobile friendly apps
Main resources in a solar installation business are – material, labor and cash flow. A solar ERP software should be able to track these resources in real time. Then only it can enable efficient management of these resources.
Requirement: create multiple customized workflows to track the movement of important resources, connect directly to the tools used for tracking these resources – timesheets, inventory system etc.
Real time tracking of resources can happen only when there are regular updates of material, labor and cash movement going into the ERP system.
But many team members are reluctant to submit regular updates. They see it as burdensome data entry work.
They are further discouraged when they see that the data entry form is a complex ERP page, that needs to be filled out multiple times. They would much rather prefer to update the data in a spreadsheet.
Requirement: spreadsheet based lightweight UI wherever possible, simple, mobile based forms for people on site
Most of the solar installation work happens on the site. That is where the project execution teams spend most of their time. Additionally, the sales team is always in the field, meeting with customers and doing site surveys.
In such cases, our solar ERP software should be easily accessed from outside of the office, on mobile devices.
Requirement: mobile friendly UI, should work in low connectivity areas, offline working option
Now we know what are really the crucial requirements or expectations from a solar ERP software. Let us now examine, how Google Drive will fit into all these expectations.
Google Drive comes equipped with powerful spreadsheets and forms. Both these apps can be used as highly user friendly interfaces for getting regular updates from the solar EPC team.
All Google Drive apps are mobile friendly. They are either available as native mobile apps – for Google Drive, Sheets, Docs etc. or in the form of highly responsive web pages, as in case of Google forms.
Either way, you can rely on conveniently using Google Drive apps even on your mobile devices.
Furthermore, Google’s excellent content delivery network (CDN) also ensures that Google Drive apps work well even with low network bandwidth. Google even allows offline working option for Drive, Sheets, Docs etc.
Google Drive is one of the best online collaboration platforms in the world. Together with Gmail, Google Drive apps enable smooth communication and collaboration for solar EPC teams.
Google Drive apps also come equipped other features required for collaboration such as – commenting, sharing, access control, version management etc.
Each Google Drive app is an excellent work management tool in itself. But these standalone tools cannot be used as ERP solutions.
But the good news is that all Google Drive apps come with a robust set of APIs. We can use these APIs to bind the powerful Google Drive tools together with customized workflows.
These workflows will enable –
All these features together can turn your Google Drive into a strong solution to be used as a solar ERP software.
The only question remains – how to connect the Google Drive apps with customized workflows.
You can either use a platform like zapier to connect all the Google Drive apps. Or you can use Fuzen’s pre-built integrated tools within Google Drive.
Binding together all Google Drive tools with APIs from scratch will take a lot of efforts. Instead, Fuzen provides an easy framework built on top of Google APIs to connect all the Google Drive tools with customized workflows.
Here are Fuzen solutions useful for solar installers –
These solutions use Google Sheets, Forms, Folders and Gmail as building blocks. They are connected with default ERP workflows which can be further customized to match with the established work practices for your solar installation business.
These apps can be easily combined together to create a single seamlessly connected solar ERP software – with workflows customized for your team. If you’re wondering how effective it will be, click here to start a free trial.
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