Solarvest Holdings Berhad is one of the market leaders in Malaysia’s nascent but growing solar photovoltaic energy industry. Since its founding in 2012, the company has established itself as a household name in the residential solar business and has since expanded its commercial/industrial and utility-scale segments. Once a four-man company, Solarvest has grown into an impressive mid-sized business — they currently manage a staff of about 180 people and in 2018, the company raked in RM112 million in revenue.
Solarvest operates in the solar industry’s Engineering, Procurement Construction & Commissioning (EPCC) segment, and has become well-known for its capabilities across a whole range of project sizes. The company’s agile and experienced team has been involved in building not just large scale infrastructure for commercial clients, but also smaller solar plants for residential homes. Solarvest provides end-to-end expertise in engineering and project managing clients’ projects, as well as round-the-clock customer support.
Digitising the first step
Though Solarvest may benefit from the rapid expansion and profit opportunities of the renewable energy industry, the company must still navigate the challenges of being a cost-based company working in the EPCC industry, where the price of their services is very sensitive to market changes.
“We have always kept a strict discipline in terms of costing while not compromising on our quality,” said Davis Chong, Solarvest’s CEO. “In order to stay competitive, we are always on the lookout for the most cost-efficient solutions for our customers.”
Furthermore, Solarvest also had to reckon with the challenge of managing a diverse range of offerings and operations. While most of its operations are high value in scope – such as engineering design, procurement, and project management – the company still works within many different market segments. This strategy emerged out of a need to be responsive to an industry that is largely policy-driven and thus, highly-susceptible to rapid change.
“With that kind of market, the business model that you hold has to be very dynamic and flexible,” said Chong. “Thus, we are constantly investing in our technical capabilities, which includes adopting technologies to our operations where possible to ensure we thrive in this ever-changing operating landscape and to future proof our business.”
In an effort to ensure the company was able to manage its cost base effectively while also remaining flexible enough to make dramatic changes quickly, Solarvest began working with Epicor’s ERP system in the first phase of a large-scale digitization project. The entire company’s information databases and operations were digitized and brought onto a single platform. Previously, Chong explained, much of which existed in disparate platforms and software which made it hard to streamline processes and communicate information.
The new ERP system was able to help Solarvest reduce operational bottlenecks and mitigate the effects of human error by bringing all the information one might need onto a single platform. “We can have the latest business information at our fingertips,” he said. “In the past you would have to wait a few days to one week to get that information.”
The implementation of the ERP system helped Solarvest boost their productivity and take on more projects than they were previously capable of. According to Chong, Solarvest may have only been able to commit to 30 projects in a year. With the support of the ERP, the company is able to take on as many as 100 projects a year or more.
A highly customisable journey
For Solarvest, the Epicor ERP stood out to Chong because of the highly customizable platform that fit its needs as an engineering services company. Compared to other ERP software providers in the market, “Epicor’s system provided the most suitable features and design, especially the in-built project management module,” according to Chong.
“The ERP system was mainly adopted for our project management function, where we required customized processes to ensure it is tailored to our internal standard operating procedures,” he explained.
The new ERP system also supported Solarvest’s existing IT infrastructure through third-party software integration. For example, Solarvest relies on Salesforce, which is integrated with the ERP system. The integration supports the smooth flow of information between departments, project teams and management. For Chong, the platform provides clear and actionable data about each project’s cost and budget, a key metric for evaluating and strategizing the company’s next steps.
“With the help of the system, we are able to plug and play the data needed for our internal analysis and forecasts, which ultimately allow us to have better visibility for our strategic implementations,” he said.
Strategizing for the future
As Solarvest continues to grow, the company has its sights fixed on expanding geographically as well as vertically across the value chain. Chong said that Solarvest is currently moving into the second phase of ‘operational excellence’, where the new ERP system will play a “significant role” as the company figures out how to automate more of its operations.
He has his sights fixed on figuring out how to implement more business automation and integrate other forms of software with the flexible ERP, such as modules for field operations which will sit on top of the existing framework. For Solarvest, making those linkages more efficient will help reduce its operational costs and gradually improve overall efficiency.