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Sungrow, headquartered in Hefei, China, is one of the leading suppliers of solar inverters and battery energy storage systems in the world. The company’s manufacturing capacity got affected by the impact of COVID-19 in early Feb, 2020. This was the time when the Chinese New Year holiday was extended to contain the spread of the virus. Further, as a safety measure, people who returned from holiday travel were mandated to be in self-quarantine for 14 days before joining their workplaces.
Since the maximum number of Chinese people travel to their hometowns during this period, many Sungrow employees also travelled during this Annual holiday for the celebration. As many factory personnel returned from their hometown after the extended holiday, they also stayed in the self-quarantine as per the issued advisory. This initially had a short-term impact in the factory. The employees from other departments could work from home unlike the workshop which needed manpower at the shop floor.
As a tactical response to the newly developed challenging situation, Sungrow hired and trained hundreds of workers on a temporary basis to get the manufacturing jobs that didn’t require much technical know-how or expertise. Although Sungrow received approval to restart production in February, it ensured that the necessary safety measures were in place and protections were available for its workers. Employees were provided gloves and masks, and temperature measurement at the entrance were strictly followed to prevent them from getting infected.
Sungrow’s 50-gigawatt capacity factory is equipped with a high level of automation and state of the art technologies. This high level of automation and spacious workshop helped the workers to maintain social distancing within the factory while doing their job on the shop floor. Workers were also prohibited from gatherings during lunch time at the cafeteria and the food was delivered to respective workstations as an alternate method.
Sungrow put together a task force to facilitate quick decision-making once it realized the severity of the COVID-19 impact. The company also took the cue from its earlier experience of crisis-management, due to the tariffs imposed on imported Chinese products as a result of the U.S.-China trade war. Sungrow had understood the importance of quickly reaching out to its suppliers to ensure the availability and access to the raw materials and components needed for inverter production and thereby minimizing the impact. Sungrow Indian team has also applied the same proactive approach to communicate and update timely to their customers.
The COVID-19 has had minimal impact on Sungrow’s ability to deliver inverters, so far. Majority of the order bookings are still being completed on time, and those that are delayed are just a few weeks behind the original schedule. As per the data released by China Customs regarding Inverter export in Feb, 2020, Sungrow had the first place with export value exceeding $12 million (excluding the Indian factory segment). The company shipped a total 943 MW in February, with almost 50% coming from China and India factories each.
“For the first quarter, we were able to supply, in part, that is because the manufacturing was done prior to that period. We are in close touch with our customers regarding their order deliveries from China. Our India factory will also resume production with necessary precautions and safety measures in line with our HQ strategy once we get the go ahead from Govt.” said Mr. Sunil Badesra, Business Head of Sungrow India. Sungrow’s production at its Headquarter was back at full capacity by early of March, 2020. Also, the orders for Indian market for upcoming projects in 2020 and 2021 are healthy to indicate years of steady growth ahead.
Mr. Sunil also mentioned the caution about the recent development of COVID-19 across the globe and in India. “The severity of its impact is slowly starting to be seen in many parts of the world with lock downs, temporary shutdown of businesses in many countries as a preventive measure. Though we want to share the confidence, at the same time, we are living in a continuously evolving story with high levels of uncertainty. The real impact is yet to be seen and hence communication with our customers is the key.” said Mr. Sunil.