The energy transition can only succeed with digital SMEs
Berlin: Solytic and Kwest are launching the “solarOS” initiative in the German solar market to strengthen installation companies and support them in their digitalization.
The solar industry is changing
With a lot of venture capital, powerhouses such as 1Komma5°, Zolar, and Enpal are being built up, which already account for a significant share of the total market. As “digital craftsmen businesses”, these companies scale their operations especially through their own softwaresolutions, which are developed by large IT teams for individual requirements. The result is a continuously increasing competitive pressure on traditional, “analogue” craftsmen businesses. They lack the money and personnel to compete directly with the digital competition on an equal footing.
If traditional craftsmen businesses sell their company to a powerhouse, the traditional processes are restructured and optimized immediately after the takeover by means of digitization and automation. Craftsmen businesses that join a powerhouse as a subcontractor usually integrate themselves into the processes of the powerhouse. As an integral part of these business models, the parent company of the powerhouse benefits from uniform processes and accelerated growth. The traditional companies are giving up their independence and autonomy in return.
Medium-sized companies are thus faced with the decision of whether to sell their company, classify themselves as subcontractors or remain independent and further develop their company with modern software solutions.
The future: An end-to-end digital SME sector
Solar installers, who decide not to sell in order to remain independent, flexible and loyal to their customers, are increasingly finding practical ways to survive in the competitive pressure of digitized competition.
“Their expertise and customer network, which have often grown over generations, are complemented by new, digital solutions that add value,” describes Johannes Burgard, Managing Director of Solytic. “In this way, traditional craftsmen businesses can gradually modernize and position themselves for the future. In addition, software solutions promote a better customer experience,” adds Robin Dechant, Managing Director of Kwest.
These solutions directly address rising personnel costs and allow solar installers to counter the increasing shortage of skilled workers from within. On the one hand, the targeted use of software enables a significant increase in efficiency (according to internal research by Solytic and Kwest, 30-60% is realistic) and, on the other hand, modern workflows make the profession of solar installer more attractive for young people, which counteracts the shortage of skilled workers.
In addition, digital solutions make it possible to make even better use of the most valuable resource of the SME sector. The direct customer relationship benefits like hardly any other success factor from tailor-made solutions, individual support, and efficient communication and service processes.
The solar market is very special and has specific requirements for all facets of the business. That’s why it’s understandable that the large powerhouses, financed by venture capital, build their own individual software solutions. However, the medium-sized craftsmen business does not have millions of euros in funding at its disposal to set up its own operating system for its own solar business. That’s why many companies today work without a “solar operating system”, but with traditional processes, methods and often also with pen and paper.
SolarOS – Your individual operating system for profitable growth
The good news is that there are already several software solutions that have been developed specifically for the solar market. In this way, every solar installer can use their own experience without investing millions and at the same time serve customers faster and cheaper, build growing portfolios and work more profitably.
Kwest and Solytic are the first to do so. Solar installers can install PV systems efficiently and quickly with Kwest’s installation and automation software. Subsequently, the growing portfolio of PV systems is monitored via Solytic’s manufacturer-independent monitoring portal.
“With Kwest, the solar installer optimizes its plant engineering workflows, improves communication with partners and reduces unnecessary travel, lost time and costs,” Dechant describes. After installation, solar installers use the Solytic Portal for remote monitoring of the PV systems. “In this way, solar installers stay in direct contact with end customers and continue to expand their business through customer support,” says Burgard. Thus, solar installers quickly become so-called “full-service-providers”: sales, construction, and operation of PV systems, as well as related technologies, such as storage systems, charging stations and heat pumps. The solar installer provides the end customer with portal access to their own systems, with the information relevant to them. If maintenance is due or an inverter fails, the solar installer can use the two solutions from Solytic and Kwest to plan the service in the best possible way (work preparation with Solytic), as well as to carry out the operation efficiently and to track results transparently (process management with Kwest).
The two companies plan to expand their cooperation in the future to improve the user experience for customers. Kwest and Solytic are also already talking to other software companies to successively expand the “SolarOS” as a cooperation project between digital companies and to accelerate the energy transition through digitization.
Solytic is a Berlin-based cleantech software company founded in 2017 with the vision of making it easier for everyone to use solar energy and thus contribute to a sustainable energy transition. Solytic’s core product is manufacturer- and hardware-independent monitoring software for decentralized PV systems. The technology-open cloud solution has also been sold as a white label to large clients for several years. In more than 60 countries, around 210,000 photovoltaic systems and over 8,000 batteries have already been connected to the Solytic Energy IoT platform. Several OEMs have decided to work with Solytic as a system provider. With increasing customer requirements, Solytic has already expanded its solution portfolio to include charging infrastructure and is additionally planning to include heat pumps in the near future.
Kwest is a software platform for automating installation and service processes for renewable energy systems. The Berlin-based company’s software helps to install renewable energy systems in a fraction of the time. Projects are managed efficiently and end customers are informed about the progress at all times. From the uniform database of project and customer data, recommendations for process automation can be derived and quickly established. Leading installation companies such as Installion already rely on Kwest.