How The meeco Group manages logistic challenges of solar projects

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Missions of the Head of procurement & logistics

Since 2007, Ms. Victoria Lazaro has been working for The meeco Group, being an employee of the meeco subsidiary, meeco Services S.L. based in Alicante, Spain. Thanks to her competences, expertise and experiences in Project Management and in Renewables Energies, she represents an essential element of The meeco team. During these past years, she has been experiencing a great variety of responsibilities such as project manager and developer for various PV installations like roof, ground-mounted and photovoltaic greenhouses. Her strong linguistic skills in English, German and Spanish have allowed her to overcome many challenges that occur in such international position. This position of Head of procurement and logistics for The meeco Group has provided her with an in-depth knowledge of the PV market.

CountryPage1 Discover our local office meeco Services S.L., Alicante, Spain…

What is your current position at The meeco group and what are your missions and responsibilities?

As Head of procurement and logistics my core responsibilities and functions are:

•  Management of the international procurement of a broad range of PV products and services, carrying out the international negotiation depending on structural and conjectural characteristics of the countries where The meeco Group operates

•  Management of importation and exportation, distribution and logistics operation

•  Ensuring the reliability of the international operations in the economic, contractual and legal aspects in coordination with the legal and financial department

•  Managing of the administrative and documental procedures associated to the importation and exportation of goods: commercial, financial and transportation documents

•  Ensure a safe process that does not imply any risk for the company by negotiating prices and payment terms that are most convenient for the company

•  Evaluation and selection of sale persons and forwarders by analysing and negotiating prices, payment conditions, warranties, deliveries and after-sales services

•  Evaluation of purchase needs, costs and price policies, in coordination with the technical, sales and financial department.

The meeco Group is present worldwide. How do you manage to overcome the various barriers in term of international logistics?

Not only international barriers must be overcome, but also adversity in a male-dominated industry. As a woman, we have to work extremely hard to earn respect and recognition in order to break down many barriers with which women contend in today’s logistics business environment, the strength of character and convictions are put to the ultimate test. To be successful in all fields, it is essential to know the country in depth: its regulation, habits, religion, economy, legal procedures and finance, acceptance of foreign companies, geography, products, energy, demography, prices, distribution, etc. Knowing all this aspects will help to make the right decisions.

Logistics is one of most difficult phase of the internationalization of a company: choosing the right supply partner expert with regional knowledge is the key factor to the understanding of local rules and regulations and streamline the flow of regional cross-border shipments. Trade restrictions barriers such as rules that restrict the volume of imports or increase duties once a specified volume has been reached, import license, duties to be applied, etc. have a significant impact on global shipments in both aspects, time and economic. We have to be well aware of the aforementioned logistics barriers, consider alternatives solutions and have the insight to apply them in non-traditional environment.

While logistics principles – Distance, Documents, Diversity in culture and Demands of customers – are the same domestically and globally, operating environments are more complex and costly. Depending on countries or different regions within a country you are dealing with, documentation can be more or less a long process, customers can demand variation in products and services to satisfy the cultural differences. Developing strategies and tactics to respond to the four “D” is a challenge for any logistic manager.

Do you remember of a project you particularly enjoyed working on? And why?

I do enjoy working on absolutely every project because each of them constitutes a challenge, a step forward and an opportunity to learn more. I particularly enjoyed the sun2roof installation carried out for fashion flagship store, Bershka, located in the commercial and historic heart of Valencia, Spain. The whole building was remodelled in respect of green energy standards, using a high content of recycled materials as an exercise in optimizing energy use.

The meeco Group, through its Spanish subsidiary, meeco Services S.L., was chosen to supply the turnkey photovoltaic skylight of 31 kWp. Both structure and translucent photovoltaic modules were specially selected and tailor-made for this project. The meeco Group developed, procured, delivered and managed the project from its very beginning up to the implementation of the installation. It has been a challenge and a great satisfaction to have achieved this emblematic and successful project for Bershka, one of the brands of fashion giant Inditex.

ThemeecoGroup_1blog New Bershka store in Valencia to be equipped with solar energy

 
How do you monitor shipment and ensure a good delivery?

Shipping times for standard shipping are only estimated and are not guaranteed. Deliveries may take longer, especially before and during holidays. Global supply chain visibility starts with the ability to answer the very basic questions: Where is the shipping? Will it arrive and when? Is the current expected date different from the planned date?

An online container tracking system provides ongoing monitoring of containers through all stations and checkpoints on its journey to the customer. When entering the booking reference and/or Bill of Lading number, full information about the containers location will be displayed to the customer such as containers reference, gate out empty, gate in, load, transhipments, arrival to port of destiny, discharge and gate out. It is important to plan properly and keep varying lead times in mind. Successful procurement and logistics begins with supply service providers involvement and collaboration in the organisation’s early project planning and scheduling phases.

The questions that need to be considered include the following:

•  For which countries are we purchasing the products?

•  To which destination are we moving the equipment?

•  What are the risks for each country involved and across the entire process?

There are many extended parties involved in a successful supply chain: the commercial and sales team, finance departments, technical department etc. All parties collaborate closely to ensure that the supply chain timing remains coordinated with project timing, as there is no sense in having equipment delivered at end-user destinations without the required team of engineers present to receive the goods and integrate the products.

Could you tell us about a project you had to work on that was particularly difficult to realise and the reasons why?

Procurements and logistics processes are not as simple these days as getting goods from point A to point B, even less on an international scale. Supplying the equipment needed by sourcing it from a place A and delivering it to a place B, involves:

Ensuring:

•  that there are no penalties or delays

•  that customs clearance is handled in the most efficient way, which are cost-effective and lawful ways

•  that the overall order is effectively managed from the moment it is placed to when it is delivered

These steps can be both, difficult and challenging when dealing with new countries, like Zimbabwe where we have already started with the shipment of PV equipment.

CountryPage1 Discover The meeco Group subsidiary in Zimbabwe…

Do you currently have a project going on?

As above-mentioned we have already started with the delivery of PV components to Zimbabwe, where we will be soon installing several PV projects in the size of 2 – 5 MWp each. I’m in charge of the procurement and logistics. We have already shipped 101 containers of 40 feet of PV modules: a total of 78,820 Würth thin-film modules of different power amounting to a total of 5.072 MWp.

48 of the containers have already been cleared and are now stored, 47 containers are cleared and on their way to the warehouses where they will be stored. The pending 6 containers have just arrived to Beira and will be cleared and released shortly. Four further containers with PV mounting structure are also on their way to Zimbabwe. Electric components such as inverters, accessories and cabling, will shortly be sent too.

What personal and technical skills are essential to fulfil your mission?

Logistics manager is a highly visible and vulnerable position: changes in logistics programs affect multiple teams as well as the final customer. Strength of character is essential in daily activities. I would say that relationship management to successfully build and develop relationships with suppliers as well as negotiation skills are absolutely core to procurement success. Mutuality is also important to be able to cooperate with colleagues and suppliers. Professionalism, of course, and acting as expert adviser on purchase and logistics decisions are other keys to fulfil the missions. Adaptability, flexibility, problem-solving skills are necessary. To be able to effectively work in high pressure and rapidly changing environments, being pro-active and perseverant, integrity and honesty, as well as having the ability to establish and maintain good working relationship with people of different national and cultural backgrounds are part of the position.

It is important to have a good knowledge of national and international import/export legislation, to be able to handle technical details relating to possible international transportation, such as customs regulations and any necessary documentation and to know how efficiently evaluate costs of transportation, services and inventory.

Today the renewable energy sector starts booming in emerging markets after it cooled down drastically in the European market during the last few years. Did you expect this situation when you start working in this domain? According to you, is sustainable development the answer to all issues concerning global warming?

When I started working in this domain the renewable energies sector was booming in Europe: Spain was one of the pioneer’s countries together with Germany. Unfortunately the international crisis has devastated the European economies, especially in Spain. Many European governments are convinced that they have gone too far with the renewable drive and that it would be wiser to slow down.

In 2013 renewables faced declining political support and the uncertainty in many European countries that was due in part to uncertainty over incentive politics in Europe and to retroactive reductions in support in some countries. In many parts of the world, the lack of access to modern energy services continues to impede sustainable development; however during the past two years, people in remote and rural areas of the world continued to gain access to electricity, heating and cooling as the installation and use of renewable energy technologies increased. Rural energy markets are increasingly being recognised as potential business opportunities: local and international development entities, governments and others are actively engaged in the installation and distribution of renewable energies all around the world.

With current technology, renewably energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal heating, would make possible to lower our dependence on fossil fuels, that currently dominate our electricity systems threatening the health of our communities by polluting the air and contributing to global warming. In order to ensure healthy air and a stable climate for our children we must make responsible decisions about energy sources.

As you are working in the sector of renewable energy and sustainable development, have you changed your daily habits about energy consumption or recycling since then?

Yes I have! I’m more aware of the necessity to change our habits regarding the consumption of natural resources like water. It is also important to find new and innovative ways to save and recycle these elementary resources as well as generated power, because it will be the only solution to protect the environment from further pollution.

Eventually, all the products we consume become wastes and are left in huge places to rot. These landfill sites, that are sometimes open-air, look awful, stink and take space that could be used for better things. They create toxic soil and water pollution and can kill fishes in our rivers and seas. Actions such as recycling have to be taken. Recycling enables the reduction of landfill sites, the saving of materials, facilitates the pollution cut down and helps to make the environment more attractive.

 

Courtesy meeco Group

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