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SunPower wanted to automate its profit and loss (P&L) reporting process in order to better assess each product’s true profitability; they partnered with TEKsystems® to build a scalable platform that could flex with the business’s changing priorities and demands.
Since its founding in 1985, SunPower has been a leader in global solar innovation. SunPower serves customers in the residential, commercial and utility solar energy markets; with more than 200 patents for solar technology, SunPower designs, manufactures and delivers the most efficient and reliable solar panels and systems available today.
When companies in any industry are experiencing a great transformation or cultural shift—whether from significant growth, innovation or changing consumer interests—they need internal systems that are able to keep up and respond proactively, quickly and effectively. Sourcing and analyzing internal business intelligence (BI) to understand, evaluate and position a business and set goals is imperative for success.
The solar energy market is one industry that is experiencing a period of significant change. In addition to a bevy of technical innovations, it is also seeing a decrease in government subsidies that offer financial support to install solar products at residences or businesses. As these subsidies go away, the government is also minimizing the amount of affordable loans it gives to solar companies. All of these changes will have a significant impact on operational costs. In response, industry leaders are changing their business model from retail to commercial (i.e., power plants, solar farms), diversifying their product line and finding niche markets. To support these transformational changes, it is critical that these organizations truly know their business—discerning their product profitability through the supply chain and focusing on the right products to put to market.
Solar energy leader SunPower wanted to evolve its operations to remain competitive in its changing industry. The company knew it had to change its business model and focus on diversifying its product line and building its commercial sales. To support this shift, SunPower needed to understand each product’s profitability. However, SunPower was not allocating its overhead at the product level; all overhead costs were spread equally among all the products, regardless of what it took to produce or sell the product. This prevented SunPower from truly understanding its profitability at the product level, knowing which products were more profitable and whether items were accurately priced.
With the major upheaval in the solar energy industry, this lack of BI put SunPower in a reactive mode. SunPower was using a manual spreadsheet process—which took almost an entire week to massage the data and produce the report—for its P&L insight. It was an isolated process, as it did not tie into its ERP system or other sources, so it lacked the ability to change key drivers, identify where products were located or analyze additional BI data other than overall profit.
SunPower wanted product-level profitability—accurately reflecting the portion of overhead costs that belonged to individual products—and to speed up its P&L report preparation process through automation. They also wanted insights into how to standardize key metrics and computations across their various plants and improve their performance. To achieve this, the client would need to implement a scalable, robust platform to determine and report individual product profitability. SunPower wanted to implement a solution quickly to take advantage of this valuable BI and move from being a reactive organization to having a more proactive decision‑making process.
We would build a Hyperion Planning-based solution for the client’s P&L reporting function. As a centralized, scalable and standardized application, Hyperion Planning would provide the functionality desired by SunPower while also allowing scalability for future growth and business complexity.
This project would be a strong candidate for Waterfall development due to its sequential/incremental development and approval needs; SunPower wanted a milestone-driven program with regular reviews and approvals, data validation and comparison of systems-produced numbers to results of its current processes. With Waterfall, we could implement strict toll gates to ensure risk-free development. We would also use our proprietary BI accelerators—the BI Flex Generator and BI Assurer—to accelerate data extraction and review of customizations and regression testing, respectively.
Data Mart Enhancement
We would build a new data mart to massage and transform data required for the Hyperion application. The data mart would also provide a means to build reports for SunPower’s BI needs through built interfaces from Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) to data mart to Hyperion. We would include new dimension hierarchies for product category, region category and system classification. A new function would be added to glean insight into projected engineering, procurement and construction costs. We would also be able to compare planned data to actual data.
Hyperion Planning Application Development
We would design, build and execute a Hyperion application to allocate, map and tie general ledger data to individual product sales orders. We would also create reports to allow what-if scenarios and changes to allocation drivers, further increasing the application’s flexibility for business growth and change. We would implement new dimension hierarchies; rewrite affected calculation scripts, rule files, member formula and tasks lists; integrate Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management Architect (EPMA) with the new data mart; add new calculations; and implement an automated planning workflow.
We would conduct a thorough quality assurance (QA) process, developing test plans and test cases, executing test cases, and tracking defects to ensure 100 percent data validation. We would focus on performance and process improvements to ensure a quality solution was delivered and met expectations.
We would also enable the Excel-based, add-in SmartView for SunPower’s users to connect to Hyperion Planning for use in planning, budgeting and ad hoc reporting.
Project Management and Post-Implementation Product Support
Throughout the engagement, we would develop and maintain a project management plan and communicate project status, manage risks and report issues to key project stakeholders. We would also continue to provide application support for three months following implementation.
SunPower chose to partner with TEKsystems based on the quality of our proposal and design solution. The client’s key business owners were impressed with our technical competence, flexibility and ability to provide a comprehensive solution. We delivered the solution via a mixed on-site/off-shore team. Our on-site team consisted of a project manager, Hyperion lead, data warehouse lead and a solution architect. Off shore at our Hyderabad Solution Center, our team consisted of six developers skilled in QA; extraction, transformation and loading (ETL); Hyperion; and SSIS.
The Hyperion Planning platform met all of SunPower’s key business and technical objectives. With this solution, SunPower is able to accurately reflect the portion of overheads that belong to individual products, based on a complex set of rules and formulas driven by product characteristics. The time spent collecting data and preparing product P&L reports was reduced from three or four business days to only three hours by automating the previously time-intensive manual process. We also standardized processes and incorporated a knowledge portal within the application to improve knowledge transfer across plants and employees. Now, SunPower’s sales team is better able to set accurate price points for its products since they know each product’s individual, true profitability. And moving forward, the centralized and scalable platform will better support business growth and changing business demands.
We met all of SunPower’s key timeline milestones, delivering on time and within budget. A data extraction change request was made a month before user acceptance testing (UAT) when a business owner reviewing numbers found an error. Because of the checks and balances we had implemented as part of the review and approval process, we were able to work with the client to find the stage of extraction where the error occurred, address the issue and still deliver the final product on time.
We also mitigated some organizational change risks associated with the implementation. For instance, users were accustomed to a manual Excel-based process for P&L reporting and multiple processes were in use by different employees. To mitigate these risks and ensure adoption, we offered lunch and learn sessions and informal coaching to show the ease of use and value of the Hyperion technology and demonstrate how it would make their jobs easier. Lunch and learn sessions coincided with key milestones. During these sessions we provided project status updates, showcased the comprehensive design of the solution, demonstrated how to use the system and encouraged use of standardized processes. Ultimately, through these informal training sessions and proof-of-concept sessions, SunPower’s employees understood how to use the application and were empowered to begin using it.
Pleased with our ability to deliver on our promises, SunPower engaged us on additional Hyperion projects for their manufacturing unit which had been facing similar challenges—they did not know the true cost of producing an item because each plant utilized different processes in computing costs. We helped SunPower build a cost management model at one plant and then pushed out the standardized process across all of its plants.