Mapping the supply chain and tracing the provenance of goods all the way to raw material is quickly becoming a global requirement for the PV industry. Having started as a regulatory compliance issue in the US linked to the crystalline PV cell supply chain, mapping and traceability is now a widely requested service by clients across markets, as well as for a wide range of products, such as batteries and inverters.
Mapping the supply chain entails identifying the suppliers involved in the manufacturing of a certain product. Usually that relationship can be established through commercial documents, such as purchase orders, invoices, payment records, bills of lading, etc. Tracing provenance goes a step further to demonstrate the chain of custody of specific goods (e.g. a shipment of modules) from the raw materials to the finished product. This can be achieved through linking the unique identifiers recorded in internal manufacturing systems across the different production steps. The level of assurance can vary from information self-declared by the manufacturer, to verified by an independent third party such as STS.
When faced with the requirement to provide supply chain information, we advise to consider carefully if (1) supply chain mapping is sufficient, or if product traceability information is also required; and if (2) self-declared information will meet the requirements or if higher level of assurance is needed.
Such considerations will need to be reflected during the supplier selection process as well. Being open to share information and being ready to implement corrective action plan and improve processes, is a solid foundation on which to build a long-term relationship with your supply chain partner.