From Design To Implementation: How a Solar Mounting Supplier Is Going Rail-less
Solar racking systems have evolved from bulky systems to simple designs, with fewer and fewer parts. More designs are rail-less, too, a concept that has redefined how the industry views racking. Without cumbersome, lengthy rails, installation times can be accelerated and transportation logistics can be improved.
But, as with any new technology, a steep learning curve can deter people from giving it a try. Knowing this, Mounting Systems has worked to ensure that an installer’s transition from railed to rail-less systems is as seamless as possible.
“The goal was to create a product that could offer residential contractors a smooth transition from rail-based systems to rail-free systems in the residential solar market,” said Hannah Mirza, product manager at Mounting Systems. “Rail-less system should be intuitive in its design to ensure first-time installers are not faced with any set-backs, which is why we feature our new design with our clickstone technology and reverse-thread locking system.”
So how does a solar company create an entirely new racking system?
Creating a rail-less design is no easy feat for any product development team. Timing is the most critical part of the development process, especially in the rapidly evolving solar market. To monitor their progress, Mounting Systems employed a stage-gate method to keep the team on track and informed of the status of the project, not progressing to the next stage until management signed off on the current status.
Nonetheless, when taking into consideration a global supply chain and timing required for product certification and testing, there is limited time available for the designing and innovating stage. Being open-minded during the concept phase, when a lot of creativity comes into play, is important for product development.
“The biggest challenge was trying to be innovative without making the system too complex,” Mirza said. “The more time we spent diving deep into the ideas behind the concept and ways to improve them, the easier it was to eliminate the complexities and turn it into a simple system.”
To ensure that Mounting Systems’ rail-less design did, in fact, progress into a “simple system,” their development team worked closely with a few of their key customers to ensure the market’s needs were met. This resulted in a system that incorporated a one-tool installation, allowed for adjustability in vertical and North-South directions, and comprised three components or less.
Krishna Doddikadi, vice president of engineering at Mounting Systems, thinks this product will be the next big thing for solar installers.
“We had made many optimizations in our systems over the years, but the market is eager for the next big thing,” states Krishna Doddikadi, vice president of engineering at Mounting Systems. “We are always trying to improve our product for easier installation at a lower cost.”
Requiring fewer system components equates to less time on a roof and higher installation rates overall. Doddikadi said more homes can add solar within a single day, which could have a ripple effect over the entire solar industry as more companies and installers switch to a faster, simple, rail-less design.
“The future of solar is shifting to the next generation of racking, accommodating the demand for lower soft costs while integrating design innovation,” Doddikadi said. “Expediting the installation process while reducing shipping costs serve as added benefit for homeowners making the switch to solar.”
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