As a renowned leader in enabling complete commercial, public sector and utility-scale solar solutions, REC Solar has been in operation for over 20 years and provided more than 300MW of successful projects.
Following its acquisition by Duke Energy in 2017, Josie Broome, Director of Procurement and Operational Excellence, believes there are a number of key factors that differentiate REC Solar from its rivals. “Duke Energy has brought stability and financial backing. There are several solar companies that don’t exist anymore, but Duke has been around for more than 100 years and I believe customers really appreciate the stability that Duke provides,” explains Broome. “The type of projects that we go after, in combination with the customers that we look for and how we implement those projects and source materials is very strategic and focused. We’re certainly not new to the game.”
Having come from an oil-oriented background, Broome’s family owns a number of oil reserves, with part of its portfolio situated in the largest oil reserves in Utah within the Uintah Basin. “Not only did I grow up with my dad and all of his siblings as they made a living in the oil and gas industry, our family history is also rooted for generations back to one of the largest oil reserves in the US,” she explains. “I watched my dad and his brothers work on mainline pipelines, and when I was 20, I decided to work with them. From this experience, I was able to observe how hard the work actually was and how difficult it is to earn money that way. I believe that because of these early experiences, I learned that being out in the elements, physical labor through the seasons, and being away from family is a tough job. The appreciation I have for the men and women out there building America has shaped my view, work ethic, and approach to projects while always keeping the field in the forefront of my mind.”
Having overseen dozens of projects during her time at REC Solar, Broome is specifically proud of a recent project in Colorado which is the largest rooftop in the state. The project saw the installation of 17,000 panels spanning 19 acres and boasting a capacity of 6MW. “It was a real team effort. We worked together to secure the products that were used, found ways to reduce costs and achieve higher productivity in the field,” she explains. “Our typical approach is defined prior to the beginning of the project working directly with the field on setting up workstations, collaborating with them on their instructions and providing guidance on the sequence of work. Every project is unique, it’s up to us to look for ways to maximize efficiency in material handling, loading the roof, and how the crews move throughout the site. We track all of that.” Broome has worked on a diverse and broad range of projects and her role is to influence them from a supply chain and operational excellence perspective. “In my previous roles at REC, I managed projects and project teams directly; from schools to hotels, cash to financed, on carports, roof, and the ground. The variety, volumes and regions are vast, however there are still opportunities to learn and improve.”
With technology becoming influential to the way businesses conduct operations worldwide, REC Solar has implemented platforms such as Procore, the world’s leading construction management software, as well as drawing on the help of Salesforce for its CRM and JDE Oracle for its financials. “We leverage all the data from those platforms and combine it into a sequel database, and mix it into Microsoft Power BI to display, dig and analyze,” says Broome. “On the supply chain side, we create our commodity position frequently and look at supply and demand by utilising Salesforce for pipeline and Procore for active projects. From the operational excellence perspective, we’re using the field data that’s coming from Procore to measure productivity and how and where we need to help the teams improve in the field.” However, Broome understands that new technology such as Big Data should be treated with caution to circumvent the risk of overreliance. “Too much data can be really overwhelming, and you have to dig deep to figure out what the data is trying to tell you,” she warns. “For us, it’s about being very specific on what data we’re looking for and what we want the field to collect for productivity. We’re very specific on what we want to achieve with cost reduction, and then we leverage that data to drive our supply chain forward.”
With the industry constantly changing, Broome believes that by working closely with Duke Energy’s supply chain team, REC Solar can easily adapt to the sector’s changing demands and has subsequently established two firm supply chain strategies. “When there are any changes, both teams come together to make decisions on the best ways to leverage our volumes and make bulk buys together,” she explains. “The other strategy is the process of buying different types of equipment and going direct, they’re in the large-scale utility space where we are a distributed generation. We have high transactional volume and communicate with our vendors weekly — it’s important everyone’s on the same page.”
Broome points to the importance of communication with other supply chain professionals in the space, and key partners as a crucial component for success. “We recently attended the annual Solar Power International tradeshow in Utah. I believe that talking to other like-minded individuals in the industry is so important because it allows you to get a good idea of what the latest trends in the sector are as well as forming new connections and building lasting partnerships. It’s important to acknowledge our partners share our overall goals and help to ensure that we keep costs low for the customer, while maintaining quality on time.”
Pointing to her upbringing, Broome dwells on how her early life and career has shaped the influence she wants to have on others in the field. “I’m inspired by innovation and visionaries, and I now understand that I need to be the leader that I want to see. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had some pretty incredible leadership mentors on my journey, and overcoming the challenge of leadership is done by ensuring I’m the leader that I would like and need.” With the future in mind, Broome has a clear vision of what she hopes her firm can achieve over the next few years. “Our future success is going to be based on how fast we can continue to adapt to the market changes,” she notes. “Old ways of thinking, doing and being are not going to survive. We must stay ahead, act quickly and remain agile. I believe that being, nimble, performing quality work and continuing to drive improvements will ensure we remain a leader in the space.”