A sound globalization strategy reduces risk
At present, Trina Solar has expanded to 103 countries and regions globally, with offices in around 40 countries and employees that come from 38 countries. Statistics show that the Company realized over 9GW in global coverage. Mr. Gao believes that establishing a globalized business system bolsters Trina Solar's ability to withstand market volatility; when volatility occurs in a market, other markets may provide a balance.
"Even when the market is at its best - both in China and overseas - we are still able to guarantee the supply overseas. In 2017, Trina Solar's overseas sales exceeded China's sales. From the supply point of view, overseas market contributed over 55%. This is why Trina Solar remains unruffled by the fluctuations in the market and also forms the basis for confidence in achieving annual growth as opposed to the market outlook." Mr. Gao said.
Trina Solar has 6 major management centers in China, Japan, Singapore, US, Europe, and Latin America. The target is to not only achieve globalization, but also gradually achieve localization. In addition to mature markets such as the US, Europe, and Japan, Trina Solar began exploring emerging markets since 2016, including those where Trina Solar has grown rapidly such as Ukraine, the Middle East, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Trina Solar has achieved over 60% market share in some emerging countries, and at least 20-30% market share in others.
Staying the course with a healthy cash flow
Mr. Gao reveals that in the first half of the year, Trina Solar sold some solar farms. Total capacity of the farms was about 900MW. This helped Trina Solar to raise a lot of cash and effectively lower the company's debt ratio. "Furthermore, we will still continue to provide mid-term and long-term management services to help operate these solar farms."
Trina Solar's debt ratio has now been reduced to 62% as of middle of the year, compared to 67.5% at the start of the year. Trina Solar's cash reserves have also been maintained at a relatively healthy level. As of end of last year, Trina Solar's cash reserves were 643 million USD, and as of 30 June 2018, it had grown to 687 million USD.
At the same time, Trina Solar's total credit limit has exceeded 2.9 billion USD. It still has a balance of 1 billion USD. In the face of adjustments in the industry, Trina Solar can still grow with ease. Under the robust management of Gao Jifan, Trina Solar has long established a risk management committee. "We evaluate the major risks that are forecast and provide dedicated management of these major risks." Mr. Gao said.
Stay at the top of one's game with capacity upgrades and iterations
The rise of international trade barriers is happening in total contradiction to the globalization trend of business development. Trina Solar took both into consideration when the PV maker began to sketch out plans for the globalization of its capacity a few years ago. Following putting 1GW of cell capacity and 1GW of module capacity into production in Thailand, Trina Solar's 1GW cell plant in Vietnam and 700MW module plant in Malaysia have recently become operational. The company also has module manufacturing partners in Turkey. Combined with domestic capacity, the company's global module and cell capacity has now reached approximately 8.5GW and 8.5GW respectively.
"In terms of capacity, we made sure to have in place a structurally meaningful production portfolio rather than simply pursuing scale, as we need to maintain the competitiveness and leadership of our own capacity," Mr. Gao said. Collaboration in terms of capacity with external partners must at all times be in strict compliance with Trina Solar's quality system, including the requirements for material and suppliers, in order to close our capacity gap while preserving quality of product.
While planning out the structural portfolio, Trina Solar kept a focus on capacity iterations. After an overall consideration of market supply capability and the technology roadmap, Trina Solar upgraded and transformed its capacity this year. At this time, 2GW in capacity is undergoing a conversion to a polycrystalline high efficiency MCCE process. The company will complete the conversion to PERC and PERT of approximately 3.5GW in capacity by the end of the year followed by an additional 3GW in mid-2019, bringing the total PERC and PERT capacity to 6.5GW.
Furthermore, Trina Solar is also seeking to further expand capacity while undertaking a labor reduction through automation and intelligent upgrading. In 2010, Trina Solar had 16,000 employees managing a capacity of 1.5GW. The company's workforce has been reduced to 15,000 while capacity is being continually increased to more than 8.5GW. The company is also engaged in intelligent and integrated PV solutions and the energy internet, among other new areas of development.
The way to meet challenges is through a full-scale transformation of the business
Facing the challenges of the digital age, Trina Solar is experiencing profound innovation and revolution, on both the management side internally and product side externally. Trina Solar has transformed from the previous professional manager model to a model similar to a business partnership. Since 2017, Trina Solar has decided to aggressively drive the business units and platforms inclusive of production sectors, sales and also cover downstream solar module solutions and Energy Internet aspects.
From an outside perspective, another example that best showcases Trina Solar's reform directions, besides the above mentioned management systems, would be the launch in March 2018 of "TrinaPro" smart PV solutions.
Mr. Gao says TrinaPro as an 'all in one' smart solar system that includes premium components, optimized system integration and smart O&M interconnection. "The TrinaPro system can sense the entire environment and calculate automatically how best to maximize electricity generation. TrinaPro, by optimizing the combination of bi-facial solar module, tracking system and smart inverter, can boost up to 30% the power output," said Mr. Gao "We no longer use simple power generating modules, but by harnessing the power of data and the optimized design of the entire system, we further increase the overall efficiency. By bringing greater value to our customers, Trina Solar can transform from a product supplier to a value-add supplier for our customers."
Gao Jifan believes the development of Trina Solar's business is progressing well thanks in part to TrinaPro and other smart power generation systems. "This is the main reason for Trina Solar's growth in the first half of this year." he added.