Brazilian electrical equipment supplier and automation solutions provider WEG Group has set a strategic plan in motion to achieve a yearly turnover of $10-billion by increasing its sales by at least 17% year-on-year until 2020, WEG Group South African-based subsidiary Zest WEG Group sales and marketing director Gary Daines tells Engineering News.
“To assist our parent company in achieving this target, Zest WEG is realigning its executive team to establish the skills and focus needed to accelerate the growth of the group’s activities in other African markets,” he explains.
Daines stresses that these initiatives will not, in any way, compromise the service and support currently enjoyed by the company’s local customer base, as “Zest WEG is only adjusting its business operations to enhance the skills of existing personnel, bring additional people on board, and to align Zest WEG’s structures with that of WEG Group.”
From an engineering and manufacturing perspective, the company is aligning its latest acquisition, mini substations and unit substations and distribution transformer manufacturer Hawker Siddeley’s operation with WEG Group structures.
He notes that the company acquired Hawker Siddeley, which was rebranded WEG Transformers Africa, as an international technology partner.
Daines explains that the acquisition not only forms part of Zest WEG’s aim of strengthening its local manufacturing operations but also enables the company to produce smaller transformers and substations ranging from between 50 kVA to 10 MVA.
WEG Transformers Africa’s transformers are primarily used to supply electricity to consumers, with rectifier transformers used for industrial, steelworks and traction applications. The company’s furnace transformers are also used in the mining industry.
WEG Transformers Africa mini substations and unit substations range from 100 kVA to 2 000 kVA, in voltages of up to 22 kV. The company’s standard distribution, power and special-application transformers range from 50 kVA to 10 000 kVA in voltages of up to 66 kV, with offload tap-switch or on-load tap changers.
“We are investing a significant number of resources to enable the company to start producing larger transformers in the future.
“We currently have three manufacturing facilities in Johannesburg, which clearly indicates that while Zest WEG was regarded solely as a product importer, this is no longer the case,” Daines emphasises.
He points out that as of March 2014, Zest WEG’s local staff complement comprised 720 people.
Training and Skills Development
Daines says that providing training and skills development is core focus of Zest WEG and he notes that the company has a fully equipped training facility at its headquarters in Linbro Business Park, Johannesburg, which has been operating since 2004.
The company has also established fully equipped training facilities at its company offices in Rustenburg, in the North West, Middleburg, in Mpumalanga, Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town, in the Western Cape in the past seven years.
Moreover, Daines notes that Zest WEG also runs training on an ad hoc basis for its customers that are not located near training facilities – either at a rented venue or on site.
These training courses are also available to all WEG customers in Africa and Zest WEG sends facilitators to African countries to run quarterly training programmes.
Zest WEG training courses are available for variable-speed drives (VSD) model CFW-09, the VSD model CFW-11, soft starter training, electric-motor training, programmable logic controller WLP software program training, drives service training and smart relay model SRW01 training. These continuing professional development courses are accredited by the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers, CPD points range between 1 and 2.
“The duration of these courses range between one and two days, depending on the training course selected,” Daines notes.
He adds that the courses not only provide users with the knowledge required to operate these systems but also educate customers to correctly select a product that matches the required application.
Daines points out that the company has three dedicated skills development programmes.
The learnership programme focuses on teaching artisans, such as electricians, wiremen and boilermakers, to work in Zest WEG factories.
The technologist training programme aims to develop new technology specialists to work for the company.
The company also has a bursary scheme for final year Bachelor of Science engineering students, studying at the University of the Witwatersrand and University of Johannesburg.
At the end of last year, the company had supported 14 students through their graduation to qualified artisans. Its training scheme currently supports a further 15 learners, technicians and engineers, who will have the opportunity to join Zest WEG Group once they have successfully completed their studies.
Meanwhile, Daines says Zest WEG is working with WEG Group’s automation and transformer divisions to ensure that the latest technology information is transferred and process updates take place at its automation and transformer facilities to ensure it meets group standards.
He adds that Zest WEG’s local facilities are being upgraded to achieve ISO 9001 accreditation so that “these facilities’ products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements and that quality is consistently improved, in line with WEG Group requirements”.
“This is important, as it will mean that, regardless of where the product is manufactured by any of the WEG Group of companies globally, it will be of the same high-quality standard,” Daines says.
It forms part of the responsibility of the Zest WEG Group to commission and provide technical servicing of equipment and all company products used locally and in Africa, regardless of which WEG Group company manufactured it.
“Two of the major growth areas in Africa are the mining, and oil and gas industries,” he notes.
However, Daines says the two major challenges pertaining to these industries are the remote locations in which they are situated, making many of them difficult to reach, this is coupled with the fact that many of these sites have limited or no access to a grid to power these operations.
“Therefore, it is important to ensure that the product being offered is not only suited to the application for which it is required but also robust enough to ensure it will withstand the harsh environments in which it will operate.” he concludes.