After a decade-long expansion of its manufacturing capabilities in South Africa, Zest WEG, the South African subsidiary of Brazil’s WEG Group, is well placed to extend its already extensive footprint in the African market.

“We now have six manufacturing facilities in Gauteng and Cape Town, producing a wide range of equipment including gensets, transformers, electrical panels, E-Houses, MCCs and mini sub-stations,” says Zest WEG’s outgoing CEO, Juliano Vargas. “This ability to manufacture locally gives us a huge advantage in the African market, as we can produce economically and deliver promptly to countries throughout the sub-Saharan region.”

According to Vargas, who is taking up an appointment at another operation of WEG Group, Zest WEG’s drive on local manufacture and local sourcing is consistent with WEG’s global approach of maximising local content and procurement wherever possible. It has also contributed to Zest WEG earning coveted Level 1 B-BBEE status.

“WEG now manufactures in 12 countries outside of Brazil with these facilities accounting for more than a third of the Group’s global production,” he says. He adds that Zest WEG is amongst the largest WEG operations outside of Brazil, including USA, Germany, and China

Vargas’s successor as CEO of Zest WEG is Eduardo Werninghaus, who has been with WEG for more than 15 years and who comes to South Africa from WEG’s USA subsidiary. “I’ve been briefed to build on the very firm base created by Juliano and his predecessors,” he says. “WEG is not a company that is fixated on next quarter results only. It thinks and acts long term and considers Zest WEG as being crucial to its future, given Africa’s enormous growth prospects which include a need for massive investments in energy infrastructure.”

Zest WEG is responsible for the entire sub-Saharan region and works through an extensive network of branches and Value-Added Resellers (VARs) throughout the continent.

“Being local in Africa is a key part of our strategy,” says Werninghaus. “We need to be close to the countries and communities we serve. There is a perception that all African countries are the same. This is not so. Each as its own unique culture, its own challenges and its own strengths. Having a presence on the ground in so many countries across the continent allows us to address this diversity.”

Most of Zest WEG’s product offering will be on display at the Electra Mining Africa 2022 exhibition. “Our theme, as always, will be how to change energy into solutions,” says Werninghaus. “There will, however, be a particular emphasis on efficiency and sustainability. One of the products that we’ll be highlighting is our range of WEG IE4-rated super-premium efficiency electric motors which were launched locally last year and which cost no more than their IE3 predecessors. These are the most energy efficient motors in the market and offer major operating cost advantages to users.”

Werninghaus says that the WEG IE4 motors have already received a warm reception from the mining industry, which is struggling with constantly rising electricity costs. “A medium-sized mine typically has between 2 000 and 3 000 electric motors on site – powering everything from fans and pumps to conveyor belts and screens – so the potential for very significant energy and cost savings is huge.”

He points out that electric motors account for about 40 % of all industrial electricity consumption and that around two-thirds of these motors are on mines.

Werninghaus adds that Zest WEG will also be showcasing many high-tech products and systems at Electra Mining Africa 2022. These include the already available WEG Motor Scan, which allows the continuous monitoring of electric motors and other rotating machines; and Pump Genius, a software package that enables a standard VSD to be dedicated to specific pumping systems with various motor and pump combinations, thereby providing improved control and monitoring capability.

Also on show will be WEG’s new Motion Fleet Management system, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to diagnose and monitor  rotating equipment such as motors, VSDs, gearboxes and compressors. Based on cloud computing technology, the performance of assets can be monitored at any time from any part of the world. This approach reduces unplanned downtime and optimises repair actions.

According to Werninghaus, WEG has fully embraced the world of Industry 4.0 (also known as the Internet of Things). “Keeping abreast of digital developments is a priority for us and Electra Mining Africa will give us an opportunity to show just how far we’ve come on our digital journey,” he concludes.

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