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WEG Africa pioneers local manufacture of MV softstarters in SA

WEG Africa has become the first OEM to produce medium voltage (MV) softstarters in South Africa, reducing lead times for customers and supporting the drive for local manufacture. 

The WEG SSW7000 units are produced at WEG Africa’s Robertsham facility south of Johannesburg to the high quality standards for which the company is well known. According to Pervin Gurie, Director of the Digital & Systems Division at WEG Africa, the popular SSW7000 range is well-regarded by the market. These softstarters, which are extensively used in pump and fan applications in Africa’s mining sector, have now also become more cost effective.

“As the demand for our MV softstarters has grown in recent years, we recognised that customers could benefit considerably from having these products manufactured locally,” says Gurie. “The immediate benefit is that we can almost halve the lead time from 20 to 24 weeks to 10 weeks, by removing the need for long distance shipping from WEG’s Brazil facilities.”

He notes that the strategic value of softstarters has come to the fore as users look for ways to address the rising cost of electricity, as well as to protect their electric motors and extend their operational lifecycle. Softstarters allow a gentle ramp up of power as electric motors are started, reducing the peak energy demand during startup. Motors starting with a conventional direct-on-line (DOL) starting will draw up to 700% more than its rated current, while a softstarter can reduce this to just 300%. 

Pervin Gurie, Director of the Digital & Systems Division at WEG Africa.

“Our Robertsham design and production facility already manufactures a range of Variable Speed Drive Panels and Motor Control Centres, among other solutions,” he explains. “Our customers are always impressed by our infrastructure and expertise here, and we look forward to welcoming more of them when they visit to inspect the new MV softstarter manufacturing area.”

The local manufacturing capability will include the continued customisation of MV softstarters, where units are designed to meet specific requirements in customers’ applications. Gurie highlights that solutions can also be packaged in a containerised substation, as was the case with a recent order for a mining customer in Angola. 

“The order of 11 units that we built last year was delivered in three containerised substations, and could be easily transported and installed on site for quick commissioning,” he says. “We have also found that customers in Africa have particular needs, such as extra space in their panels to accommodate thicker cables with less flexibility.”

He sees ongoing potential for the WEG SSW7000 range, which includes a monitoring feature that tracks whether the electric motor is overheating or drawing excessive current. This enables the shutdown of the motor down before damage is caused.

“To produce these MV softstarters locally, we have been able to apply our stringent manufacturing quality systems in place at our Robertsham facility,” he says. “We also use the proven WEG designs from our head office in Brazil, as well as technical input from our engineers there, as and when required. This assures customers that all these units continue to be produced to WEG’s world class standards.”

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