Louis Meiring, Zest WEG Group CEO, and Juliano Saldanha Vargas, group logistics and operations director at Zest WEG Group with the certificate Zest WEG Electric (Pty) Ltd received for its Level 1 BBBEE rating.

Steadily integrating its continuous improvement efforts alongside the transformation of its business, the Zest WEG Group recently achieved Level 1 status in terms of Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) ratings.

A subsidiary of the Brazil-based multinational WEG, the Zest WEG Group is over 51.6% black-owned, including a 32.1% stake by black women, and was ranked as Level 2 last year.

“Our real success here has been to ingrain our commitment to South Africa and to transformation in the everyday activities and culture of the business,” says Zest WEG Group chief executive officer Louis Meiring. “Our empowerment journey is not an annual tick-box exercise, but rather is driven by every staff member working to build local capacity, people and excellence.”

He emphasises that the business model has evolved to engage all employees in maintaining the group’s focus on quality and transformation.

Reaching this pinnacle BBBEE rating has been the culmination of various efforts, according to Zest WEG Group operations director Juliano Vargas, and is just one indication of the investment that the group is making in the country’s economy and society.

“We continue to invest in local manufacturing and are improving our facilities to achieve high levels of quality and productivity,” says Vargas. “This also means developing the skills necessary and increasing our knowledge base in the latest technologies related to our production requirements.”

From its position as an ISO 9001-listed business, Zest WEG Group was recently one of the first to upgrade to ISO 9001-2015, making it one of only 112 companies out of 2,200 South African firms with ISO 9001 certification to reach this next level. The group has also recently invested heavily in its Heidelberg transformer manufacturing plant, where it operates one of the country’s leading test laboratories for transformers.

“We are also moving strongly into the renewable energy space, and this will support government efforts to develop this sector of the economy – as outlined in its recent Integrated Resource Plan,” says Vargas. “Our product expansion includes items like steam turbines, wind turbines and solar panels.”

The focus on continuous improvement has been necessarily accompanied by developing its skills base in industrial manufacturing and engineering, well beyond the legal requirements of BBBEE.

“When it comes to skills development, we invest at least double the percentage required by the Codes of Good Practice, and this includes creating skill-sets for our business that currently do not exist in the local marketplace,” he says.

He highlights that leading technology from WEG’s plants in Brazil is also being shared with South African operations, whose facilities will benefit considerably from the skills transfer; this will allow the local engineering operations to become more independent in terms of knowledge and skills.