Establishing a strong local manufacturing base in South Africa has been integral to Zest WEG’s success over the past decade, contributing to building the economy and providing an important springboard into Africa.

According to Juliano Vargas, CEO of Zest WEG, this process is aligned closely with the strategic approach of Brazil-based parent organisation WEG, which prioritises its member companies’ capability, efficiency and innovation on a local level.

Zest WEG firm local base supports Africa growth

Zest WEG’s transformer manufacturing facility in Heidelberg.

“It has required considerable investment in our local production capacity and skills base,” says Vargas. “The outcome to date has been very successful, with Zest WEG developing its local structure and supply chain while working to world class standards and supported by WEG innovation.”

As an example, he notes that Zest WEG today achieves almost 90% local content capability for its transformers and more than 70% local content capability for other products such as E-houses and panels. These products form part of the company’s wide range of solutions which include electric motors, drives, switchgear, energy generation, electrical infrastructure, and generator sets, with different levels of localisation.

The locally developed supply chain delivers various benefits to customers, says Vargas. He highlights, for example, short lead times, as there is little reliance on Europe, China or the US for parts and components. “The impacts to our market are considerable, and we have more predictability and control of our supply chain,” he says.

The company has embraced South Africa’s commitment to transformation, achieving Level 1 B-BBEE status and investing substantially in training and enterprise development. It has helped that WEG, as a member of the BRICS Business Council (representing Brazil), has over the years been able to engage with South African authorities about local content requirements and industry development opportunities.

“Our business – in Brazil and in South Africa – has put its weight behind economic empowerment and transformation, focusing heavily on local suppliers and local skills,” Vargas says.

Zest WEG’s investment in human capital exceeds the portion of payroll required by B-BBEE in local training. Among other initiatives it has a bursary programme and the company will shortly employ its third electrical engineer graduating from this scheme.

Vargas says this groundwork has created a powerful launchpad for growing the company’s reach in Africa, where it also applies its local development philosophy by partnering with in-country Value Added Resellers (VARs).

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