WEG Automation Africa – formerly Shaw Controls – is an ISO 9001 Bureau Veritas certified local manufacturing facility, and has over 30 years’ experience as a manufacturer of quality motor control centres (MCCs), distribution boards, medium voltage (MV) switchgear, control desks, PLC and instrumentation enclosures, portable and containerised substations, E-Houses and various other electrical enclosures.
Bevan Richards (pictured right), Executive of WEG Automation Africa and Tyrone Willemse (pictured left), Business Development Consultant, are busy navigating a sector of the industry which is in flux. MCCs are governed by IEC 61439 parts 1 and parts 2, and Richards is currently sitting on the SABS 1973 working committee which is aiming to clear up the confusion between IEC 60439, IEC 61439, SANS 10142.1 and suite of SANS 1973. The ultimate goal of any future standards is twofold; increased user safety and ensuring that South African MCC manufacturers are globally competitive. On the WEG Automation Africa side, this aligns with its drive to increase its African footprint. “If we just look into our new name, there is a big emphasis on the continent,” explains Willemse. “We do not want people installing cheap nonstandard boards which are dangerous, and we can really add value to that market place.”
He believes there are many sub-standard European and Asian boards filtering into the African market, and as such, WEG Automation Africa is focusing on technologies and efficiencies to find ways to become competitive. “We are trying to be as lean as possible,” he says, “Wherever there is wastage of material or a bottleneck in our production line, we continuously look to improve all areas.”
Willemse notes that his role in the organisation is to lead up business development, but at the same time, the technical understanding of MCCs is hugely important within his department. The South African branch has a strong working relationship with the Brazilian head office of WEG, and plays an important role in the R&D, which is executed in Brazil. “For example, we had a large multinational petrochemical company here recently to show them our new fully withdrawable type tested board, CCM06. Our flexibility as a global company allows us to make design changes and customised elements for customers. A client could literally say, we need 400 mm rather than 300 mm wireways; we want our base to be 100 mm not 75 mm; and we need a special feature on the incomer, and it is actioned immediately.” A sizeable percentage of the annual profit that the WEG group makes is channelled into R&D, and a third party verified test facility ensures that all compliances can be checked in-house.
As to the future of MCCs, Willemse notes that on the horizon he foresees that MCCs will soon follow the MV protection criteria, for instance, in terms of internal arc classifications. “I see a trend in using MV techniques in LV boards. The core reason, again, is safety – we don’t want people to be injured.” Richards agrees; “Safety comes first and accidental contact should become null and void. We see the withdrawable MCC market becoming more prevalent, as the less people can access equipment within live MCCs, the better.” He explains that on a fixed pattern MCC, contractors can open it up, bypass the mechanism and work on it live, whereas with a withdrawable board, because of its nature, contractors cannot work on it unless it has been plugged out and taken to a safe environment to fault find and complete repairs.
Willemse is also hoping for more engagement between Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and installation contractors. “The contractors connecting external equipment to our MCCs and the OEM need to understand each other’s requirements and legal compliance criteria. There is much that can come out of these discussions and they definitely benefit both parties. These two groups of people who are so integrally involved, need to get together,” he says.
WEG is confident of South Africa and the future of the electrical market and is fully supportive of local manufacturing, to such an extent that it has recently upgraded two transformer facilities and built an e-house facility. “While other companies are pulling out of local manufacturing, we are increasing our manufacturing portfolio in the country and have taken the stance to be fully entrenched in local manufacturing,” concludes Richards.