Global motors and drives manufacturer and supplier Zest WEG Group’s Brazil headquarters has made several new acquisitions over the past few years, which has enabled the company to access a larger expertise pool and new technology, says Zest WEG Group rotating machines manager Fanie Steyn.
WEG announced last year that it had acquired Brazilian steam turbine and transmission manufacturer TGM, which provides solutions and equipment for power generation drivers, focusing on thermal and wind energy. It also provides equipment for mechanical drives, such as fans, shredders, water pumps, mills, sugar cane levellers, turbo chargers, turbo blowers and a specific line for industrial processes.
Another acquisition was specialist motor developer Antriebstechnik KATT Hessen, in Germany. The company produces application specific motors ranging in power from 1 kW to 1 000 kW. This range includes high speed, flat framed, frameless motors, water cooled or low-voltage slip ring motors.
“There are very few low-voltage slip ring motor manufacturers left globally. The acquisition of this company provides the WEG group with access to these very specialised machines,” explains Steyn.
Other acquisitions include large rotating machine manufacturer Electric Machinery Company, in Minneapolis, the US. Since this acquisition, newly formed company WEG Electric Machinery has seen frequent improvements at the end- user level by replacing ageing machines with new technology. WEG has fully embraced Electric Machinery by imparting skills from its headquarters in Brazil and supporting Electric Machinery’s sales structure, which has resulted in expansive growth since the acquisition.
Further, WEG acquired Austrian technology company Watt Drive, which develops geared motors. “It’s a relatively small company that builds geared solutions with add-on kits, add-on brakes, add-on gearboxes and add-on forced coolers. The company produces a small aluminium range of motors that is quick, simple and readily available,” says Steyn.
These acquisitions afford Zest WEG Group the unique opportunity of being able to import motors globally into South Africa, and then supply them into the rest of Africa. “We have the infrastructure in Africa, with distributors throughout the continent. Our diverse branch network throughout South Africa and Africa enables us to supply large machines locally, while a full service team in South Africa services the equipment. This means we do not need to rely on our manufacturing side to provide this service,” he explains.
Steyn notes that these new acquisitions allow for access to many new skills and technologies, resulting in the company’s latest product, the Motor Scan. The Motor Scan is a small motor device that can be mounted onto an electric motor and provides access through the Internet of Things to a cellphone or computer, revealing the latest statistics on that motor. This is another example of Industry 4.0, more commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. Zest WEG Group is already seeing the effect of this on the industry, Steyn adds.
“The Motor Scan will enable maintenance managers to plan maintenance and shutdowns more effectively, as well as increase the time between failures and possibly even prevent catastrophic failures by monitoring critical equipment,” he says.
The Motor Scan will be launched in South Africa at this year’s Electra Mining trade exhibition, taking place in September. The first phase of the launch will entail the device being linked to a mobile phone though Bluetooth. “This means you would need to be near the device to get the information about the motor – for example, a mine manager who is underground beside the machine would be able to access critical information about that machine on his mobile phone,” says Steyn.
For phase two, which will be launched in 2019, the Motor Scan will gain additional gateways at various strategic positions at a plant or mine. Its interface will send critical information as a short message service to a mobile phone or laptop anywhere at the plant or mine, regardless of the device’s location, to the receiving computer. “It’s a great tool for preventive maintenance,” says Steyn.
“New technologies allow for continuous development and the improvement of skills, while offering many new opportunities for young people to get into this industry,” he concludes.