The company secured its first substantial platinum project order last year from one of South Africa’s leading consultingengineering firms and this has been followed by several more successful platinum projects this year.
The orders involved more than 200 WEG drives and soft-starters, ranging from 11 kW to 315 kW. The majority are controlled using Profibus. Several are also on underground conveyor systems.
“There has been an increased acceptance of our WEG drives within the mining industry,”explains drives manager Johan van Niekerk.
“This entry has not been straightforward as there arestringent standards within theindustry which our drives have to comply with. However, with our WEG motors having alreadybeen approved by the mines, the acceptance process has run smoothly,” he adds.
South Africa’s mining industry uses an unusual voltage of 525 V.
“This unusual voltage has led to problems when acquiring drives from Europe,” explains salesmanager Marthinus Greeff.
“These standard 500 V drives with a 10% tolerance should cover 525 V. However, they have often been unsuccessful, not having enough voltage tolerance. “The clients are now insisting on tests to prove that the productgoes beyond the sales pitch,” he adds. It was thus necessary for Zest to run tests to prove to the client that the product did go beyond empty promises. Before the drives were acceptedfor use by Anglo Platinum, the company had to do supervised testing at SABS, which wasevaluated by a team including mine end-users, consultingengineers and consultants from head office.
Tests were also done on-sitefor six months so that the client could assess the drives’ performance in the required operating conditions.
Added to this, the fieldbuscommunication had to be tested.
“Many companies have hadbitter, costly experiences with suppliers not delivering on their promises of reliable serial communication control.
“Thus, they are now insisting on testing with system integrators to ensure that the drives do what the sales pitch alluded to.” Zest welcomed these tests and saw them as an opportunity toverify its claims about itsproducts.
“We considered these testsnecessary in order to prove our product data and give reassurance to our customers,” explains Greeff.
“It needs to be understood that drives are critical to the operation of the plant and all parties thus have to ensure the products’reliability,” says Van Niekerk.
Following the success of the tests, the company has received numerous orders in the platinum and other mining sectors.
Besides offering reliableproducts, the company isdedicated to offering a complete service solution.
“Our aim is to be a supplier that goes beyond just supplying products; we want to give added value to the customer’s total cost of ownership,” explains Van Niekerk.
Among other things, thecompany offers a local repairfacility, 24/7/365 technical support and an extensive trainingprogramme.
The training centre, which is housed at the company’s East Rand premises, enables thecompany to train its own staff as well as distributors, systemsintegrators and customers’employees.
To date, the company has trained more than 70 individuals for Sasol alone.
The centre runs scheduled training courses where attendeesare trained on soft-starters and VSDs.
They subsequently leave the course with practical skills and theoretical knowledge.
The company offers courses from entry to advanced level.
Van Niekerk explains that the more advanced the course the fewer participants there are in order to ensure enhanced lecturer-student interaction.
“We see the training as part of our added-value customer support and thus offer it free of charge,” Greeff concludes.
With the company’s successfultesting, numerous orders and added-value customer services, it has been able to move aggressively into the mining industry as a major competitor.