Tag Archives: Zest WEG Group


Zest WEG’s four decades in Africa have produced a powerful local manufacturing base, and a growing footprint across sub-Saharan Africa – strengthening supply chains and local economies.

“Progress in skills development has been significant in the past few years, as we have invested heavily in technology and skills transfer between the company and our holding company WEG in Brazil,” says Juliano Vargas, chief executive officer of Zest WEG. “Leveraging WEG’s global manufacturing productivity logic, we have also installed the latest equipment and systems to pave the way for a sustainable future.”

As a result, local content in the company’s manufacture of transformers is now nearly 90%, while for products like E-Houses and electrical panels has exceeded 70%. Vargas highlights the strategic importance of local content not just in terms of the mining industry’s commitment to the Mining Charter, but for the sustainability of the South African economy as a whole.

“Our local manufacturing capability has helped to strengthen the supply chain for our customers, making businesses more secure,” he says. “The value of this has been well demonstrated by the economic impact of border closures during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Vargas emphasises that Zest WEG’s own supply chain has been actively nurtured through enterprise development initiatives, fostering the sustainability of local businesses. This local manufacturing ecosystem shields the company from market fluctuations and gives it a competitive cost advantage on locally manufactured products.

Success in South Africa has fostered growth into 47 other African countries, where customers are not only supported by wholly-owned operations but also by Zest WEG’s Value Added Resellers (VARs) in over 20 countries around the continent.

“These VARs understand their local markets and are skilled practitioners in their fields,” he says. “This ensures that they can apply Zest WEG solutions appropriately and optimally to customers’ specific needs.”

VARs are a key aspect of the company’s strategy to become rooted all over sub-Saharan Africa, collaborating with in-country experts and enhancing technical expertise and local capacity for economic development. Vargas notes that WEG’s range of products serve many industrial sectors, allowing Zest WEG and its VARs to explore opportunities not only in mining, but also in oil and gas, agriculture, water, cement and general industry.


Experienced local electrical control and instrumentation specialist E and I Zambia has successfully completed a large project on a new process plant for one of Zambia’s leading copper miners.

The contract included the installation of six electrical substations, 20 transformers, five 1,250 kVA diesel generators for backup power and a 950 metre overland conveyor. Almost 250 kilometres of cable was pulled and nearly 15 kilometres of cable racking was constructed.

Also completed were six earth mat rings, 12 mast lights and a range of general plant earthing and lighting installations around the plant, as well as the fitting and termination of instruments. E and I Zambia conducted the work between January 2019 and April 2020, in close collaboration with both a leading design house and the end-client. According to projects manager Dave Opperman, the company has a sound track record in the country, having been active on the Copperbelt and beyond since 2002.

“The experience of our team on site, the quality of our artisans and the training of workers ensured that the quality of this job was world-class,” Opperman says. “While prioritising safety and quality, we were still able to adapt to the inevitable fine-tuning of project parameters and schedules, and to deliver on the client’s timelines.”

The safety standards were well reflected in the achievement of 395 Lost-Time Injury Free (LTIF) days. This was done despite a busy site – peak manpower grew to over 270 employees and subcontractors – in a project that consumed almost 590,000 manhours. Almost all the staffing on the project was local.

“Being so well-established in Zambia, we have a solid database of skilled artisans that we can draw upon for large projects like this one,” he says. “The country has a good foundation of these trades, and we can select the most suitable profile of skills to match the project.”

A close relationship with trade unions – maintained by regular consultation – ensured that no labour issues arose that could disrupt the project, he says.

“The company maintains a comprehensive collective agreement with labour, and our collaboration means that the unions understand what the success of the project demands,” Opperman says. “This creates a win-win relationship that allows the smooth running of projects – a vital factor in the meeting of strict deadlines.”

He notes that the company is also able to optimise its local procurement through its network of reliable suppliers, while maintaining a strong cross-border supply chain for large and specialised equipment and components from South Africa.

In line with quality standards, each phase of the project involved the sign-off of both in-house and external quality control officers. This ensured that all work was done in accordance with engineering designs and industry standard specifications before being certified ready for use.

Enhancing its local expertise and experience, E and I Zambia is able to draw on the extensive technical capacity of South Africa-based EnI Electrical, an operating entity within Zest WEG.


Accommodating the space constraints of a South African platinum mining customer, Zest WEG is constructing a large diesel powered generator set to be delivered later this year.

The capacity of the 2,500kVA genset will also make it the largest unit yet to be fully load-tested at the company’s genset manufacturing facility in Cape Town, according to Craig Bouwer, projects and product manager at Zest WEG.

“In addition to functional testing, we will be equipping ourselves to conduct load testing to 11kV on this unit,” says Bouwer. “With load-banks in-house, we will be stepping the voltage down to 400V during the testing, and drawing on MV specialists to ensure a safe and reliable process.”

The genset is a highly technical solution to match the customer’s specific needs, he says. Based on the available space, it is housed within a 12 metre ISO shipping container with the electrically-driven radiator mounted on the roof.

Prime-rated at 11kV and powered by an MTU diesel engine, the genset has been designed in close consultation with the customer over a number of months. Having concluded the engineering design, construction is currently underway in Cape Town. Bouwer highlighted the detailed and time consuming nature of engineering design for a project of this magnitude and complexity.

“Stringent technical requirements demanded lengthy and ongoing collaboration not only with the customer, but between our engineering team and production operations,” he says. “The customer was particularly pleased with our flexibility and the extra effort we applied to ensure the optimal technical returnables for the project.”

As one of the few Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) capable of undertaking a customised genset of this capacity in-house, Zest WEG will also be supplying the control and protection panel from its extensive range of electrical equipment and products.

“To enhance safety and ergonomics, the control panel is in its own compartment within the ISO container,” he says. “A 1,000 litre bunded day tank has also been installed inside a separate compartment within the container, including a fuel cooler and filtration system.”

The Covid-19 lockdown has had minimal impact on the work schedule, he notes, as planning and communication with the customer could continue regardless, dealing with various technical clarifications. To facilitate the transportation of this large unit to site, it will be shipped as three separate components: the genset, radiator and exhaust system. Once installation is complete – a process that Zest WEG specialists will supervise – its experts will conduct the cold and hot commissioning, and hand over to the customer.


Zest WEG is supplying a TGM planetary gearbox with a WEG variable speed drive (VSD) and a WEG medium voltage motor for a mill expansion by Green Fuel, Zimbabwe’s leading producer of renewable fuel.

According to Leandro Magro, steam turbines manager at Zest WEG, the equipment is destined for the new sugar cane crushing mill #6 at Green Fuel’s state-of-the-art ethanol facility at Chisumbanje in south-eastern Zimbabwe. The plant uses the latest technology to produce high-grade anhydrous ethanol, with a high-pressure boiler and a TGM steam turbine generator set increasing energy recovery. This allows the plant to be self-sufficient in its energy needs, and to generate excess electricity.

Green Fuel’s ethanol project – awarded National Project status by Zimbabwe’s government for its economic contribution – reduces the country’s reliance on imported petroleum products. It also produces less greenhouse gas emissions than unleaded petrol, and can be sold significantly cheaper. The company employs over 3,000 people in its agricultural and industrial operations.

“The engineered gearbox for this project is custom-built by TGM in Brazil, a WEG Group company, and is supplied with a WEG VSD and WEG electric motor as a package,” says Magro. “The components in this solution are designed to deliver the specific torque required to crush the cane to the customer’s specifications – reliably and efficiently.”

The output speed of the gearbox in operation is usually between five and seven revolutions per minute. To deliver the required rotating force, a 750 kW, 3,300 V WEG motor was specified, with a WEG VSD to facilitate speed variations. The volume and quality of cane being brought in from the fields to the mill varies during the harvesting season – usually from April to October or November – so the rate of crushing in the mill needs to be adjustable.

The TGM third-generation planetary gearbox is designed specifically for sugar cane mills, where torque variations are constant and robust construction is required. The bearings are designed to achieve more than 100,000 hours of operation. This means the equipment can run for up to 10 years before any major service intervention is required.

“WEG has supplied efficient and reliable equipment to Green Fuel since the beginning of its operation. During its plant expansion from 2017 to 2018 we supplied a planetary gearbox, motor and VSD for mill number 1,” he says. “Our current contract is for a second expansion, where Zest WEG will supply similar equipment to mill #6.”

While the gearbox is manufactured and assembled in Brazil, the WEG VSD with integral transformer will be assembled in South Africa by Zest WEG. The transformer will step down power from 11kV to the required motor voltage of 3.3kV. Delivery will take place by year-end, although the high efficiency motor will be supplied earlier from WEG in Brazil. Installation of the equipment on site will be conducted in early 2021, over a period of about two weeks. Zest WEG will be involved in the installation supervision and commissioning, which includes the required tests before the start-up.

“We also assist with the start-up of the equipment at the beginning of the crushing season, to ensure that everything is running optimally,” Magro says. “Using several production facilities around the world, Zest WEG provides its customers in Africa an integrated solution that combines the highest quality of equipment with our in-depth industry expertise.”


Zest WEG has entered South Africa’s wind energy industry, combining exciting turbine technology with its established footprint in the local economy.

The development of a direct drive, gearless wind turbine by its parent company WEG is a key factor in Zest WEG’s plan to grow a client base among wind farm developers, says Alastair Gerrard, integrated solutions executive at Zest WEG.

“With WEG’s latest 4,2 MW wind turbine solution – which augments its initial offering of a 2,1 MW unit – we see considerable scope for broadening our technology offering locally and into the rest of Africa,” he says.

With four decades as a local supplier, manufacturer and service provider in South Africa, he says Zest WEG has extensive market presence and knowledge upon which to build. In particular, the company is well-placed to meet the local content requirements for participating in the wind energy segment.

“We have prepared the ground for developing local skills and supply chains in our contribution to wind energy projects,” Gerrard says. “Given our experience in South Africa, our products and solutions also meet the necessary regulations and standards, including grid code compliance, which is vital for projects that will feed power to the national utility.”

The positive take-up of the WEG wind turbine – mainly in South America – is reflected by the 647 MW of capacity that has contributed to the market in recent years; another 181 MW is in the pipeline. He highlights that having no gearbox in the turbine offered a number of benefits.

“There is increased efficiency, less noise and weight, and one less component means less maintenance,” he says. “The whole design is focused on efficiency and reliability, for maximum output and uptime.”

The WEG turbine also includes the transformer in the nacelle, rather than at the tower base. This transformer steps up the 925 volts generated by the alternator to 33 kV, reducing losses through  more efficient energy transmission. There is also then no need for a separate transformer and its associated infrastructure at ground level. “We are looking forward to leveraging WEG’s tried-and-tested turbine technology from Brazil, from our established foundation as a well-recognised local player,” Gerrard concludes.


“The key to sustainable growth in Africa is partnering with locally owned companies who have proven track records, are technically sound, have a strong market knowledge and business culture aligned with our own”,  Taylor Milan, Africa business development executive at Zest WEG.

The company, a fully owned subsidiary of WEG, currently has 28 appointed partners in 22 sub-Saharan African countries outside of South Africa, and is expanding its footprint into new sectors across the regions. With extensive manufacturing and assembly facilities in South Africa, Zest WEG is driving its African growth strategy through local partnerships with carefully selected Value-Added Resellers (VARs).

“The local content mandate is playing an increasingly important role in the supply of equipment and services into the formal business sector across the African continent,” says Milan. “It brings services closer to the customer, while empowering local business and building local economies.”

He highlights that the company’s VARs are also chosen for their technical and operational capability and capacity to offer customers more of Zest WEG’s portfolio of products and services.

“While our early offerings focused primarily on electric motors, the company now promotes a comprehensive portfolio of electrical products and solutions ,” he says. “These include geared motors, low and medium voltage drives and  automation, panels, MCCs, E-houses, power and distribution transformers, mini-substations, a selection of traditional and renewable and hybrid power generation solutions as well as electrical infrastructure and mobile solutions.”

Milan notes that the business is also diversifying beyond mining into other sectors, notably oil and gas. On a global level, WEG has been active in this industry for many years and has built a strong industry specific product portfolio and knowledge base. Other sectors where gains are being made in sub-Saharan Africa are agriculture, general industry, water, cement and utilities.

The company’s on-the-ground presence has been strengthened recently with the appointment of established local company Panaco as its VAR in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Magare Company Limited in Tanzania, and Repelectric in Kenya with a number of other appointments currently being finalised across sub-Saharan Africa.

“Zest WEG’s Africa network is also increasing the number of local repair facilities that meet OEM standards,” Milan says.

“It is of considerable benefit for customers to have localised WEG-accredited repair facilities in-country,” he says. “This increases local support, while ensuring that equipment repairs are carried out in accordance with WEG specifications to deliver the performance and longevity that customers and OEMs expect from WEG products.”


Zest WEG is leveraging its range of capabilities and local manufacturing facilities to supply a complete low-voltage substation to Sasol’s Prillan plant in Sasolburg.

The custom-designed solution includes a double-storey E-house, transformers, variable speed drive (VSD) panels and distribution boards, according to Lukas Barnard, oil and gas specialist in Zest WEG’s business development team. The specialised E-house has a number of fit-for-purpose features.

“The outside wall is manufactured using 306 stainless steel sheets to deal with the highly corrosive environment,” Barnard says. “The E-house is designed with a secondary pitch roof and will have a two-hour fire rating on the structural integrity of the building. It is equipped with a complete heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.”

To suit the available footprint at the plant, the E-house comprises two buildings. The first structure – measuring 20 metres by 8,5 metres – is elevated to a height of three metres above ground level. Adjacent to it is the second structure, a double-storey design with 7 metres by 4,2 metres of floorspace. The two will be attached using platforms and staircases.

Drawing on the capability of Zest WEG’s local manufacturing facilities, the E-house includes various VSD panels, distribution boards and free-standing panels. There are also four 1,6 MVA oil-type distribution transformers produced at the company’s transformer manufacturing facility in Wadeville.

“After all the equipment is installed in the E-house, full functional testing will be carried out at Zest WEG’s Heidelberg facility,” Barnard says. “The building was designed to split into four sections for transport purposes. These four sections, with all the installed equipment, will weigh close to 160 tonnes, and will be rigged into place on site with a 500 tonne mobile crane.”

Barnard says that Zest WEG worked in close collaboration with Proconics on the project.

“Proconics is applying its expertise in electrical engineering, design and site installation, as well as electric and instrumentation interfacing and civil engineering works,” he says. “This is particularly important as the project involves a live changeover between the old and new substation; the substation also interfaces with an ongoing process.”

Barnard highlights this kind of collaborative synergy as the basis for providing the client with the best possible solution – ensuring optimal performance and reliability.


As part of strengthening its African footprint, Zest WEG has appointed established local firm Panaco as its value-added reseller (VAR) in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to Zest WEG’s Africa business development executive, Taylor Milan, Panaco is a 100% locally-owned business that has successfully serviced the region for over 40 years.

“Panaco is a well-established and respected company with strong business relationships with nearly all of our current clients,” Milan says. “Its business methodology and culture are closely aligned with ours, and this synergy will aid us in supporting our current installed base, client network and growth expectations.”

He highlights the increasing importance of local content in the supply of equipment and services across the continent. Zest WEG has prioritised closer partnerships with local firms as a key element of its sustainable growth strategy in Africa.

Milan also emphasises the importance of VARs in this strategy. “Going beyond the role of just a distributor, a VAR is a local business chosen to promote and support the wide range of Zest WEG’s offering. It carries the whole Zest WEG brand into local markets,” he says.

“Panaco has the ability to assist us in growing the comprehensive WEG product portfolio well beyond our traditional low-voltage motor and drive business,” he says. “It has business facilities in Lubumbashi, Kolwezi and Kinshasa – bringing our services and support closer to customers in this fast-growing region.”

The VAR partnership will provide locally accessible support and skills, substantial stockholding and quality products at competitive pricing; it will also build strong and service-oriented customer relationships, says Milan.

Zest WEG has also appointed DRC firm AEMI as a WEG-accredited repair facility, after AEMI successfully met the demanding OEM standards. The company has a full repair facility in Likasi, and another in Kinshasa.


A generator set installation at a Cape Town private hospital will soon be commissioned by Zest WEG, providing a plug-and-play solution with high reliability and minimal downtime.

“In a design that suited the hospital’s severe space constraints, Zest WEG built the generator, transformer and remote radiator into special ISO shipping containers in a double-stack configuration,” Johannes Nel, operations manager – production at Zest WEG. “The contract also included the refurbishment of the client’s existing 1,000 KVA 400V MTU open-type generator which was included in the solution.”

The new genset expands the hospital’s standby generating capacity to 1 MVA continuous rating, allowing 100% of the institution’s functions to continue as normal during periods of load-shedding. Nel also highlights that reliable supply was key to the hospital’s safe and efficient operation, whether from mains or back-up supply.

To reduce the project lead time as much as possible, the delivery of certain imported components was arranged well in advance. The containerised solution was constructed and extensively tested at the Zest WEG genset manufacturing facility in Epping, saving time during installation.

“It was critical that any downtime be kept to an absolute minimum, as hospitals need to run continuously,” Nel says. “With our expertise, product range and experience in the health sector, our design, installation and commissioning strategy was able to align closely with this priority.”

A dry-type step-up transformer allows the generator to connect to the 11 KV council electricity supply council supply, which will reduce hospital downtime during commissioning. The resin-sealed transformer also provides a long-lasting solution with low maintenance and a high safety factor due to the absence of oil as a coolant.

Nel explains that another vital concern was the hospital’s proximity to a residential area, demanding that the noise level of the generator be kept within strict limits. This requirement was successfully achieved during testing, with the noise level kept within 65 decibels at a distance of seven metres.

In addition to conducting a complete engine rewiring, Zest WEG also upgraded the generator controller, giving the customer improved ability to monitor the generator’s operation during load-shedding. The modern controls help protect the generator and optimise the lifespan of critical equipment.

While certain aspects of the contract’s timing have been affected by Covid-19 lockdown regulations, the final commissioning and handover to the client is projected for the end of May.


Zest WEG has delivered a locally manufactured main power transformer to a wind farm project near Swellendam in the Western Cape.

The 45MVA transformer will receive 33kV from the wind turbines and step this up to 132 kV for the main power grid. Stuart Brown, sales team leader, transformer division at Zest WEG, says the design and construction of the power transformers shows the high level of expertise and technical capacity in South Africa.

“With two of the few local transformer manufacturing operations in the country, we have the added advantage of being able to draw on the technical experience of our parent company, the world-wide WEG group,” says Brown. “In designing power transformers for renewable applications, we gain valuable insights and important skills transfer from WEG experts in the US and Brazil.”

Brown highlights, for instance, that the high harmonics content is a feature of the inconsistent cycles associated with renewable energy sources. This requires a specialised design and manufacturing capacity to ensure that a transformer in this application delivers its intended lifespan and high reliability.

He says the local manufacture of main power transformers can contribute significantly to the local content of renewable power projects, which by their nature must import much of their specialised equipment. This helps project developers to comply with the Department of Trade and Industry’s local content requirements.

“Zest WEG’s B-BBEE Level 1 status allows renewable energy developers and contractors to align their projects with South Africa’s transformation goals,” he adds.

The transformer was built at Zest WEG’s Heidelberg facility which, combined with the WEG global operations, offers the market more than 30 years of experience in the design and production of larger power transformers. Following comprehensive testing at the facility’s laboratory in 2019, the transformer was delivered to site and assembled under the supervision of Zest WEG engineers in January 2020. They also conducted full on-site testing of the unit, as well as cold commissioning.

“The size of the transformer – at 5,7 metres high and 7 metres long – meant that it could not be transported in one piece,” Brown says. The total weight of the assembled unit is 70 tonnes.

Ongoing technological improvements and constant upgrades at the Heidelberg plant ensures its state-of-the-art capability. The testing conducted at the factory includes lightning impulse withstand tests and temperature-rise tests, especially relevant to simulate the potentially high temperatures where transformers are located.