SEW-EURODRIVE South Africa is the only company to assembly complete drive units and electronic products locally. This not only gives customers a significant advantage in terms of lead times, but ensures that the products are of the same quality and latest technology as if they had been imported directly from Germany.
Gearmotors, servo motors, and a range of electronic products are assembled locally at SEW-EURODRIVE Cape Town, which represents the national electronics and technology assembly hub for the company, Branch Manager Jason Jackson reveals. Electronic products assembled in Cape Town include MOVIGEAR® mechatronic drive systems, MOVITRAC® MC07B next-generation frequency inverters, and MOVIDRIVE® B drive inverters.
“This definitely gives us a competitive edge in the local market, as none of our competitors are carrying out local assembly. With an average lead time of four weeks to import a unit from Germany, this represents a massive saving in terms of both time and money,” Jackson comments. While the Cape Town branch is actually smaller than the main Johannesburg facility, it carries a larger stockholding in terms of electronics specifically.
Jackson explains that the power modules and control heads are imported as separate items, in addition to the option boards. The fact that the units assembled in Cape Town use more or less the same power section reduces stockholding of different components, allowing for the accelerated turnaround time. In addition, keeping complete units as stock items not only takes up valuable warehousing space, but is an additional cost as well.
SEW-EURODRIVE South Africa National Sales Manager Norman Maleka explains that local assembly is a strategy embarked upon by the company globally. “Obviously it has taken a while to institute this strategy in South Africa, as we first had to ensure we had both the capability and the demand to justify local assembly. The main benefit for customers is quicker delivery and guaranteed availability, which are critical factors in terms of increased productivity and reduced downtime.”
Maleka adds that local assembly is also part of SEW-EURODRIVE South Africa’s longer-term strategy to cut costs and improve efficiencies even further. At the Johannesburg facility, for example, the company has made a significant investment in installing state-of-the-art Assembly Islands to reduce turnaround time from order to dispatch of high-volume products such as gearmotors. The new Assembly Islands reduce waste dramatically, as well as assembly errors, thereby boosting product quality significantly.
These Assembly Islands have been duplicated at the Cape Town facility, which had already been assembling gearmotors, which meant that electronics was a natural progression. “We selected Cape Town as our electronics hub as it not only had the space and the capability to do so, but the fact that it was familiar with assembling a range of products,” Maleka elaborates.
While the electronic products are assembled in Cape Town and then dispatched to the various branches countrywide for delivery to customers, a future part of the localisation strategy is to deploy Cape Town as the main distribution hub as well.
“In future, we will be able to service the entire African market in terms of electronic products from our Cape Town facility. For now, for quality control and logistics purposes, the products go to the respective branches and are dispatched from there. At the moment we are ensuring that the quality is 100% and that we are able to oversee every single aspect of the local assembly process,” Maleka highlights.
An important aspect of this rigorous quality control is that all electronic products assembled in Cape Town are tested fully on an MTP test bench, which is integrated into the new Assembly Islands. The results are printed out and scrutinised carefully to ensure that they are within all of the required parameters.
“Quality is a major factor, and we have to ensure that our assembly process is exactly the same as it is in Germany,” Jackson points out. A Cape Town representative received extensive training in Germany, whereupon he was equipped to train additional personnel locally. “Main training is always conducted in Germany, and then passed on to other locations such as South Africa. In addition, SEW-EURODRIVE South Africa believes very much in terms of internal progression when it comes to skills development and advancement.”
With major growth opportunities in the bottling, winery, food and beverage, and mining sectors in the Cape region, Jackson concludes that being able to stock all of the components and spares necessary for complex products such as MOVIGEAR® mechatronic drive systems gives the company the flexibility to cater for customers’ needs in a very short period. While all assembly is carried out at the Cape Town facility, any repairs necessary are undertaken in Johannesburg.