Energy efficiency and cost saving with WEG

At WEG, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, right from the manufacture of our products, through to helping our customers become more energy efficient, reduce their carbon footprint and make significant cost savings,” explains Wilmar Henning, Managing Director at WEG Germany. With this goal, WEG (Fig. 1) presented its newly developed range of motors at the SPS/IPC/Drives trade fair in November 2012. The innovative W22 Super Premium electric motors (Fig. 2) are the only complete standard range available on the market worldwide that exceeds the yet-to-be-implemented IE4 regulations, enabling manufacturers to significantly improve energy efficiency throughout their plants and processes, and reduce their total cost of ownership. The W22 Super Premium gives outstanding performance across the full power range from 3 kW to 355 kW and enables up to 40 % lower losses compared to previous designs. Suitable for low-voltage supplies, the W22 Super Premium motor range covers 2, 4 and 6- pole motors in frame sizes from 132 up to 355. They are designed according to DIN EN 50347 standard, which means that customers can replace an IE1, IE2 or IE3 motor with total reliability.

In addition, the company premièred the new CFW500 inverter drive (Fig. 3), which is robust, flexible and smart, and available in power ratings from 0.18 kW up to 22 kW. It has been designed to be versatile for many industrial automation applications including centrifugal and process pumps, fans, compressors and conveyors. The new inverter drives are based on modular plug and play design, making them extremely easy to use and program. The drive includes a built-in micro-PLC, which can be programmed according to standard protocol IEC 61131-3. It also comes with pre-programmed macros for a range of applications, for example positioning, timer and acceleration. Users can simply program the drive using the LCD HMI display, or via a computer through a variety of interfaces (RS232, USB, RS485). WEG offers its WLP software for programming and monitoring to customers free of charge. Designed with simplicity of installation and operation in mind, it can identify up to 64 different plug-in modules. These are ideal for supporting decentralized automation concepts and are easy to connect to all the major fieldbus systems including Profibus-DP, ­DeviceNet and CANopen. The drive features expansion plug-in modules, which makes it easy to customize for bespoke applications. The inverter drives are reliable and can operate in ambient temperatures up to 50 °C. Key features are the high energy efficiency and reliability as well as long service lifetime.

During the trade fair, Ulrike Mehl, editor at AT INTERNATIONAL, spoke to Andreas Schulte Mesum, Sales Director at WEG Germany (Fig. 4), about the company’s development into a globally operating enterprise.

AT INTERNATIONAL: Sustainability is a high priority for WEG, the products presented as SPS/IPC/Drives demonstrating this. How is its importance reflected within the company or corporate culture?

Andreas Schulte Mesum: In the south of Brazil, WEG operates one of the world’s biggest electric motor factories – on a site covering 868 000 m². However, not only standard motors are manufactured (Fig. 5), the production operation comprises its own foundries (Fig. 6), factories for the production of electric wires and a factory for the production of coating powders and liquids. And we shouldn’t forget the sustainable pine and eucalyptus forest covering an area of 75 km² to secure the production of packaging material.

Basically, the company is relatively self-sufficient. When the company was founded in Brazil in 1961 there was ample labour, but hardly any infrastructure, and so that the company’s development was born of necessity and yet natural at the same time. Even today raw materials are bought in, e.g. bearings, various steel components and also raw copper. But we recycle our raw materials in-house too. The punching waste which, for instance, is produced from electrical sheet and makes up around 40 %, is fed back into the production cycle. The waste is pressed and melted down, and then this scrap electrical sheet is used to make, for example, the grey cast casings for our electric motors (Fig. 7). This way, we can react flexibly to demand and at the same time operate efficiently and sustainably.

WEG is a very much a verticalized business, which is still managed privately as a family-run company. One of the founders, Werner Ricardo Voigt, still walks round the production operation in Brazil. He is now 82 years old, but he lives with the company, which is shaped overall by flat hierarchies and partnership-based cooperation with each other.

AT INTERNATIONAL: WEG is a global enterprise. In which regions do you focus, especially with regard to mining and minerals?

Andreas Schulte Mesum: In mining and minerals we work primarily together with the big equipment suppliers, like Metso, Sandvik, Loesche, Polysius, FLSmidth or also Outotec. After all we are still a relatively young company. WEG has already existed for 50 years, but we only began operating worldwide with the founding of subsidiaries in the USA, Asia and Europe in the 1990s. In 1995, for example, WEG Germany GmbH was founded in Kerpen near Cologne, where, with over 60 000 motors, one of the largest motor warehouses worldwide is located. From 2004 we also became actively involved in China and India, and we established ourselves in South Africa in 2010. In any case, awareness of WEG and acceptance of our products have really only heightened since 2000 (Fig. 8).

Otherwise South America is very interesting for us as a market in the mining sector. Even if things are currently a little quieter, for example, in copper mining in Chile. But we can supply the motors needed there with IEC and NEMA classification and meet the standards required.

We worked together with Polysius on a big project in ­Mexico/South America. Together with Loesche we are currently working on three projects in Brazil. In France and Russia we were actively involved in a recycling project run by Metso Lindemann. Together with Outotec we have realized a pelletization plant in India. Africa is naturally also on our agenda. There we have supplied for the motors for ­FLSmidth’s orders to cement factories. In some cases projects are handled completely through WEG. These can then comprise the supply of frequency inverters to huge mill drives. That means that we sometimes conclude framework agreements for the supply of low-voltage motors and larger components up to entire transformer systems.

AT INTERNATIONAL: How is after-sales service organized at WEG?

Andreas Schulte Mesum: As part of project handling, after sales-service has now become an important element, especially for large motors. Our motors are delivered all over the world. For that reason we have service partners worldwide who can maintain our products, that is if we can’t call on employees from our own factories. We want to deliver solutions, not problems. If problems arise, we have to solve them as fast as possible. We are still a relatively young company and cannot permit ourselves any mistakes here.

AT INTERNATIONAL: Innovation is one of the hallmarks of WEG. Are research and development conducted only in Brazil or are new products developed worldwide by the different teams at their respective manufacturing sites?

Andreas Schulte Mesum: Research and development holds a high status in our company. There are dedicated departments at our main site in Brazil. A committee meets there once a year to discuss the company strategy and direction in which the company should develop. This meeting is attended by specialists from various universities – USA, Portugal and Germany. After all, with the further development of our products we want to be at the forefront of research, and if possible a step ahead. A recent example of this is our W22 Super Premium electric motor that already meets the regulations for IE4 energy efficiency class although these have not yet been passed in law.

Research and development are conducted at our central location in Brazil. But on account of the history of the company, naturally we have a strong affinity to Germany. The calculation programs for our motors were developed and optimized at the University in Hanover. In the development of our frequency inverters we are working together with the University of Wuppertal. Otherwise, our customers give us feedback, which is then also channelled into our development work.

AT INTERNATIONAL: In view of the continuous growth of your company, we can assume that you have a corresponding demand for employees. Have you noticed anything of the widely invoked shortage of well-trained engineers?

Andreas Schulte Mesum: WEG has indeed grown enormously since its founding and we don’t foresee any hold-up in growth. Consequently, we do have a correspondingly high demand for labour. However, for various reasons, it is not very easy to find good employees. For one thing, courses for electrical engineers aren’t offered everywhere so that there are not so many graduates. Secondly, our company is not yet so well known and therefore not as attractive as comparable companies in the sector. And anyone who wants to work in technical development (Fig. 9) has to go to our plants in Brazil, India or China. Development work isn’t done in Germany or in Europe. These are more a base for sales and project handling.

In the search for employees, we do use recruiting agencies. And ultimately we always manage to recruit new employees as we offer an interesting field of work.

AT INTERNATIONAL: What are your future development strategies and plans for the forthcoming 5 to 10 years?

Andreas Schulte Mesum: Over the course of the last 16 years we have achieved a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of a good 18 %, and we expect further substantial growth in the next few years. The target is annual sales of 20 bill. Real (R$) by 2020, that is just under 10 bill. US$ or around 7.5 bill. €. At the moment we are at around 3 bill. €. Growth costs a lot of money, you have to invest. But WEG is in any case very strong financially. And as family-run business, its decision-making channels work quite fast. When investments need to be made, a small group meeting is held, the decision is taken and then the respective project is promptly realized. You can say the company is extremely fast in its response and very effective as a result. In 2011 we earned 56 % of our turnover in Brazil and 44 % in other regions. The European market makes up around 24 % of our total exports and we expect our export share to increase further.

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