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Driving efficiency in the South African automotive industry
09 May 2017
Driving efficiency in the South African automotive industry

Leading automotive manufacturers in South Africa have standardised on gear motors, Variable Speed Drives (VSDs), and control systems from SEW-EURODRIVE in order to maintain export quality in terms of international supply agreements.

The major drive in the local automotive industry is to adhere to increasingly stringent standards for the global factories of the main multinationals. “South Africa has been lagging a bit in this regard, but we are getting up to speed. What gives SEW-EURODRIVE South Africa the upper hand is that we are a recognised leader internationally in terms of drive technology for the automotive industry,” Sales Manager Clive O’Reilly comments.

The automotive industry is particularly strong in South Africa due to such factors as cheaper labour and manufacturing costs. “Two of the automotive OEMs we deal with have international supply agreements with us, which means that every single manufacturing facility across the world has standardised on SEW-EURODRIVE technology,” O’Reilly comments.

Increasing cost and competitive pressures also mean that local automotive manufacturers are ugrading their plants continually. “For example, we are involved with a particular expansion where the aim is to ramp up production by 10%. This does not sound like a lot, but it equates to an extra output of 40 vehicles per day,” explains Sales Engineer Willem Strydom. In terms of this specific project, SEW-EURODRIVE South Africa is supplying all of the electronics for the plant’s hoisting applications.

SEW-EURODRIVE’s introduction of IE3-compliant DRN motors, which comply to the latest European energy-efficiency standards, is proving highly successful in the local automotive industry, which has a growing demand to boost energy efficiency to reduce overall production costs and boost margins. Another advantage is SEW-EURODRIVE’s capability to work closely with system integrators to optimise its product and service offering. SEW-EURODRIVE technicians travel regularly to Germany to receive up-to-date training in this regard.

Looking at some of the latest technological trends in the automotive industry, Strydom points to improved Electrified Monorail Systems (EMS) and optimised automation, which focuses on handling everything from a single point. “What this means is not only a safer environment for workers, but the elimination of human-related errors. This is particularly critical as the automotive industry moves towards increasingly pervasive automation.”

For example, the MAXOLUTION® EMS system from SEW-EURODRIVE separates the vehicle assembly track into segments, meaning it is possible to travel and stop at different speeds. Control signals, based on positive and negative half-waves or full-waves, speeds up simple transportation tasks dramatically. MOVIVISION® plant software allows for all vehicle functions to be parameterised, without any complex programming knowledge, which slashes start-up times.

“The electronics side is evolving constantly,” Strydom notes. “The main driver at the moment is the move towards decentralised control based on wireless systems, which means you will no longer require extensive cabling running throughout the factory.” This has also resulted in increased product integration, such as the MOVIGEAR® mechatronic drive system from SEW-EURODRIVE.

“Reducing the lag between operations, control, and the mechanical elements saves a lot of energy and minimises losses. We are moving more and more towards that, especially in terms of smaller conveyor sections. The end result is that, in five to ten years’ time, the entire gear motor system – the motor, gearbox, and VSD – is likely to be integrated completely,” Strydom predicts. In anticipation of this trend, SEW-EURODRIVE Cape Town has been appointed to assemble and repair MOVIGEAR® mechatronic drive systems locally. “From that perspective, we are definitely raising the benchmark in South Africa.”

Along with food and beverage and mining, the automotive industry is one of SEW-EURODRIVE’s key target markets. “Our strong presence in all of these industries means we have a stable technological base and project experience, given we have a presence in over 47 countries. This is important for the automotive industry in particular, where any downtime has a significant impact on its bottom line,” O’Reilly concludes.

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