As part of ABB’s strategic plans to strengthen local manufacturing, the company has invested over R10-million to complete an additional technology transfer that brings the manufacture of UniGear ZS1 medium voltage switchgear to South Africa.
Longmeadow campus in Modderfontein, Johannesburg spans 43 520m2 and contains offices, and manufacturing and logistics centres.
Previously, the product was fully imported from the Czech Republic, or other countries when needed. Due to the investment, 60 to 70% of the technology will be locally manufactured and assembled. As a result, the company’s customers will benefit from a higher design flexibility, faster accessibility and decreased costs, due to reduced import costs and delivery time.
“The size of the South African switchgear market is projected to register growth. The increasing number of investments in sustainable power generation, coupled with the growing population, is expected to drive the growth of the market. This illustrates both the importance of the domestic sector to multinationals and the strategic location of South Africa to a rapidly growing African consumer market,” says Yunus Hoosen, head of InvestSA, an agency of the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition.
The Distribution Solutions factory within the campus now employs around 120 people, ten of whom have been newly employed due to this investment. ABB plans to increase these numbers by employing more permanent engineers, contractors, and graduates – for example, through its graduate programme, in which over 70 graduates are currently participating. In this way, ABB South Africa is playing its part by creating jobs in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
In addition to the transfer of UniGear ZS1 production, the company has started the process of increasing the localisation of its Compact Secondary Substations (CSS), due to be completed in October 2023.
Egon Worthmann, medium voltage (MV) primary AIS switchgear manager for ABB Electrification’s Distribution Solutions division, says that: “Utilities are increasingly looking to implement smart solutions to solve complex energy challenges. ABB is well placed to continue to deliver world-class solutions to customers now through local manufacturing right here in South Africa. The creation of job opportunities for local engineers and contractors demonstrates our commitment to the long-term development of the country.”
Built in 2009, ABB South Africa’s headquarters demonstrate the company’s early adoption of more sustainable manufacturing approaches, with the site boasting a 760 kWp array of rooftop solar panels that generate enough solar energy to cover around 30% of the site’s annual energy consumption of 2 400 MWh.
Hoosen states that “the ABB investment further signifies that South Africa remains an attractive investment destination across all sectors, including the Advanced Manufacturing sector.”
He further added, “InvestSA remains ready and committed to assist foreign and domestic investors in realising their investment in South Africa, more so with localisation, a key part of economic reconstruction and recovery.”
The Distribution Solutions factory serves customers in South Africa and other sub-Saharan countries.