It is no secret that innovation and technological change are at the doorstep of every industry.

This is no different for the mining industry as the adoption of relevant technology means that most operations can be executed safely and more efficiently.

SEW-EURODRIVE SA (SEW), a specialist in drive technology, has jumped onto the technology bandwagon to deliver optimised processes and a comprehensive range of services to customers across the entire value chain – from engineering and selection all the way to startup and maintenance.

SEW-EURODRIVE embodies movement, tradition, innovation, quality and service all in one and with 80 years in the business has proved this to its customers.

The company does not just drive the movement of countless conveyer belts, assembly lines, chemical processes, and even you on escalators; SEW is also
moving as a company.

Nearly 600 researchers and developers are working on creating the future of drive automation and making it better.

Collectively, about 17 000 employees around the world are moving to solve SEW’s customers’ tasks and optimise their processes.

This is how the company has evolved throughout its history to become the market leader in the industry of drive automation with a turnover of more than £3 billion.

“While Africa is a major focus, and is becoming an ever larger chunk of our business, we would like to reassure our customers that we are still very strong in the South African market.

“It will continue to be important to us to be successful here as well. We remain cautiously optimistic going into 2019, secure in the knowledge that we are well prepared to continue to offer our valued customers the latest technology, and the aftermarket support to back this up,” states SEW-EURODRIVE SA MD, Raymond Obermeyer.

Motion in mining

According to national sales and marketing manager Norman Maleka the mining environment needs to play catch-up, and SEW is able to inform the industry of the quickest and most practical means of doing so within its field of expertise.

“As we all know, mining is very labour intensive and the most rugged and hostile environment. However, the large labour force consumed by mining within the traditional working conditions can be compensated with suitable technology.”

He explains that mining tends to shy away from sophisticate technology and has always relied on manual labour.

The uptake of automation has been slow because it is such a difficult operating environment. Any equipment installed has to be sufficiently rugged and durable to withstand these conditions.

This is why SEW also focuses on solutions specifically for minerals processing plants, which have a greater demand for new technology.

In addition, Maleka highlights that technology is the ‘future of mining’.

“Our message to the industry is that we listen to our customers, and develop products in response to their present needs and the host of issues facing the mining industry at present, from energy-saving to automation.”

“As we all know, mining is very labour intensive and the most rugged and hostile environment. However, the large labour force consumed by mining and the working conditions can be compensated with suitable technology.”

Projects department

The biggest revenue-generating industry for SEW is mining, largely through work undertaken for project houses. The company also deals with OEMs who tender to produce solutions.

Having an in-house projects department to focus on the specific requirements of project houses, OEMs and other tender-related project activity is starting to bear fruit for SEW.

Looking to the future, Andreas Meid, head of SEW’s projects department comments that the company is well on its way to being perceived as a sole solutions provider for its clients.

“While our mechanical product remains our core focus, particularly given the harsh operating environment in Africa – combined with the lack of technical skills – SEW has always been sufficiently forward thinking to make sure our clients have access to the latest technology and developments.”

SEW has delivered countless solutions, using some of its latest electronic
products. One of the most recent projects includes an order for five M-Series industrial gear units for a West African gold mine.

The projects department oversaw the entire West African project from receipt of the initial order to successful installation and commissioning at the mine, in addition to any backup service and technical assistance required.

SEW delivered the M-Series industrial gear units (with the ‘M’ indicating
‘modular’) which are ideal to meet the highest demands for quality, reliability, and performance.

The product range has been optimised for a range of drive characteristics, allowing for simple machine design by easily adding options and mounting parts.

A long service life is guaranteed due to highly efficient lubrication and sealing, which also cuts down on maintenance requirements. Easy mounting and installation are facilitated by advanced features such as EBD (extended bearing distance) and an axial thrust bearing arrangement on the output shaft.

It is this capability to offer complete solutions packages, as opposed to standalone products, in addition to the necessary aftermarket support, that has resulted in SEW’s projects department showing consistent growth year-on-year.

“We pride ourselves on our on-time delivery in particular, which is a clear
differentiator for us in a highly competitive market. We are committed to supplying high-quality products, in addition to the continuous improvement of our customer service offering.”

The projects department also has a drawing office, and a mechanical engineer to compile any calculations that are needed. Its core function is to respond to queries from either project houses or OEMs for specific project work.

“Based on the enquiries received, we work in conjunction with the specific project house or OEM to offer a complete solution for their mining clients.

“In other words, our products essentially allow them to complete their portion of the work in hand,” Meid explains.

Such collaboration between suppliers and related companies is a growing
trend in response to a tough business environment, and the clients’ need to
reduce costs by installing the latest technology.

Comprehensive service range

When the name SEW-EURODRIVE is mentioned, some of the first things people are quick to mention are geared motors and gearboxes.

Included in the SEW range are gearmotors, gear units, motors, components for decentralised installation, electronically controlled drives, and mechanical variable-speed gearmotors, as well as drive solutions that involve a lot of engineering.

Not forgetting the supplementary services and service offerings.

SEW is involved in a number of projects across a wide range of sectors with the bulk of SEW’s project work secured in Africa at present.

Variable speed drive

A copper mine in Zambia required a 110 kW Variable Speed Drive (VSD) urgently for a slurry application. It turned to SEW, which was not only able to supply the unit on a fast-track basis over the Christmas 2017 period, but it also assisted with on-site commissioning.

As it was the first time that SEW had supplied this mine with a VSD it decided to go the extra mile by dispatching an electronics field service technician to site to assist with the commissioning and set-up.

“This project was a major achievement for us, not only due to the large size of the unit, which is one of the biggest VSDs we carry in stock, but also the fact that we have introduced this mining producer to our electronics line-up,” comments export sales engineer, Philip Steyn.

A particular advantage of the VSD supplied is that the mine did not have
to upgrade its control system in order to have it connected and running as
soon as possible.

“Changing out a VSD is not as simple as changing a motor, but the modularity and ease-of-use of our products makes this a quick and efficient procedure.

“This is a clear example where our class-leading technology gives us leading edge in the market,” Steyn highlights.

The project has been a success and the mining producer is looking to procure a second VSD as a back-up unit – which SEW already has on hand if need be.

“Our significant stockholding is a critical factor in our success. It is all about being able to deliver and going above and beyond what is required.”

A major advantage in this regard is the company’s exports department, which facilitates cross-border projects such as this one in the Zambian Copperbelt.

“The back-up and support service offered by the exports department is crucial, especially as we cannot be on-site constantly. However, the necessary support structure is in place, and we do conduct regular in-country visits,” Steyn adds.

The success of this project not only increases SEW’s installed base in the Zambian Copperbelt itself, but further entrenches the company as a supplier of solutions that make for the lowest total cost of ownership.

“For example, we have just sold an additional two gearboxes to the same mining producer, with a further two on order.

“The benefit for customers is that they have peace of mind that all our products come with comprehensive technical assistance and back-up support, even in Africa,” Steyn concludes.


With a large footprint and customer base in food and beverage, automotive and mining, SEW is also targeting niche sectors such as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) in order to ensure sustained growth.

In this regard, its LTP-B Eco HVAC drive is starting to make inroads in this market thanks to its combination of innovative technology and easy-to-use features.

High energy efficiency makes the LTP-B Eco HVAC drive ideal for applications as diverse as large buildings, hospitals and even mills.

Sectors range from commercial to residential and industrial.

“Energy-saving is a major focus in HVAC. Our drive caters for this with an advanced ‘sleep’ and ‘wake’ function that maximises energy efficiency by only switching on a pump when it is required,” Johannesburg sales manager Clive O’Reilly explains.

Maximum operating efficiency is guaranteed thanks to an automatic pump cleaning function, along with additional features such as the fact that the drive allows for the operation of multiple pump sets, without any need for a costly PLC.

Instead, a built-in PLC function allows customised applications to be programmed directly into the drive.

Pump maintenance requirements are reduced drastically due to blockage detection and run-dry protection. A built-in energy consumption meter has a clear display, which means that end users can calculate energy savings quickly.

A motor preheat function allows for smooth start-up every time, without any internal condensation forming inside the drive if the ambient temperature is low.

The LTP-B Eco HVAC drive is available in single-phase variants (220 V) from 0.75 kW to 2.2 kW. This allows for added flexibility in applications where three-phase power is unavailable, a major constraint in Africa.

Three-phase variants (440 V) range from 0.75 kW to 160 kW. A 525 V range (0.75 kW to 11 kW) is available specifically for mining-industry applications.

The drive is available in IP20, IP55, and IP66 ingress protection ratings. The latter can be supplied with an optional built-in isolator that is integrated with the drive for maximum functionality.

The range of IP ratings makes the drive ideal for demanding operating conditions from food and beverage to hazardous environments.

Of particular interest to the building industry is the drive’s fire-detection capability, which means that ‘fire run’ mode can be activated in the event of any fire.

This allows for the normal safety features to be bypassed, and for the fan to keep running for as long as it takes to extract any smoke in the immediate vicinity.

O’Reilly reveals that the LTP-B Eco HVAC drive has already been used successfully in a range of large building projects in Cape Town, which represents a very active market in terms of HVAC.

Training is provided for all end users, but a 24/7 back-up service and technical support ensures maximum reliability and uptime.

“What gives us the competitive edge in the HVAC market is our capability to supply additional products, such as our electronics and IE3 DRN motor series, which means we can offer our clients complete solutions.

“Having a single point of contact reduces the risk, while standardisation and modularity reduces costs significantly, and allows for a very competitive return on investment,” O’Reilly concludes.

ECDriveS 24 V

SEW has launched a solution to cut costs in the materials handling supply chain. The latest trend in materials handling has seen sectors such as warehousing, packing, and pick and-place use cheaper components for light-load conveyor applications in order to reduce total supply-chain costs.

In response to this latest customer requirement, SEW has launched its new ECDriveS 24 V drive system.

The ECDriveS is an acronym for Electronically Commutated Drive System, a brushless DC gearmotor. It also stands for ‘easy drive’, a simple and cost-efficient drive solution for roller-conveyor applications.

A standout feature of the new drive system is that it is easily integrated into existing solutions, as it features both Ethernet and PROFINET communications for seamless interfacing.

“The ease of integration is a major selling point for this product, as there is no need to change networks. Other advantages are precise positioning and ramp-up and rampdown and the ability to vary the conveyor speed accordingly,” explains Maleka.

Sensor input and output is provided for easy monitoring, with an alarm triggered in the event of any problem. The drive system has an IP 54 protection rating, in addition to an IP 66 version for more demanding applications such as industrial and food and beverage applications. The temperature range is –10°C to 40°C, while the roller speed is up to 5 m/s.

The gearbox speeds range from 8.5 rpm to 645 rpm for added flexibility.

“This so-called ‘easy drive’ is easy to work with, set up, install, and maintain. This means it is particularly suited to African operating conditions, where on-site technical skills are often limited,” Maleka comments.

Set-up is either by dual in-line package (DIP) switches, or the drive system can be programmed using SEW proprietary software. Despite the simplicity of the drive system, it even boasts a built-in encoder for precise positioning.

The encoder allows for accurate positioning of items whenever the conveyor is stopped, which is of particular benefit to customers with sorting applications.

While SEW has already been involved in this smaller end of the market, the launch of ECDriveS will position itself as a preferred solutions provider.

“We have tended to focus on larger applications. However, the introduction of ECDriveS means we can now compete effectively, especially against inferior-quality and cheaper imports,” Maleka notes.

The introduction of the high-volume ECDriveS is integral to the company’s strategy of offering a total solution.

“We strive continuously to introduce products that add to our overall portfolio, and which complement our existing range. This is linked to our approach of targeting system integrators.

“At the end of the day, we want to make our customers aware that we can offer them complete end-to-end solutions, and not just components.”

Value-added service

While SEW has already been offering value-added services to some of its
larger customers, it plans to roll them out to all customers and broaden this scope in its aftermarket support.

“Normally we carry out a visual inspection to determine the condition of a gearbox or power pack. Now we can pinpoint a specific bearing or gear component within the unit that is starting to fail and identify whether or not the oil is in a usable condition,” says Eben Pretorius, head of the field service department.

The advantage for customers is that they are made aware of potential problems or imminent failures, and can plan corrective actions around their normal shutdown periods.

This approach is less disruptive to their businesses, and more cost-effective than unscheduled or unplanned downtime.

“SEW is able to work with customers to carry out preventative maintenance
or supply replacement units on short notice to maximise plant uptime. The
value-added services are applicable to SEW’s extensive geared motor
and industrial gear product ranges,”Pretorius stresses.

In addition, SEW is in the process of incorporating these value-added services into formal service contracts for customers to ensure their maintenance and condition monitoring is performed by skilled technicians with specialist knowledge in the transmission industry.

The success of the field service department to date indicates a clear need for skilled and knowledgeable technicians who are able to service and repair products in the field.

We are able to assist customers with field service on non-SEW geared units and the replacement of non-SEW control systems, providing customers with
the advantages of our service and solutions offering, irrespective of the current products installed.”

“In terms of future developments, we plan to continue to strengthen our
market-leading position by keeping pace with the leading technology and
solutions we continue to develop,” Pretorius concludes.