28 June 2012 – Global technology innovation leader Siemens officially launched South Africa’s proudly manufactured NXAir Medium Voltage Switchgear at its Northriding facility, as part of its localisation initiative, which is already helping boost the local economy. “The launch follows a successful partnership between Siemens and Voith Hydro, which funded approximately R15 million for the pre-production and main production lines for the NXAir Switchgear”, says Celeste van Niekerk, the head of Socio-Economic Development at Siemens Southern Africa. Previously imported from Europe, Siemens is now supplying the NXAir technology across Africa.

This initiative came as a result of the awarding of the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme main Generating Plant Contract to Voith Hydro by Eskom. The contract included the Competitive Supplier Development Programme (CSDP) obligation, which required Voith Hydro to invest in the South African Industry, by creating a competitive local supply of medium voltage switchgear – making locally available a specification which is suitable for use at Eskom’s new build power stations and within the entire distribution network. Voith Hydro then selected Siemens as the technology partner and the Northriding facility, being part of the low and medium voltage business set-up of the Siemens Infrastructure and Cities Sector (IC), was best suited for the manufacturing of this technology.   
   
The investment required Siemens Southern Africa to obtain a manufacturing license from its global parent company, Siemens AG, which came into fruition in October 2011. With commissioning of the punching and bending machines completed in November 2011, the first three local prototype NXAir panels were manufactured and presented to both the Voith and Eskom project management teams to verify and streamline the final product.

“Upon the successful implementation of the production layout and the equipment, orders in excess of R200 million for the new NXAir have been received to date”, says van Niekerk.

Speaking of the role of Siemens in South Africa van Niekerk says, “We playing our part in ensuring that South Africa not only becomes the medium voltage technological hub for the continent, but its people are skilled and empowered in order to contribute meaningfully to their country’s economy.”

Part of reaching this milestone included employing and training fifteen previously disadvantaged people, three of whom were trained and certified in the Siemens factories in Germany and Turkey. Experts from Siemens headquarters in Germany were also sent to South Africa for onsite training. In a demonstration of international knowledge and skills sharing at work, these employees then commenced with on the job training to the other employees in the factory. The cost of the training was offered by the Siemens international factories free of charge and only travelling expenses were incurred by the local factory. Van Niekerk adds that 70% of the procurement of electrical wiring labour was subcontracted to a black owned company.

The NXAIR, modern and competitive platform switchgear designed and type-tested to the new IEC62271-200, provides customers with a platform upon which to build a reliable electrical network. It is a more compact design with 1350 mm panel depth which saves the customer’s building volume. NXAIR is modular drawable air insulated switchgear. With maximum ratings of 17.5 Kv 95KvBil 3150 A 40Ka 3s which can be in the form of a Circuit-breaker panel, disconnecting panel, metering panel or contactor panel for industry applications with up 1,000,000 switching cycles.

South Africa now forms part of a global network of medium voltage manufacturing and expertise. Other countries manufacturing the new NXAIR switchgear include Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan,Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.