Invertek Drives, the UK-based designer and manufacturer of Optidrive variable frequency drives for electric motor control, has begun training technical staff from South African sales partner, iTek Drives, ahead of anticipated accreditation as an Optidrive full service and repairs centre.

Accreditation will reinforce iTek’s position as a leading supplier of variable frequency drives (VFDs) in sub-Saharan Africa, the service and repairs centre removing any need to send product back to England, reducing costs and helping to contain prices under pressure from exchange rate fluctuations and inflation. 

Fully adjustable speeds

VFDs, also known as an inverters, are electronic controllers that change motor speeds by adjusting electric frequencies and voltages. They are commonly fitted to lifting equipment, fans, pumps and compressors where fully adjustable speeds during start, stop and machine acceleration are advantageous.

The well-established Optidrive VFD range enjoys a reputation as a high-technology, high-quality variable speed drive offered at prices that have remained remarkably competitive despite inflationary and other pressures.

In bulk

“We have managed to keep our prices well below those of rival products, in most cases by about twenty-five percent,” says Ryan Bisnath, iTek Drives sales director.

“We have optimised logistics by ordering in bulk to minimise freight costs, and we have absorbed some of the unavoidable input increases directly. This has helped keep our price increases down, generally at somewhere between five and eight percent,” Ryan explains.

Definitely the lowest

“Optidrive has, through iTek Drives, without question become South Africa’s lowest priced premium range of high-technology VFDs. Our ultra-competitive pricing strategy remains a major contributor to increasing sales volumes, up by 25 percent year-on-year on small drives, and 30 percent on drives of 50kW and above.”

After iTek opens its service and repairs centre, the company will extend its bouquet of end-user training programmes.

Lifting applications

The previously established training centre, opened in May, already runs thrice-monthly modules on lifting applications. These will become weekly in Quarter Four to accommodate the increasing number of new customers. Training modules for pump and air-conditioning applications are being developed for introduction in early 2024.

The service and repairs centre will be ready for inspection, audit and accreditation by Invertek Drives in November of this year, a stringent process that Ryan says iTek is confident of passing.

Prices down

“Repairs accreditation is an important step in our expansion plans,” he adds. “Cost savings achieved through local repairs will be used to keep prices down.” Ryan states that the comprehensive initial repair capability will be extended by training agents and customers on drive repairs and, ultimately, on drive programming as well. 

“We have customers who use our drives to make panels for their own customers, mainly for applications in irrigation and air-conditioning. The more they understand Optidrive, the more likely they will be to incorporate it into the panels they put together.”

Geographic expansion

Asked about geographic expansion, Ryan notes that Optidrive VFDs were represented at an October trade exhibition targeting Zambia’s mines. “We hope to conclude negotiations with a sub-agent in Zambia soon, and we are in separate talks with a Namibian company. The first country in our African network will probably be Kenya, where negotiations are currently being finalised.

“The intention is to expand our footprint internationally within Africa, delivering top-quality drives to countries south of the Sahara, and supporting them with technical service via our newly accredited service and repairs centre,” Ryan concludes.

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