It’s not every day that a 92-year-old founder of a global company comes to a sales meeting but that’s not unusual at WEG. This type of corporate culture defines the company and makes its customers eager to work with them. Whether it’s hosting backyard barbeques with executives or working side-by-side in the office, WEG has been able to create a working environment that treats everyone like family. And, it’s a family that many now belong to.
The small-town friendliness began in 1961 when an electrician, a manager, and a mechanic decided to found Eletromotores Jaraguá in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. Years later, the company changed its name to Eletromotores WEG SA. The WEG name comes from the first initials of the three founders: Werner Ricardo Voigt, Eggon João da Silva and Geraldo Werninghaus. This trio joined their talents together reflecting their small town values and ways of treating people: an attitude they have kept throughout the company’s historic growth.
Although the founders, now semi-retired, may still walk the streets of WEG’s hometown of Jaragua do Sul (now larger and flourishing thanks in part to WEG) and say “good morning” to friends and neighbors, their company is currently home to 30,000 employees with operations on five continents and valued at $3.5 billion.
“Even though we are a huge global company now, we still treat our customers as individuals and work with them as partners and friends,” explains Gerardo Elias-Rodriguez, Marketing Manager for WEG Electric Corp. USA. “We really want to grow together with our customers and distributors and help each other succeed and not just take product orders. We’re down-to-earth and approachable – open to hear what our customers have to say.”
This “grow together” attitude coupled with a vast array of industrial electric motor and motor control technology keeps customers coming back to WEG time and time again.
Quality Manufacturing at Every Turn
Since its inception in 1961, WEG has grown into a global solutions provider of industrial electrical technologies. WEG is the largest industrial electric motor manufacturer in the Americas and one of the largest manufacturers of electric motors in the world producing more than 21 million units annually.
Even with its small-town roots, the company is committed to growth on a global scale. WEG continually invests in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and processes and the development of new and improved industrial electrical solutions. The company considers itself an expert in motor products with a diverse and integrated product line that includes motors, drives, soft starters, controls, panels, transformers, generators, and custom solutions.
To keep a close eye on quality, WEG manufactures its products from top to bottom and has its own foundry for parts, its own copper wire manufacturing facility, and its own plant for paints and varnishes. Even some of the machines used in the manufacturing process are “Made by WEG.” According to Elias-Rodriguez: “Since we control the process, we can control the quality. WEG owns the technology, produces the engineering, and manufactures the product to make sure we produce the most reliable and cost effective products we can for our customers. This vertical integration makes a difference in quality and sets us apart from the competition.”
WEG participates in most industrial segments – they have products and solutions that cover most major industries, including:
- Cement and Mining
- Oil and Gas
- Pulp and Paper
- Food and Beverage
- Water and Wastewater
Elias-Rodriguez explains: “When some industrial segments are up others are down, and WEG’s presence in such a wide variety of segments has been key to our success.”
Even with an eye on quality manufacturing, WEG makes sure that it’s the people who are happy – customers and the employees who create the products. In the company’s 50th Anniversary video, WEG CEO Harry Schmelzer, Jr. states: “We know that technology and products are important but the nature of our business is the people. It is they who create, innovate, and make growth become something real.”
Staying Close to the Customer
In keeping with WEG’s commitment to the customer, the company has established offices throughout the world. It’s important to WEG to maintain their corporate culture but be able to capture the local flavor within each location. “That proximity allows us to know more about our customers,” explained Elias-Rodriguez. “In each country we think of ourselves as a domestic brand. We are close to our customers, understand how to do business in that part of the world, and know how to communicate best.”
As an example of this continuing customer commitment, WEG opened its U.S. operations in 1991 in Duluth, GA where they focus on American customers. “In Georgia, we think of WEG as an American company. We manufacture in the USA. We have a large motors and generators facility in Minneapolis, and a LV (low voltage) and MV (medium voltage) panel shop here in Duluth, GA” said Elias-Rodriguez. “It’s the same throughout the world. It’s important to WEG to know the people we’re doing business with … and for them to know us as well.”
Keeping this close to the customer is at the heart of WEG’s basic principles. The founders remember traveling by bus and bicycle along the rural roads of Brazil to sell motors directly to customers. In addition to the initials of its founders, WEG also is loosely translated in English to mean “path.” And, it’s this path of strong customer relationships that remains with WEG – from the past use of bicycles for delivery to today’s travel on airplanes across the globe. No matter where a customer is located or how unique their projects are, the WEG engineers will find a solution.
Entering the Future While Keeping the Past Intact
Knowing that every type of industry in the world uses motors, drives and controls, WEG understands that its products are an essential part of the future. Whether it’s in oil and gas or heating and air conditioning, there will be industrial uses for WEG products for a long time to come. As a result, the company incorporates smart technology in cooperation with green products and sustainability. “It’s incumbent upon us to make sure we’re acting as a good steward for our operations,” said Elias-Rodriguez. “We make sure we use energy efficient processes whenever possible and offer products that help customers save money by helping them be more energy efficient. Our products are powerfully efficient and environmentally friendly. Reliable and efficient products for all industries help maintain a healthy environment with less downtime and lower energy use.”
Today, after years of producing millions of motors and related products, WEG still has its roots in the basics – quality products and strong relationships with customers and employees. The founders remember the company being called an “improbable success.” But those who know the three entrepreneurs are not surprised at the success of these founders who were happy even when selling just 12 motors a month. WEG’s dedication to people and how they treat everyone has made all the difference. As founder Werner Voigt said so eloquently: “We’re all the same here on Earth.”
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