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Hyundai replaces Hitachi as Silverteam’s drives supplier

02 June, 2010

Silverteam has ended its agreement Hitachi under which it was the exclusive agent for Hitachi inverters in the UK. As a replacement, the Great Yarmouth company is introducing new ranges of inverters and motor control gear from the Korean manufacturer Hyundai Heavy Industries which have not been widely available in the UK until now.

The Silverteam operation is being folded into its sister company, Softstart UK, and the consolidated company will offer a wider range of low and medium voltage motor control equipment.

The termination of Silverteam’s agreement with Hitachi follows protracted negotiations between the two companies. Silverteam was formed in 2003 to act as Hitachi’s UK agent for drive and control products after the Japanese company’s former UK distributor, HID, went into receivership.

But, following the ending of Omron’s drives joint venture with Yaskawa last year, Hitachi reached an agreement to supply Omron with drives which will carry the Omron name. This meant that Silverteam would no longer have UK exclusivity for these products.

Negotiations between Hitachi and Silverteam lasted about nine months and were finally concluded at the beginning of June. Hitachi is paying Silverteam an undisclosed amount in compensation for terminating their agreement early.

But Silverteam – to be known in future as Softstart UK – will continue to sell Hitachi PLCs and brushless AC servo drives.

Softstart UK’s agreement with its new supplier Hyundai covers LV inverters from 0.4–400kW, as well as MV drives and switchgear – the first time these will be available in Europe. Also included are miniature contactors, moulded case circuit breakers, and vacuum contactors and circuit-breakers. Hyundai drives will be available immediately off-the-shelf
in ratings up to 132kW .

“We’re aiming to be a complete one-stop-shop for motor control gear, right through to 11kV, and will be looking to increase our capability still further in the future,” says Softstart`s managing director, Stuart Harvey, who is planning to take on a product manager to handle the control gear portfolio.

The protracted separation negotiations with Hitachi gave Softstart time to scour the market for new suppliers. “We’ve had a surprising number of franchise opportunities, both from home and abroad,” Harvey reports.

“We selected Hyundai for a number of reasons,” he adds. “Although they’re not yet well-known for electrical equipment in the UK market, they’re established, strong players in the Far East and were able to demonstrate high product reliability. Prices are very competitive and the range of products available to us enables us to meet all of our objectives. The inverter range particularly is compact and well featured, and has been favourably received during our market research. We’re sure they’ll be even more successful than our previous product ranges.

The photo (above) above shows Harvey with Ryan Sung of Hyundai Heavy Industries.

“Our arrangement with Hitachi limited our capabilities significantly and we were unable always to meet our customers’ requests,” Harvey continues. “Now we’re able to add a superb new range of inverters to our successful high-power soft-starters. 

Harvey’s agreement with Hyundai also allows him to sell the Korean equipment elsewhere in Europe but he says that he will be focussing initially on the UK market. He adds that all 12 of Silverteam’s key distribution partners in the UK will be handling the new ranges. “We haven’t lost a single partner.”

One gap in the Hyundai portfolio is for IP54-protected drives, and Harvey is plugging that gap with a range of standalone drives from the Spanish manufacturer, Power Electronics. These will span ratings from 37kW to 1.9MW, at 400V and 690V.

Harvey says that he doesn’t expect to keep all of his Hitachi drives customers, but is aiming to retain at least 50–60%. If he achieves this, the Softstart UK business will be split roughly 50:50 between softstarts and the new products.

Harvey is writing to all of his former Hitachi drives customers explaining the changes, and informing them that their Hitachi inverter products will, in future, be supported by Omron.

He reports that the market is starting to pick up after the recession and that sales of high-power MV soft-starters are buoyant. “We’ll now be able to offer complete soft-start systems built from our own off-the-shelf components, and to improve delivery and competitiveness,” he says.

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