SA electronics companies profile: CZ Electronics

27 July 2005 News

Like myself, many readers must be wondering what happened to the state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities of the once Alcatel Altech Telecommunications (AAT) in Boksburg (formerly STC). This facility in 1999 was producing 18 000 DECT radio terminals a week on the back of a substantial R2 bn order from Telkom for its rural roll-out programme. In 2002, Altech decided to re-focus its business on home-grown technology products, the facility was closed and Altech sold its 40% stake in AAT for some R335m.

Another local company (CZ Electronics) also involved in the telecommunications business, purchased the Boksburg manufacturing facility in 2002 and established a new company called CZ Electronics (Manufacturing) (CZ). Although no figure is given for the purchase price, CZ indubitably secured a world-class manufacturing facility at a highly discounted price. Today, the facility is back in full operation with two fully-automated SMT lines capable of placing some 60 000 components per hour, handling fine pitch (0,3 mm), high pin count (>250 pins) and BGA devices. The 8000 m² facility has its component placement capability supported by solder paste printers with two-dimensional vision systems and forced air convection (nitrogen) solder reflow ovens. Conventional leaded components and bottom side plated SMT components are wave soldered using the latest Delta dual wave soldering system. Full test facilities for assembled boards and products are available.


CZ manufactures a range of its own products mostly for the telecommunications industry. The company's SOR 18 transceiver is an 18 channel rural access product for voice and data over open wires while its MDAQ device is a 2 Mbps data acquisition and monitoring system with managed terminal regenerators, hitless switch and Ethernet bridge. Its recently launched Smartjack is claimed to be a product that can save telecom operators millions of rand in callout costs.

The Smartjack is a device located on the customer's premises and is used to enhance remote access testing through demarcating the point between Telkom's digital network and the customer's equipment. This media and acquisition equipment can provide accurate performance and alarm information for the entire network. CZ also offers its Phoneshop which is a GSM-based system that can be installed in taxis for use by passengers. The driver receives payment and credits this to the phone which can be used until the available credit is depleted.

The SOR 18 MK I was designed specifically to replace the old rural 'party line', and it provides each subscriber with their own number and private connection. The need for an operator to manage these rural lines is now eliminated. The SOR MK II system makes it possible for the technical staff of the operator to inspect the operability of the subscriber's equipment remotely, eliminating the need for on-the-ground inspection. A wireless version of the SOR 18 is also available. The SOR 18 makes provision for 18 POTS subscribers connected via a single open wire pair and the distance from the exchange to the subscriber can be up to 150 km without repeaters. All 18 subscribers can communicate at the same time without interference from the others. The MDAQ equipment provides the operator with a tool to monitor the condition of the transmission network. Used with the optional alarm and performance monitoring platform, the operator can maintain the network and manage service level agreements with customers. It is expected that the SOR18 transmitter will revolutionise the rural telecommunications market.

Contract manufacturing

CZ also offers contract manufacturing facilities with the total package, including development, prototyping, industrialisation, assembly, test and repair. Apart from its own products the company claims that products under manufacture in 2004 included detonator control equipment, fire detection and explosive suppression equipment, and DSTV decoders (the latter are manufactured for UEC when demand exceeds capacity of UEC's own plant). The company was also appointed during 2004 by an Italian multinational to manufacture ISDN network terminating units - full production of 4000 units per month being expected during 2005. An acquisition of a stakeholding in Blue Room Projects has given the company access to the pre-paid GSM market and it manufactures and markets the Bluetel GSM payphones with these units having already been delivered to Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

For interest sake and as this series covers the local electronics industry, Blue Room is a privately-owned company located in Pretoria. With a cumulative experience in the electronics industry of more than 30 years, it provides electronic design, prototyping and manufacture. Its Bluetel product is a GSM (900/1800) community phone that can be used by street vendors to re-sell airtime to the community. The phone provides all the functionality of a payphone with the coin unit replaced by a vendor. It is differentiated from the conventional payphone in that it can be used in the remotest of areas and can be powered from mains, a vehicle or a 12 V battery. It is claimed to be the most compact, robust unit on the market - dimensions only 130 x 185 x 85 mm. Blue Room has also developed a least-cost router (LCR) that can be used in conjunction with a PABX or telephone to carry the voice stream onto a cheaper cellular network.

Repair services

Setting CZ Electronics apart from its competition is its support and repair facilities, especially in these days of 'if a board fails replace it'. Being experts in the field of telecommunications and electronics, CZ has the technology and expertise to fault diagnose and repair most complex equipment down to component level. The Boksburg-based repair facility is claimed to be one of the most advanced of its kind in Africa and complex boards including multilayer and boards containing SMT devices can be refurbished with a fast turnaround guaranteed. To cope with this repair work the company has invested in anti-static floors and the necessary de-soldering equipment. The logistics tracking system employed controls spares maintenance and other operating parameters and CZ intends to let customers have access to its high level reporting system via the Internet. While many companies have previously sent their equipment overseas for repair, this entails high freight and insurance costs. CZ Electronics also offers its service based on rand rates, making it far more cost-effective.

Equipment repaired by CZ includes the following: telecommunications transmission equipment; radio transmitters and receivers; up and down converters; modulators and demodulators; microwave dehydrators; coaxial carrier systems; open wire carrier systems.

CZ Electronics is black-empowered with BEE partners holding 40,5% of the equity and the company is certified to the new ISO 9001:2000. The company works closely with the Tshwane University of Technology and Potchefstroom University to provide valuable training for young graduates.

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