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SAGE is a specialist industrial digitalisation services provider, combining the best thinking with world-leading technology to deliver the best outcome.

SAGE’s specialist businesses – SAGE Automation, Nukon, Skills Lab and Embedded Expertise – work with organisations to deliver strategy and horizon phasing, automation of industrial operations, data-driven business transformation, training and technical personnel resourcing.

Established in Adelaide, South Australia, SAGE Group’s 700+ workforce is quite a far cry from its humble beginnings. SAGE founder, Andrew Downs, began the business by playing around with programming and CAD in his spare time. Before long, his ‘side project’ was taking up so much of his time, he made the leap to running the business full time.

Fast forward to 2023, and a still privately-owned SAGE is recognised as a world-leader in automation and industrial digitalisation. Geographically, the business that started from a backyard shed in Adelaide now has offices around Australia and in India, and delivers projects all over the world.

While technology is certainly the key to a safer and more sustainable way of living, there is an understanding within the business that it takes great people and collaboration to build a better future. That’s why SAGE’s vision is simply to create a “Smarter Future, Better World.”

The drive to achieve this vision goes well beyond solving purely industrial problems – SAGE’s story is one of diversification.

SAGE Automation, as the business was first known, provided automation and servicing for the automotive industry. But the ability to problem-solve and find a better method soon saw the business expand to work across other industry sectors.

Growing from standard automation, SAGE’s specialist businesses – Nukon, Skills Lab and Embedded Expertise – joined SAGE Automation as sister companies able to provide a unified outlook and holistic delivery model for organisations on their digitalisation journey. SAGE’s industry base now stretches across defence, energy, manufacturing, resources, smart cities, transport and utilities, and has an even more diverse list of capabilities and services.

As a system integrator working across multiple industries, SAGE is focused on learning from challenges or opportunities in each sector and applying that knowledge to other industries. The organisation has a powerful knowledge management culture which fosters close and constant monitoring of emerging new technologies and applications for its client base.

Technical skills and resourcing
Like many other countries, there is a skills shortage facing Australian industry, with modern technology advancing at a faster pace than the workforce is currently equipped to handle. Upskilling and re-skilling are critical focus areas for organisations as every industry embarks on their digital transformation journey.

SAGE Group’s training company, Skills Lab, is designed to support the Australian workforce to develop the skills required in modern industry through hands-on training.

In 2020, Skills Lab, along with industry partners, launched Australia’s first digital engineering apprenticeship. The program matches school leavers with top-tier organisations for a three year placement, while studying a nationally accredited Diploma of Applied Technologies. The apprenticeship program means learnings are combined with traditional engineering skills, providing real-world learning to the apprentice, and reducing the risk of skills shortages for the business.

A Registered Training Organisation (RTO), Skills Lab has also been developing and delivering a wide range of industrial digitalisation micro-credentials and qualifications to learners throughout Australia. In many cases, this involves liaising directly with clients to design and contextualise suitable training courses. This work in developing industry-specific courses that are accessible via innovative online learning has been pivotal in providing avenues for all Australians to learn valuable skills.

A dedicated space for innovation
In 2021, SAGE launched a dedicated Innovation Hub, which hosts opportunities to collaborate, research and prototype new concepts, and enable the development of new projects.

Conceptualising, planning and executing new ideas requires a specialist skill set and broad experience, and the Innovation Hub enables businesses without those resources to accelerate and scale their ideas, connecting to fresh ideas and support that helps to deliver grant-funded projects or to tap into specialist knowledge to research and prototype.

The Innovation Hub is also an avenue for internships and work experience from university students across a range of disciplines, many of whom have gone on to join SAGE once their studies were completed.

To encourage and further drive innovation, SAGE has an online forum, SMART Platform, that enables internal groups to develop innovative ideas addressing key industry challenges through an open forum model. Innovation is everyone’s responsibility at SAGE, regardless of their role.

When SAGE was first established, its purpose was to provide value to clients through automation, while ensuring exceptional service. Almost 30 years later, the organisation has found collaboration helps set it apart from other organisations and enables this value to be recognised.

According to Andrew, that means knowing when to draw upon expert advice too. SAGE’s clients come to them not just for their renowned expertise, but also because SAGE has established an extensive network of collaborative relationships with leading technology providers, both nationally and internationally.

The organisation works closely with leading industrial technology brands from all over the world to maintain capability, while remaining vendor independent.

This gives SAGE the power to recommend and integrate the best suited technology for client projects now and for future needs. It’s one of the reasons why businesses approach SAGE when they are looking to bring a new product to market, to improve safety for the public, or to make technology more accessible. The partnered approach has seen the development of automated recycling solutions, smart school zone crossings and a virtual playing field.

When Container Deposit Systems came to SAGE with the idea to improve the recycling process by avoiding the challenges encountered with international designs and a vision to fully automate the return and refund processing of containers, a collaborative approach brought it to life. Utilising state-of-the-art technology to aid the counting of containers is beneficial for both depots and their customers, as the time taken to sort and refund containers is dramatically reduced. The solution provides both a viable business opportunity for container deposits and contributes to the circular economy.

Proving that technology can enhance road and pedestrian safety, SAGE designed and installed an Australian-first cloud-managed and solar powered school crossing that monitors vehicle speed and provides a warning to drivers to slow down.

The smart school crossing utilises a fusion of installed telemetry hardware to provide real-time metrics on vehicle flow through the crossing and information on the state of the system. Communicating with SAGE Edge – SAGE’s propriety IoT hardware – real-time information is transmitted back to a custom-built dashboard, enabling in-depth data analysis. This has enabled the local council to access historical data, which over a short period of time, can inform decisions around how best to operate the crossing, how effective the crossing is at reducing vehicle speed, and if more action should be taken to reduce the speed of vehicles.

SAGE’s smart technology was also displayed as part of a world-first digital experience that brought free arcade-style games to the public in 2021. Known as Open Arcade: Gaming for Everyone, the digital experience was a winning entry in the City of Melbourne’s Emerging Technology Testbed ‘Reimaging the City’ Challenge. The challenge was to develop ideas that make city experiences more vibrant and inclusive while promoting social connection and creating new reasons to visit the city as it emerged from the pandemic. The arcade games used machine vision cameras to digitally represent players and their movements on a big screen, removing the need for controllers. Players interacted in real-time with the game displayed on the screen, such as hitting a digital ‘ball’ back and forth or navigating through a digital maze featuring colourful simulations.

SAGE grew from one simple question: what if things could be done better?
By connecting clients with the ability to innovate, modernise, digitise and improve how they operate – as the world embraces Industry 4.0 -SAGE’s clients have seen significant gains in terms of efficiency, safety, cost savings, quality and performance.

SAGE recognises the need to build a platform for growth. Through the development of a new talent pipeline, such as the digital engineering apprenticeship program, the organisation is focused on nurturing talent through both traditional and new methods of entry into the industry.

This commitment to sustainable growth of a skilled workforce stretches to the knowledge sharing within the business, as well as within the wider industry. This was recognised in 2020, when the Control System Integration Association (CSIA) named SAGE as the recipient of the Integrator Company Member of the Year Award for participating significantly in the advancement of the association and profession.

SAGE Group Managing Director, Adrian Fahey, highlights how the business has been able to support clients through times of change.

“We collaborate with and support some of Australia’s most critical services through their digital transformation – from the energy systems that power our homes, to the treatment plants that provide Australians with clean drinking water, and the transport networks that get us wherever we want to go – and that would not be possible without our exceptional people,” he said.

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