Posted: 21 November 2019

SAGE Group is celebrating 25 years as an Australian leader in industrial automation, control systems and associated services, and is an outstanding example of the rapid evolution of advanced manufacturing and business growth at Tonsley Innovation District.

The group designs, manufactures and supports control systems for sectors including transport, defence, energy, manufacturing, utilities and resources. It also provides accredited training and skilled professional resources to support companies to deliver their digital transformation and improvement projects.

SAGE Automation is behind a range of critical infrastructure facilities in South Australia, from the water that flows from our taps to traffic management systems.

These facilities include the Heysen Tunnels on the South Eastern Freeway in the Mount Lofty Ranges, where SAGE Automation’s Intelligent Transport System controls message signs for motorists, sensors for visibility and other environmental conditions, the operation of lights, tunnel closures and maintenance activities.

SAGE Automation is working with SA Water to upgrade its legacy control system at Bolivar Waste Water Treatment Plant with a new system that controls all aspects of the plant’s operation, including water filtration and treatment.

SAGE Group’s 25th anniversary has coincided with its recent expansion at Tonsley, taking up a 600m2 tenancy for its new National Operations Centre and Skills Lab in the Main Assembly Building (MAB), which houses many of the extra 80 employees who joined the group in 2018/19. This move will also accommodate more growth, as up to 100 more people are expected to join SAGE nationally in the next 12 months.

This is in addition to the group’s 3500 m2 premises, also in the MAB, which houses the group’s Corporate Head office and manufacturing facility for national and global customers.

SAGE was founded by Managing Director Andrew Downs in his backyard shed in suburban Adelaide in 1994, initially focused on providing support to the automotive and manufacturing sectors.

By the year 2000, it had 40 employees, a $10m turnover and clients spanning a diverse range of industry sectors.

The company’s headquarters were relocated from Melrose Park to Tonsley in 2017 when it became an anchor tenant of the innovation district and one of its first private businesses.

“When we first moved to Tonsley we didn’t expect much growth from within South Australia as we were already a big fish in a small pond. But being at Tonsley has helped us to grow in SA because we have greater exposure to potential clients and can collaborate with other Tonsley businesses."

Andrew Downs, Managing Director, SAGE Group

“An example is the Tonsley Future Energy Consortium, which has seen us team up with AZZO energy management, SIMEC Energy, ZEN Energy and EfficientSee energy consulting to offer a one-stop shop for energy solutions,” Andrew said.

Now the SAGE Group is global, with a turnover of $98 million, a team of more than 450 people across 13 offices and five companies. It comprises SAGE Automation, Nukon, Embedded Expertise and Skills Lab.

SAGE Automation develops smart automation and control systems for traffic management, defence, utilities, the resources industry, manufacturing and other sectors. Nukon designs and implements customised digital operations solutions to improve business performance. Embedded Expertise provides companies with high quality engineering professionals to work in clients’ businesses, while Skills Lab provides certified and customized training solutions specialist areas including industrial automation and control, instrumentation and hazardous area management.

In July, the manufacturing division recorded its highest number of manufacturing hours – a great testament to the strength and potential of high-value manufacturing in SA, clocking up 6,500 hours compared to a monthly average of 4,500 hours.

In September, SAGE Automation was chosen to design and integrate tunnel and building management control systems for the Metro Tunnel Project in Melbourne. It is the largest public transport infrastructure project ever undertaken in Victoria and will deliver twin nine‐kilometre tunnels and five new underground stations through the centre of Melbourne.

Andrew Downs paid tribute to the commitment of staff and clients in helping the SAGE Group to grow so quickly.

“I’ve often said, ‘ignorance is bliss’, knowing what I didn’t know is probably the reason I took such a leap to start SAGE,” Andrew said.

“But we’ve come an awful long way and we really do owe our success to our passionate people and our loyal clients. Together over the last 25 years, we’ve built a strong business, with the right systems and processes in place to continue our growth, but most importantly, we’ve had a lot of fun.”