It’s hard to believe that Australia’s leading provider of industrial automation and control services, comprising of a team of 270 talented individuals, began in a backyard shed in the early ‘90s. Andrew Downs, the mastermind behind SAGE Automation was driven by a vision and sheer passion. When surrounded by a few talented, engineering-minded individuals, a dream came to life.Fast-forward to 2018 - many awards, regional and international office openings, an expanded service offering and many satisfied customers later, SAGE Automation has fast-become the go-to for smart automation and prides itself on delivering scalable, agile and secure solutions.
Derrimut , 2018-03-12
The Problem… The Solution
In a recent success story, Container Deposit Systems Australia (CDSA) approached SAGE Automation with an unusual automation challenge. Recent environmental legislation has seen many recycling plants facing the same problem - reduced efficiencies and increased costs thanks to the purchase of an expensive sorting machine from Europe, coupled with expensive, unreliable labour.
With the machine using barcodes to sort, waste was of major concern as damaged products could not be read. NSW Environmental Protection Authority's "Return and Earn" scheme has come under fire for accepting only "perfect rubbish“. The "Return and Earn" website says "containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label attached". This is so that each container's barcode can be scanned. All of these factors had put a strain on their customer satisfaction.
At the core of its business, CDSA looks to optimise recycling facilities through decades of experience. CDSA harnesses technology to improve productivity within recycling depot facilities where the manual handling of materials is still prominent.
“CDSA works with current and prospective operators of recycling facilities seeking to grow businesses and sets best practice in the industry. We position recycling facilities to realise significant productivity gains, improved customer relationships and highly secure and auditable product management” says Brett Duncanson, Executive Chairman of CDSA.
Brett continues: “Priding ourselves on customer satisfaction, the issues that we were facing was hindering our business and we were turning customers away rather than make them want to take on the task of recycling and collecting money”.
Understanding the issues that CDSA was facing, SAGE Automation worked closely with automation partners such as leading drive technology supplier, NORD DRIVESYSTEMS to improve efficiencies through immaculate accuracy via a prototype. SAGE Automation developed a range of counting and sensing technologies to accurately determine the container types being retained - even when containers were not in their original condition. What’s more, answering to the calls for IoT technology, the system provides valuable data which is delivered into the cloud and used for reporting.
At the heart of the machine was the vision system which was provided by UniSA. The camera uses an algorithm to identify what each item is and sorts them into the correct skid. This includes not just identifying cans and bottles, but also colour.
Paul Johnson, General Manager of Operations at SAGE Automation says that by providing customised, innovative solutions, SAGE looks at developing commercially viable solutions for OEMs. “SAGE incorporates various component suppliers into an integrated solution for customers. The challenge with CDSA’s request was that the plant was already operational and customer required that the solution be installed easily and very quickly on-site. It also had to require minimal maintenance and provide intelligence about the facility operations.”
Paul continues: “We looked for ways simplify the installation. Five skids with twenty six conveyors needed to be installed within a day so we looked to a ‘plug and play’ solution to get it up and running as fast as possible”.
A New Partnership with NORD DRIVESYSTEMS
A distributed drive solution was used to achieve the brief. It required a 240V drive which used EtherCAT and could be Beckhoff integrated. SAGE partnered with leading drive manufacturer, NORD DRIVESYSTEMS who were the only provider who could provide this unique solution.
“We hadn't worked with NORD previously and we were really impressed with the way that the team listened to what we wanted. They understood our needs and their engineering team configured the unit to ensure seamless integration with Beckhoff - literally overnight!” says Paul.
“The solution was exactly what we wanted and the local stockholding, price point and engineering expertise sealed the deal. The products used were of the highest quality and latest technology. The motor gearbox drive is distributed so that inverter sits on top the gearbox and it is neatly daisy chained together” comments Paul.
In the end SAGE Automation was able to install 26 Conveyors with five skids in just one day!
With the second prototype underway and recognising the formation of what hopes to be a fruitful and strengthened partnership, NORD DRIVESYSTEMS Sales Manager for the region, Vinod Pillai looks forward to more exciting projects with SAGE Automation. “It’s an honour to be associated with a South Australian-founded company such as SAGE Automation. SAGE is known across the industry for its expertise and quality, and we hope that this is the beginning of a very successful partnership.”
“NORD’s decentralised solution looks to modular assembly for ease and reduced downtime during component failure. It also offers a decentralised inverter which is economical and robust. The site did not have access to three phase power and as such, the project made use of a Nordac base - a single phase input supply option for 0.25 - 1.5kW,” elaborates Martin.
With their development team NORD managed to engineer plug connector solutions for both power supply and EtherCAT connection.
“In keeping the footprint compact, the Nordac base offers assembly of an internal EtherCAT field bus card. The flexibility of being able to assemble dual plugs on the Nordac Base for both power supply connection as well as M12 connectors that enabled field bus communication, in turn allowed for simple daisy chain topology to be realised for the inverter modules” he concludes.
The Result - a Happy Customer
For Brett Duncanson it is all about the war on waste. The new development comes just ahead of the national legislation roll out of new Government Recycling Program. It places CDSA in the fortunate position of being able to help recycling plants to be up and running and ready for the new program in no time.
“We are more than pleased with the solution and are currently busy with the second prototype,” says Brett. “What we do is extremely important to both our customers and the environment. The solution supplied by SAGE Automation and its partners will make a big difference to our customers by helping to improve productivity.