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SAGE is a high-end new-world
company yet its business
philosophy is based on old-world
Take a walk around the
Melrose Park headquarters of
the $52 million, 267 employee
national company and you begin to
understand why it s one of South
Australia s top business success
Intricate pieces of electronic
engineering that drive key
processes and systems in major
infrastructure projects sit alongside
robotic arms and the beer fridge
that is central to SAGE s traditional
monthly get-together with staff and
The staff training centre
features complex highly-automated
equipment that s central to a
teaching philosophy that goes back
to ancient Greece, where hands-on
learning produces engineers,
tradies and apprentices with
specific real-world skills.
"A culture of lifelong learning
is central to SAGE s success in the
ever-changing automation indus-
try," SAGE chief executive Adrian
Fahey said this week.
Adrian has been at SAGE for 11
years, the key period when founder
Andrew Down s 1994 business
vision became a national operation.
"Going national has been one
heck of a learning curve, but
SAGE s culture is its strength," Mr
"We expanded nationally because
we had to meet the needs of our
customers who had national opera-
tions that we serviced; companies
such as Coca Cola and Foster s.
"But as we expanded we discov-
ered that doing business in Victoria
or New South Wales had quite
"After spending some time
developing those offices as almost
autonomous operations, we later
moved to a One SAGE Program
that has seen us evolve into a single
nationally-focused group that
happens to have its head office in
To understand just what the
SAGE culture is, it helps to go back
to the company s origins.
In the early 1990s, electrical
engineer Andrew Downs worked
as a supervisor at Bridgestone s
rubber operations in Adelaide.
He often dealt with companies
hired to deliver solutions to
Bridgestone s need for automated
processes to make and deliver
He quickly learnt that there was
no-one fully equipped to provide
the type of solutions Bridgestone
So in 1994 Downs started SAGE,
operating out of his back shed.
It took two years before he could
afford an office and workshop, but
by 1999 the company had won its
first million-dollar contract.
A year later it had a turnover
of more than $10 million and
40 employees on board.
A decade later the numbers
are $52 million turnover and 267
employees, with a raft of awards
decorating the company s reception
So who do they service?
"The automation technology we
develop is adaptable to all indus-
tries," Mr Fahey explained.
"We have installed the fibre
controllers that will control traffic
flow on the Northern Expressway,
developed processes that control
filtration systems for SA Water,
safety upgrades for the Department
of Transport s dry creek rail yards
project and special systems for the
operation of Foster s wine plant at
"There s also the control system
for the Port River Expressway
Bridges and even the Gingerbread
icing robot for Perryman s Bakery
in North Adelaide (named in the
2010 Top 20 SA Innovations).
"It s everything from water to
Fahey is less forthcoming
about one of the company s latest
projects, the production processes
for Holden s Cruze -- a small-car
project which is still in develop-
ment and still awaiting the tick
from Holden s parent company.
"We work in every industry
except pharmaceutical," he states
SAGE also has permanent staff
based at BHP-Billiton s Olympic
Dam project and is also working on
a range of defence supplier projects.
With its rapid growth, SAGE has
structured its business into four
operations: SAGE Automation,
SAGE Capital, SAGE Didactics and
It s here that you see the merging
of new and old-world concepts.
The automation division provides
independent automation and
SAGE Automation s V8 ute is the fun side of an expanding local business that s mixing new technology with traditional work values.
SAGE's traditional values are a key reason for the company's success, writes Kevin Naughton
Continued Page 12
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