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SAGE Automation’s major $11m defence project nears completion

A major investment to enter the defence sector is paying off for SAGE Automation, with the final stage of its $11 million project with Chemring Australia to build countermeasures nearing completion.

Chemring Australia has a long term contract with the Australian Defence Force to supply aircraft mounted countermeasures designed to draw missile attacks away from the aircraft, and as part of that contract has established a state of the art manufacturing plant.

SAGE Automation has been responsible for the development and installation of automated processes for the new facility in the regional Victorian town of Lara (near Geelong), where the countermeasures will be manufactured.

Constructed in four stages, this is the first countermeasure manufacturing plant constructed in the southern hemisphere.

“This is the largest single project undertaken by SAGE across any sector and is a great demonstration of our company’s wide ranging capabilities and expertise,” said Paul Johnson, SAGE’s General Manager of Defence.

“This project was a unique combination of manual and automated processes and required us to consider issues such as delicate product handling techniques, functional safety requirements, machine guarding, hazardous areas and tight control over temperature and humidity requirements.”

“Due to the highly energetic materials involved in constructing countermeasures, it is essential that the processes worked smoothly not only the first time, but every time.”

To give an indication of the scale of this project, SAGE was responsible for the development and integration of 18 different process cells.

The first 13 process cells were required to be completely automated and the process is monitored from a central control room, with vision being provided via 50 CCTV cameras.

While featuring significant levels of mechanical assistance, the remaining 6 process cells included some elements of manual assembly or production.

Final assembly operators at work.[Image alongside shows the final assembly operators at work.]

Integration of the overall facility under a common Siemens WinCC SCADA system was also a requirement of the development process.

“This is a very important contract for us and this production line in Lara complements a similar Chemring facility in the UK,” said Michael Flowers, Managing Director of Chemring Australia.

“Working with SAGE Automation has proved to be an effective partnership and they have delivered a difficult project with many potential challenges.”

Besides producing countermeasures for the Australian Defence Force, the Lara facility has the ability to produce countermeasures for future export opportunities.

“One of the challenges in undertaking work within the international defence sector is being compliant with strict compliance standards and meeting ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) requirements,” Johnson said.

Priming Cell Booth and Conveying System.[Image alongside shows the priming cell booth and conveying system.]

ITAR is a set of United States government regulations that control the export and import of defence related articles and services on the United States Munitions List.

“Being able to demonstrate compliance with defence department standards and having the processes in place to protect defence intellectual property is essential in winning future defence contracts,” he said.

“Since entering the defence sector 18 months ago, SAGE has experienced tremendous growth within this market, resulting in the sector contributing to approximately 10% of the company’s turnover in 2011/12.”

“The success of this project will further demonstrate our capability within the defence industry and; we believe the defence sector will continue to provide significant future opportunities for SAGE.”

The final stage of the project is expected to be completed in early 2013.

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