Using smarts to fight the war on waste

In a bold bid to wage a war on waste, an innovative new project has played a key role in raising the numbers of containers returned in Queensland.
A partnership between NORD DRIVESYSTEMS, SAGE Automation, Nukon and a South Australia-based independent recycling depot, Container Deposit Systems (CDS) has contributed to a significant increase in containers being returned.
Thanks to the installation of a semi Auto Return Terminal (ART) at recycling sites around Queensland, CDS was able to process 32,000 containers per day in its first week of operation.
Due to ongoing improvements, this number has risen to a staggering 80,000 containers per day across five sites. These small assisted checkout type machines are in high demand thanks to their affordability and the operational assistance that they provide.
Smarts with heart
The heart of this technology is the intelligent vision camera system developed by CDS in partnership with UniSA & SAGE Automation. Here consumers can return drink containers in any condition for a 10c per-container refund.
“Algorithms are programmed into the vision system to recognise anything that the human eye can identify” Paul Johnson, General Manager at SAGE Automation says.
“We’ve spent a lot of time making improvements. In the past, other systems relied on the reading bar codes and this created problems in identifying products that had been crushed, folded or broken. Thanks to the smart vision system, this is now a thing of the past,” he continues.
SAGE sets the benchmark in automation.  “We are already working on an upgrade which will go as far as to recognise brands! This once again aligns to our motto of: how can this be done better?” Paul says.
As front runners in the field of Industry 4.0, the ART’s are fitted with the latest technologies to offer secure, reportable, in the cloud safe data to assist with workforce planning, maintenance issues, future output and predictions.
“The RAP (Remote Access Panel) adds peace-of-mind by ensuring that all data is secured in the cloud as well as allowing for remote ac-cess by SAGE Service to provide immediate support from our National Operations Centre in Adelaide” Paul says.
This was especially important to CDS who will roll-out their technology into areas across Queensland – many of which are remote. “The customer experience has to be replicated no matter where the recycling depot is based. The SAGE Automation National Operations Centre monitors the product and picks up on faults and maintenance issues remotely,” Paul says.
A flexible partner to meet unique requirements
Playing a key role in this roll-out, SAGE partnered with NORD DRIVESYSTEMS who proposed a unique solution for their drives based on this interesting brief. “We’ve established a great working relationship with SAGE, and we’ve been flexible and innovative in our approach to their unique automation requirements”, Vinod Pillai, Sales Manager for NORD (South Australia region) says.
NORD included an incremental encoder on the motor for positioning. “This particular encoder ensures that materials are accurately positioned at the pneumatic blower to execute the operation efficiently” Vinod says.
In excess of 300 custom-made units have been installed  – to client  specifications and budget. “NORD has been a fantastic technology partner and they are just like one of the team now. When we talk development and innovation, they are part of the group. We have a very close working relationship and I love the fact that they hold local stock in Melbourne and are committed to Australian manufacturing,” Paul Johnson, General Manager at SAGE Automation says.
Keeping it local – economic growth for the local manufacturing sector
These exciting developments have positive spin offs – not only for the environment but also for the economy. SAGE started off in 1994 in a backyard shed in South Australia. Today, the company boasts 13 offices, five companies and over 400 employees.
“The CDS/SAGE/ Nukon/ ART project has just commenced manufacturing of another 100 units, of which 99 have already been allocated to recycling depots around Queensland,” Paul says.
This multi-million Dollar project means more opportunities for local manufacturing in terms of jobs and resources.
“Creating local jobs in the manufacturing sector is a huge focus for us at SAGE. It is in our interest and in that of Australia to encourage career development in this field, and from our experience we have seen the demand for Australian engineering and innovation across the world,” Paul concludes.

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