Keeping the lights on

NOJA Power has brought Australian manufacturing and developments in electrical switchgear into the global spotlight. Manufacturers’ Monthly spoke with its group managing director, Neil O’Sullivan, about the company’s long-term success and pride in being Australian made.

‘Australian Made’ is a popular phrase with end consumers, but the synonymy of Australian produced products with reliability and quality has also endeared them to manufacturers across the globe.

Capital equipment manufacturer NOJA Power demonstrates this well. The company was founded in 2002 as an electrical switchgear manufacturer and its first sale being an export – as well as its continued success as an exporter – has earned it the title of a “born global” business.

NOJA Power group managing director, Neil O’Sullivan, said the company was proud to service clients globally.

“The enterprise has enjoyed annual growth since inception, and today we service over 90 countries worldwide from our headquarters in Brisbane. Around 92 per cent of our annual production is sold via export. Our vision from day one is to be the world leader in medium voltage pole mounted switchgear,” he said.

“Today, we can say we are the world leader in pole mounted auto reclosing circuit breakers – a class of pole mounted switchgear.”

The majority of NOJA Power’s customers are either distribution utilities or mining and private infrastructure companies. Its core product is the OSM Recloser, an advanced, microprocessor-controlled circuit breaker designed to operate at high voltage. Being computer controlled, O’Sullivan called its applications “wide and varied”, as the system can be configured for many electrical network uses.

“The core application of this product is to improve the reliability of electricity distribution, and the installation of our equipment generally improves electricity network reliability by 80 per cent,” he said.

“Electrical switchgear is a necessity – if you have power, you need to have a way to control it. In our homes, we have light switches and the main switch board, but for the distribution network, this needs to be scaled up.”

Alongside controlling the flow of electricity to manage distribution networks, utilities use NOJA Power’s products to detect problems and help to switch and mitigate these issues.

“We help utilities to keep the lights on, ensuring that their end customers at home and at work have reliable power,” O’Sullivan said.

“The challenges that our customers face include handling the technical complexity of electrical engineering, but we maintain a highly qualified service staff to support them through solving these distribution network challenges.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to lockdowns and travel restrictions around the world, significant pressure has been put on many globally operating businesses. NOJA Power has fared better than most, thanks to a conservative policy relating to its global supply chain security and taking extra precautions for its workers.

“We have multiple sourcing paths for all key products and maintain a safety stock to support the dynamic market demand that occurs during business as usual,” O’Sullivan said.

“During this time, we evidently can’t travel as much as we like to, but in terms of meeting demand, our facilities are well equipped. We have also implemented significant measures such as free issuing large quantities of masks and gloves to our staff for their use outside of the business.”

With the health of the business secured in the present, NOJA Power has been able to look to and invest in future technologies. This includes research projects and product developments designed to help transition the electricity grid to higher levels of renewable energy, among other causes.

“We have industry partnership research and development programs such as the Synchrophasor ARENA project in Australia to help bring Big Data together with electrical engineering to solve the challenges of a changing generation mix,” O’Sullivan said.

“This is all enabled by the technology platform that we build with our equipment today, and our ongoing commitment to research and development here in Australia.”

For its strong trajectory since 2002, NOJA Power was recognised as a finalist of the Endeavour Awards in the Excellence in Growth category.

“It’s a great honour to be a finalist in the Endeavour Awards, and we proudly fly the Australian manufacturing flag. Manufacturing in Australia is possible, especially for high technology products for critical services, where reliability and quality is essential,” O’Sullivan said.

“Australia is a trusted place of origin for product quality globally, and Australian manufacturers can use this good name to their advantage in achieving success in export business.”