Digital cask filling solution could save millions on whisky
4 Aug 2020
Scotland’s £5.5 billion whisky industry could soon save millions in annual inventory costs, thanks to a new cask filling process.
The project is a collaboration between Siemens, drinks company Diageo and leading process control system and electrical experts, Kigtek has joined forces with the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC).
Cask production accounts for 10% to 20% of the overall cost of whisky production, and with a minimum of three years required for Scotch whisky maturation, consistent and precise fill levels are extremely important for distillers.
As traditional Scotch whisky casks are handmade using oak, this means variation in the volume that each can accommodate.
The partners created an industry demonstrator, complete with innovative whisky cask filling test rig and cyber-physical system, incorporating a digital twin that replicates the physical process in a virtual environment.
Providing real-time data on fill volume, the digital design allows operators to account for every drop that has gone into each cask, achieving a better than 99% fill consistently, on a 200-litre cask, in under one minute.
The Innovate UK funded project is set to save distillers significant capital expenditure from logistics and warehouse space for additional casks by tackling the problem of inconsistent cask filling levels resulting from overspill, under fill and foaming.
Diageo alone holds more than 11 million casks in maturation at one time, so that achieving close to maximum fill would save significant costs.
AFRC Digital manufacturing team lead Danny McMahon explained the innovation provided a high degree of repeatability, with additional improvements to health and safety of operators, and enhanced environmental impact due to reduced waste.
“The digital twin system achieved as the output of this project will allow Scotland’s whisky industry to truly embrace industry 4.0 using data to digitise a traditional process,” he commented.