The market-leading end-user partner involved in the project has a specific challenge with current out-dated technologies which only fill casks to 95% of their total volume. 5% of a cask, when it is extrapolated over the volumes of whisky that this company produces, soon adds up.
The savings could either be achieved through maximising the amount of whisky filled into casks and ultimately sold or saving the business the inventory space during its future expansion. This works out as the equivalent of an entire warehouse.
Other, wider, project drivers include using digital technology to overcome traditional manufacturing problems and boost efficiency.
Project partners, the AFRC, Siemens, Diageo and Kigtek, worked together to create an industry demonstrator, complete with whisky cask filling test rig and cyber-physical system, incorporating a digital twin.
The consortium designed, manufactured and tested an open-loop system that allows complete control of the filling process through a new advanced filling lance design. The design incorporates level measurement, provides real-time data on fill volume, allowing operators to count every drop that has gone into each cask. It also reduces foaming and enhances the stability of the filling process.
Testing demonstrates a consistent 99% fill volume across multiple cask sizes, highlighting the efficiency and repeatability of the improved whisky cask filling solution. It will allow the whisky industry to realise a 5% improvement in spirit volume filled into casks, potentially worth millions of pounds each year.
This innovative design and digital approaches taken on this project will provide expected improvements including:
- Reduced losses attributed to cask overfill
- Reduced storage requirements
- Improved health and safety
- Maintenance or improvement of cask fill cycle times
- A high degree of repeatability
- Enhanced environmental impact due to reduced waste
The filling lance particularly was a great success for the project as figures showed reducing a fill time by up to 25% (ABS- 60secs to 45secs), and consistently fill to >99% whereas previous figures were approximately 95%. These are significant improvements on current cask filling systems. The new advanced filling lance records real time data on every drop going into the cask, as well as providing other benefits such as reducing foaming and enhancing the stability of the filling process. Additionally, the rig successfully supported both ASB and HHD cask types.