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World premiere in measurement technology: At the Macardo distillery, the barrels have recently been checked digitally

At the Macardo distillery in Kreuz near Bissegg, every single barrel is closely monitored. This is made possible by an invention of two ZHAW students from Winterthur. The system was inaugurated on Wednesday.

Eight months after opening its new headquarters in Kreuz near Bissegg, the Macardo distillery is already presenting another innovation. It should help to realize the ambitious plans of the owner family Bössow. "Macardo wants to go from Thurgau to the top of the world," says Andy Bössow quite immodestly at the presentation of the "Barrel Storage 4.0" on Wednesday afternoon. The modern barrel warehouse is the focus of the event, which is also attended by Council of States member Jakob Stark, ZHAW director Dirk Wilhelm or Daniel Wessner, head of the Thurgau Office of Economics and Labor. But the stars of the afternoon are two young electrical engineering students, Lars Müggler from St.Gallen and Ivan Krajinovic from Schaffhausen. The two have developed the technical solution for "Barrel Storage 4.0" in electrical engineering as part of their bachelor's thesis - accompanied by their lecturer and recent professor Teddy Loeliger.

"We chose this project as a bachelor's thesis because it was a tangible task where there is also a product at the end," says Ivan Krajinovic.

"Many of the other potential projects were purely research projects that could not be directly applied at the end. But a concrete application was important to us."

Word quickly got around among the electrical engineering students at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Winterthur (ZHAW) that they were working on their bachelor's thesis in the field of whiskey, gin and fine spirits. "You're the ones with the barrel store," they often heard, says Lars Müggler with a grin.

With winter jacket and gloves in the barrel warehouse

Although they had indulged in a whisky during the past six months, that was not the motivation for applying for this bachelor's thesis. "The development of the apparatus and software solutions was very interesting for us, but also demanded a lot. This included whole days spent here in the cold of the barrel warehouse wearing winter jackets and gloves," says Lars Müggler. The biggest challenges were measurement accuracy, data transmission and battery life.

Through prototypes, various adjustments and optimizations, they arrived at the final result, he says. The system now consists of small, battery-powered measuring computers at each barrel that send their data to a receiving station, where it is stored and displayed on a website. Ten such modules have already been installed in Macardo's cask warehouse, with 250 to be installed by the end of the year, and in the longer term, each of the maximum 450 cask carriers will be equipped with them.

The coordinators for the project are the engineers Rudolf Bossert and Bruno Schläpfer. They mediated between the distillery and the ZHAW and accompanied the project. With his company Conmetec GmbH, Bruno Schläpfer now also owns the patent on the new measuring technology and wants to export it, as he says:

"In the U.S. alone, 1.9 million barrels of whiskey are produced annually - so there's huge potential for this technology."

Without the order from Macardo Distillery, the technology would have been ready for the market, Schläpfer says. "It takes big companies, otherwise it's difficult to develop something like this."

Praise from the director and the Council of States

At Wednesday afternoon's event, lecturer Teddy Loeliger is not the only one to praise the work of his two students. "We are proud of this bachelor thesis and the result," he says. In his laudation, ZHAW Director Dirk Wilhelm says it was one of the best bachelor theses this year. "It took up very many different points and has become a success story. That's why it was also assessed with a grade of 6."

Macardo owner Andy Bössow thanks everyone involved and presents the two engineers and both students with bottles of whiskey. Daniel Wessner, head of the Thurgau Office of Economics and Labor, says: "What sounds simple is often more than a snap idea." And Jakob Stark, member of the Council of States, closes the round of laudators with the words, "I'm not worried about Switzerland as a research location. We need young people who want to do research, and industrialists who want research done. Then it will be fine."

Drum storage 4.0

Digital control over every single barrel

In the barrel warehouse of the Macardo distillery, each individual barrel lies on a scale. In addition to the weight, sensors also determine the temperature and humidity under the barrel. All this data is sent at regular intervals via Bluetooth to a computer and stored in a database. This allows distillery staff to closely monitor the progress of their barrels. "The point is to determine where the barrels are developing in the warehouse and how," explains Andy Bössow. "In addition to the characteristics of the barrel, the microclimate, the temperature as well as the humidity have an enormous influence on the maturation." Thanks to the new measuring technology, it is now possible to determine how the distillates developed in the different areas of the barrel store. By changing the storage positions of the barrels accordingly, it can thus be achieved that the distillate qualities of the same vintage vary less than with conventional barrel storage. Each barrel also loses about two percent of the distillate, the so-called "angel's share," in the course of oxidation and evaporation. In addition, some of the alcohol remains in the walls of the barrel, the so-called "Devil's Cut". Thanks to the exact weight measurements, this can now also be logged, which also benefits the distillery with the corresponding reduction in alcohol taxes.

Author: Mario Testa

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Drum storage 4.0
Drum storage 4.0
Drum storage 4.0
Macardo Barrel Storage 4.0
Macardo Barrel Storage 4.0