Project Highlight: Washington State University

Wine Science Center | Viticulture and Enology

:+ : By Mark DeWeirdt

MacDonald-Miller is doing our part to help WSU and the Northwest wine industry eclipse Napa. The state-of-the-art Wine Science Center at WSU in Richland, WA was developed in close partnership with our local wine industry. This teaching and research facility is among the most technologically advanced of its kind in the world.

Together we asked the question:

How can WSU, and the Washington/Oregon wine industry in general, benefit from MacMiller’s leadership in advanced systems analytics, controls, design/build engineering and service expertise? From those discussions, they were impressed with how the ICONICS software analytics platform has optimized other large complex systems and believe it could have a positive impact not only on their research, but actual wine production and certification standards. It was noted that “ICONICS is predominantly an industrial process optimization tool, one that we believe could have strong future relevance to our research and winery productivity.” Not long after our introduction, the team’s focus changed to redesigning the control system of the fermentation tanks in the research winery.

Are those beer kegs? I thought we were making wine!

The team of winemakers and scientists at WSU are smart guys! They figured out how to make the large tanks you see at wineries as small as possible, while still yielding experiment results that relate to larger, standard tanks. Basically, they can run more batch experiments, as there are over 120 tanks in the winery. They wanted to know the best way to collect, display and manipulate fermentation tank data. They also looked for us to optimize and advance the process for flexibility in the future. Finally, the team wanted to avoid the pain and frustration that comes with smaller beverage control systems: problems with lack of software support and parts that instantly go out of production. They saw their control provider get purchased with the new owners turning away from wine, and WSU wanted something they could count on for the next 25 years. They were searching for an assurance of great support, stating, “Nothing in this pilot will restrict us, it greatly expands (our) options.” We reengineered the tank controls utilizing a Siemens system that can leverage their Pullman Campus staff expertise. In their report, “the option they propose allows greater research flexibility with regard to data delivery/export, future sensor input (smoke), automation, and analytics with graphical dashboard delivery.” Next stop: analytics, the central plant process chiller and energy efficiency.

This has been a great team effort, not only with the WSU staff, but with a classic, multi-layered, magnum-sized MacMiller technical flight. Pat Roberts led the Eastern Washington selling effort. Mark Krewedl, Justin Guy and the “Fab Shop Boys” crafted a spicy bit of re-engineering piping. Controls Group’s Curtis Roberts and Mike Phenicie have been creating cool custom applications. George Pfeiffer actually did some engineering and thought up an intelligent valve control solution. Even our CEO, Gus Simonds, was involved in verifying key aspects of the Brix (sugar content) measurement science. Gus loves science, and he’s also a Coug who is proud to see WSU and MacMiller teaming up to transform the Northwest wine industry with cutting-edge science. The wine and beverage industry needs what MacMiller has – easy access to engineering, solid industry-leading control products, mechanical expertise and SERVICE!

Read more from our latest Perspective Newsletter 

Categories: General

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