The focus in today’s global business world appears to zero in on what is referred to as the supply chain.  Because of economic, social and other factors, the flow of materials has had a significant effect on a broad scope of industries. In the beverage industry, all segments have been affected to some degree and emphasizes the importance of addressing what is involved, who is responsible, and where does the supply chain really begin?

From an operations perspective, the processing of materials to create or enhance a liquid beverage from whatever source is the start of the supply chain. Although the type of processing will vary with the beverage, raw materials in the form of ingredients and water along with generic or specialized equipment plus an aging factor contribute to whatever system is required and used to result in a maximum yield, which is a major issue in beverage processing and related costs realistically impacted by operating personnel. 

First, personnel assigned to processing activities has changed because technological advances in equipment, systems and procedures have necessitated additional training and/or higher skill levels to operate under constantly changing methods, materials, specifications and handling that can affect beverage products.  

Second, in addition to requiring personnel with different skill levels, the processing facility must be considered a priority because beverage physical characteristics can and do dictate the type of area required to process a particular beverage ― temperature control, space, material handling, sanitized (clean room) and equipment type. These are issues that can make a preparation area an expensive project when starting the product supply chain.  

A very significant factor is the aging requirements of a product that could involve tankage of various sizes and shapes to properly process the product. This tankage factor, from a space and cost viewpoint, for several years has witnessed considerable research that resulted into inline processing systems with integrated flow of all materials providing complex digital measuring devices to enhance yield and reduce inherent loss. The inline method of beverage processing has gained momentum because increases in number and type of products has demanded a more economical, efficient, and productive processing flow system.

From an engineering viewpoint, the processing of beverages demands many different systems dictated by product nature and characteristics. Also, each segment can be categorized by the, type of system used ― conversion, composition or integration. For example, carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) use concentrates, which are enhanced with other ingredients; beer and spirits start with cooking virgin grain to begin the process; wines, fruit, sports, energy and some health drinks start with using varieties of fruit and vitamins.

Regardless of the beverage processing system used, a process flow requiring integrated engineering is necessary to meet demands of a wide variety of liquid beverages. 

The beverage, produced by whatever system in any category segment, is established as the beginning of the supply chain, and without the result of the process there would be no product.