Jul 30, 2014

Tanita reducing environmental load in export/import logistics

Kuichi Yokoyama, general manager, international logistics management

Tanita Corp. (headquartered in Maeno, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo; headed by its president, Chisato Tanida) will promote the reduction of environmental burden in the field of export/import logistics through such means as the expansion of the round use of marine containers. The company has thus far been promoting the utilization of railways and round use of containers when importing goods for its factory in Akita. Further, it switched a portion of the transport of imported parts for its Niigata hub warehouse to railways starting the end of last year. Amid such social problems as the shortage in drivers, the company will cut down domestic truck transport and push for rationalization in the logistics segment.

Tanita produces health measurement devices and other equipment at its domestic factory in Daisen city in Akita Pref. and at its overseas plant in Dongguan city, located in China's Guangdong province. It began the round use of containers in the latter half of the 1990s when it kicked off production at its Dongguan plant. Further, it pushed for steady rationalization in the export/import logistics segment while utilizing the functions of inland container depots (ICD) inside/outside the country in cooperation with operators and other shippers.

The Akita factory used to import parts that were loaded at South China ports and then unloaded at Tokyo port. However, the launch of the ICD at the Morioka cargo terminal by Japan Freight Railway Co. (JR Freight) in March 2010 triggered Tanita's decision to start the round use of containers linking such ICD and the railway system. The containers are hauled to the Morioka cargo terminal from the Tokyo cargo terminal located in the hinterlands of Oi pier. After JR Freight delivers the cargoes to the Akita factory, the containers that were used for import are then sent to the Morioka ICD. Export manufacturers that are similarly based in Tohoku pick up the containers at the said ICD and then use them for export. With this, long-distance drayage and the transport of empty containers in the inbound and outbound legs are reduced. The new system also helps alleviate congestion at Tokyo port and cuts down CO2 emissions in logistics services.

Tanita exports products from its Akita factory to its hub warehouses in the U.S., India, Netherlands and Hong Kong, but it has not considered round use in the export segment as of today owing to problems with logistics. Storage space at its factory is limited, so products are shipped as needed using trucks. The products are stored at the warehouses of its affiliate companies in the Keihin region, undergo vanning for each destination and are then exported each week via 40-foot containers.

The company also has a domestic hub warehouse at the Niigata-Higashi port, where goods manufactured at the Akita factory and imported from the Dongguan plant are temporarily stored. These products are delivered nationwide. Imported goods from the Dongguan factory are unloaded at Tokyo port and then transported by trailers, with the import volume said to be a little more than 10 containers per week.

Tanita has been switching drayage from Tokyo port into railway transport for 20-foot containers since October last year, simultaneously kicking off the round use of containers with the Niigata-Higashi port's container yard as base. Now since partners on the export side of container round use export heavy cargoes and there are limitations to the stevedoring equipment at Niigata-Higashi, the shift is limited to 20-foot containers.

There are many issues related to matching that surround the round use of containers, including the necessity to employ the same operator in the export and import legs, but Yokoyama still opined that, "The exchange of customer information and other matters between operators and logistics providers has become more difficult, so we need to have a neutral coordinator." The environment-related nonprofit organization (NPO) ESCOT (Easy/Safe Controlled Transmission), where Yokoyama serves as the deputy vice-president, holds seminars from a neutral position and at such an event, information is exchanged among the concerned parties and Tanita seeks further collaboration with other shippers, transport companies and logistics providers. ESCOT also verifies the amount of CO2 reduction.

On the use of Niigata, Tohoku and other regional ports, Yokoyama projected that, "While we may be forced to resort to the transshipment (T/S) of cargoes at Pusan port and other hub ports, there are various risks entailed in T/S, including longer transport time, unstable schedules and increases port costs at hub ports." With this, Tanita's hauls basically utilize Tokyo port, where the trade routes have been reinforced.

Tanita does not entrust all its needs to a single logistics provider, as it chooses providers depending on the needs of each logistics process. "It may require more time and effort, but through this method, we are better able to control quality and cost in each process. Information also flows in a direct manner," explained Yokoyama on the company's logistics management policy. Further, Tanita plans to build the optimum system corresponding to the state of logistics from here on.

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