Sep 8, 2016

Komatsu to improve distribution by utilizing Kanazawa Port

The Kanazawa Port Ohama Multipurpose International Terminal, adjacent to Komatsu's Kanazawa plant.

Komatsu is moving forward with improving its distribution through the utilization of Kanazawa Port. Last year, it implemented a system in which it handles heavy cargo at the port via RORO (roll on/roll off) ships through partnership with Sun Star Line and other operators, and began utilizing RORO ships for exporting press machines manufactured at its Kanazawa plant (Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture). It has revised its procedures so that it is able to load the machines onto the RORO ships alongside construction equipment from its Awazu plant (Komatsu). With this, it has been able to benefit from economy of scale in terms of freight rates, as well as improve the cargo handling quality and efficiency for press machines. Going forward, it will promote further utilization of the port, such as moving forward with mixed loading of cargo onto ships with other nearby manufacturers in an attempt to further improve synergy.

Its Kanazawa plant began operations in 2007. It has a total area of more than 100,000 sqm, and is directly connected to Kanazawa Port's Ohama Multipurpose International Terminal. There are two actual plants within its site, which mainly manufacture forging presses for automobiles and ultra-large hydraulic excavators. Its yearly export volume is approximately 50,000 cbm, or about 20,000 tons in terms of weight.

Komatsu as a group is increasing its volume of exports from Kanazawa Port, and has significantly reduced CO2 emissions and land transport costs compared to utilizing ports on the Pacific coast. Currently, heavy cargo volume from the group makes up approximately 40% of all cargo handling volume at Kanazawa Port. The company's Kanazawa plant began a full-swing shift toward using Kanazawa Port around fiscal 2000, reaching a utilization rate of 86% in fiscal 2010, then 94% in fiscal 2015, and expects to see 95% for the current fiscal year.

Komatsu Logistics Chubu Logistics division has stated that for the company, it is assumed that cargo will be exported from Kanazawa Port. As such, it has moved forward with containerization of its cargo, including utilizing flat-rack containers. In terms of construction equipment for export from its Awazu plant, the company utilizes the Kanazawa-Masan/Pusan RORO route. It has constructed a logistics route in which it transports cargo to North America via Masan, where large ships make port calls. In addition, regular meetings are held between with the personnel in charge of loading its cargo on ships at its Kanazawa plant, Awazu plant, and at group company Komatsu NTC (Nanto, Toyama prefecture) in an effort to optimize cargo loading at Kanazawa Port through mixed loading of cargo from the three locations.

That said, the only regular route at the port are container routes and RORO routes, such as Sun Star's service. Only smaller press machines produced at its Kanazawa plant are able to be containerized. Unlike construction equipment, press machines are not mobile, and require a specialized Tugmaster forklift that can handle Mafi Trailers, which have dedicated flat platforms, in order to load them onto RORO ships. There were previously no Tugmasters available at Kanazawa Port, so the only option for its Kanazawa plant outside of waiting until a certain volume had accumulated and then utilizing conventional carriers on an irregular schedule was to first transport the units via land or domestic ships to either the Port of Kobe or Nagoya where Tugmasters were available for use.

Being able to load both press machines and construction equipment onto RORO ships means that Komatsu is able to distribute transport, using conventional carriers for its Kanazawa plant and RORO ships at its Awazu plant, which allows it to cut costs in terms of freight rates. There is significant benefits for the company in utilizing Sun Star's regular routes for shipments from its Kanazawa plant. It will also no longer require cranes for cargo handling. Due to large products not able to be loaded onto Sun Star's RORO ships, as well as the fact that it has such high cargo volumes, the company will distribute cargo between conventional carriers and RORO ships, even when using tramper services, in order to increase loading efficiency among its three locations.

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