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12 November 2021, last update 2 November 2022

Supporting the Future Readiness of Yamato’s Cold Chain Service

Perishable food sushi japan cool transport

How a supply challenge with cool containers led to a fruitful collaboration with VRR.

Every year, Japan’s No. 1 delivery service provider ships 2 billion parcels by air, land and sea. Every day, millions of individuals and businesses rely on its delivery services. All this is made possible by its network of advanced logistic facilities in each of Japan’s regions.

The coolest service that Yamato Transport offers is undoubtedly Cool TA-Q-BIN, a refrigerated delivery service that transports chilled and frozen cargo safely, speedily and affordably to all corners of Japan. It enables the procurement of hard-to-find and highly valuable perishables from local producers. As such, air-cargo cool containers play a significant role.
So, when Japan’s only manufacturer of MKN cool containers ceased production in 2018, Yamato knew that it would have to find a new manufacturer to continue providing a reliable and effective cold chain service.

“We were already worried about the MKN’s aging model and thinking that we would need to find an alternative container,” says Yamato’s Asset Manager. “But when our local supplier shut down, we were left with a real predicament. Without a reliable source of cool containers, there was a real possibility that we wouldn’t be able to maintain a stable cold chain service.”

For Yamato, which prides itself on meeting its customers’ needs precisely (its motto is ‘all for the customer’), this situation was untenable. It needed a new supplier of air-cargo cool containers that could meet its standards of quality and adapt to its specific requirements. That meant finding a company that could not only manufacture but also customise the MKN’s certified successor: the RKN.

A positive and collaborative approach to customisation requests

Yamato quickly reached out to VRR, who they had already worked with on another ULD-related project. Once they had established that the Rotterdam manufacturer was the only seller of certified RKN containers, thoughts turned to the transporter’s explicit requirements: improving insulation and making its cold chain service future ready.

The RKN is a popular and well-designed product which can be controlled by a Temperature Controlled Unit (TCU) if desired, making it a significant improvement on the older uncertified MKN containers. Even so, Yamato had in mind a development for its new cool containers: a rechargeable, removable battery pack.

VRR was open to the idea and so happy to work alongside Yamato’s own technical people in developing the innovation. “It was a reliable and organised process,” confirms the transporter’s Asset Manager, who is also the buyer for its ULDs. “Our requests were tackled positively by VRR’s engineers, and they collaborated actively with us to ensure we got what we wanted.”

In addition to the new battery, the transporter had other ideas for improving the RKN’s overall performance. VRR listened carefully to each request and—often in conjunction with Yamato itself—found and developed creative solutions.

business people meeting asian 2

Nationwide operations call for a large first order – and a large dose of trust

The first order that Yamato placed with VRR was unusually large, at least for a first order: 50 RKN cool containers to ship deep frozen (-18°C / -0.4°F) and chilled cargo (8°C / 46.4°F). The Asset Manager explains why so many were ordered right off the bat:

“We have hundreds of cool containers in our fleet, with around a quarter in operation on any one day. To maintain operational levels at each of our logistic centres, all of which have diverse needs, it’s not unusual for us to introduce new products at this volume.”

Commissioning a sizeable quantity of new ULDs obviously requires significant trust, which is why Yamato had made sure that VRR could respond to its very specific requirements. But development capabilities weren’t the only criteria. The delivery service provider also wanted a ULD manufacturer that wasn’t afraid to suggest better alternatives to its own customisation requests.

“VRR is certified to design and manufacture under EASA Parts 21 and 145, and it has an internationally recognised track record in customising standard ULDs,” adds Yamato’s Asset Manager. “That and the fact that they clearly understood our needs and were willing to work with us to find fresh solutions gave us the confidence to move forward with such a large first order.”

Future-proofing the cold chain delivery service

Three years on and Yamato is still happy with its customised version of the certified RKN. The rechargeable battery pack, which can be removed and replaced in seconds, has increased operational speed and reduced operational expenditure for its logistic hubs significantly. It’s even reduced the cold chain service’s environmental impact. Most importantly, the RKN has ensured that the Cool TA-Q-BIN service can continue guaranteeing an unbroken cold chain to Yamato’s customers.

“We’re also ready for when enough customers start demanding temperature-controlled shipments,” concludes the Asset Manager. “Knowing we can use the TCU in our cool containers at a moment’s notice means we won’t have to replace the RKN with something newer. In the meantime, we’ve ordered another 150 RKN containers. And if we see any opportunities for improvements to the RKN, we know we can count on VRR to make them.”

 About Yamato Transport

Yamato Transport provides delivery services such as TA-Q-BIN, a small-parcel delivery service in Japan. The company has offices throughout Japan and in 23 countries/regions around the world. It also provides warehousing logistics services, comprehensive packaging solutions, international refrigeration services, value-added logistics infrastructure, and customised delivery solutions to corporate clients. For more info, please visit www.global-yamato.com.

About VRR

VRR is a world leader in designing, engineering and manufacturing air cargo containers. Based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, it has a reputation for collaborating with global partners and customers. It offers a wide range of certified solutions, from horse stalls and collapsible ULDs to fire-proof and temperature-controlled containers. For more info, please visit vrr.aero.

Mike van Berkel,
Mike van Berkel got his degree in Aeronautical Engineering, then got a job with VRR in 2016 as an Engineer. He is now Account Manager for the Express Industry, looking after customers like DHL, FedEx, UPS and Amazon. In addition he also looks after the Asian market. His role makes him a lynchpin between customers and the internal organization, especially when it comes to developing innovative products.

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