The Corporate Communications Department of Sumitomo Corporation organizes site tours for media representatives to help them better understand the Group’s business activities. The latest visit was to Chiba Kyodo Silo Co., Ltd. (CKS), which is the largest logistics company in Japan in terms of volume of wheat handled, and Chiba Flour Milling Co., Ltd. (CFM), which operates a flour milling business. Both are located in the Chiba Food Industrial Complex.
CKS to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its foundation in 2017
Located in the vicinity of the Port of Chiba in Mihama-ku, Chiba-shi, Chiba, is Japan’s oldest and most historic food industrial complex: the Chiba Food Industrial Complex. Side by side within the complex stand a number of food-related plants, including that of Yamazaki Baking Co., Ltd. The latest visit was designed to help newspaper and news agency reporters understand the business of two other entities inside the complex, CKS and CFM.
Upon their arrival at CKS, its president Manabu Yamane briefed the group on the company. CKS, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its foundation in 2017, is one of the oldest operating companies in the Sumitomo Corporation Group. With a particular focus on human resource development and guided by the motto “pursuit of greater excellence,” CKS is making company-wide efforts for self-directed training and operational quality improvement. The company puts in place a wide variety of educational programs to promote the professional development of its employees and proactively supports “ChibaKyo College” workshops given by guest academics and experts, which are produced by employees themselves, as well as offers language training programs outside Japan.
Reporters heading toward a 180-meter-long large vessel from Australia. Advance registration is required because the vessel area beyond the wharf is regarded by law as the state of the outside of Japan.
What is the silo business all about?
Silos are essentially warehouses designed to preserve grains and other agricultural crops. The silo business involves managing the storage process in order to supply grains and crops in a stable manner. Foreign-grown wheat grain is imported into Japan by ship and arrives at the wharf for large vessels on the premises of CKS. Subsequently, the wheat on board is sucked up by an unloader, which is like a gigantic vacuum cleaner, to be brought to the silo for storage. Reporters participating in the site tour were wowed as they witnessed the tremendous power of the unloader sucking up the wheat.
Wheat sucked up by the unloader is either stored in silos—there are 253 of them in total—on the CKS premises or transported to neighboring flour milling plants if the wheat is to be used immediately. CKS lies next to CFM, so that wheat can be transported directly to the plant by conveyor belt, which allows for both stable and timely supply.
The total silo capacity of CKS is 161,000 tons. Each silo is shaped like an upside-down plastic bottle. Wheat is poured into the silos from the top and taken out from the bottom, with the amount needed and measured accurately with a scale. To ensure stability of quality, CKS ensures that wheat with different harvest seasons or from different areas of production is never mixed for storage, even if the wheat variety is the same.
From the silos, stored wheat is transported by trucks, domestic coastal vessels or conveyer belt to flour milling companies or food companies. Milled flour is sold as wheat flour at supermarkets or processed into bread, noodles and confectionery products. Soy sauce manufacturers also use wheat as a raw ingredient. This wheat value chain is completed wholly within the Chiba Food Industrial Complex to satisfy food demands in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
The large vessel transported wheat. It is important to watch out the weather and close the hatch on rainy days.
Operating like a gigantic vacuum cleaner, the unloader can suck up 600 tons of wheat in one hour.
“Silo through” as added value in logistics
The deregulation of wheat import controls in 2010 allowed the private sector to carry out vessel allocation, deliveries and warehousing, all of which used to be controlled and managed primarily by the Japanese government. Moreover, a feed manufacturer that used to be located near the Port of Chiba moved to the Port of Kashima in Ibaraki Prefecture in 2006; this called for a need for CKS to have a feature to attract new customers, as well as existing customers, to the Port of Chiba. Accordingly, CKS put in place a mechanism of “silo through,” by which fully loaded large vessels can stop over at the Port of Chiba to transship their cargo to domestic coastal vessels for transport to neighboring ports. Specifically, the silo through mechanism allows service operators to accurately measure and transfer their cargo to domestic coastal vessels. Consequently, large vessels no longer need to stop at multiple ports, which cargo owners find efficient. The mechanism helped CKS increase the volume of wheat it handled to become Japan’s No. 1, handling 1 million tons of wheat in the fiscal year ending March 2015.
The increase in the number of vessels entering the Port of Chiba ensures the stable supply of wheat to plants located within the Chiba Food Industrial Complex. It also allows cost savings on transportation and enables quick action to produce products even in the event of a disaster. In recent years, this efficiency has been highly rated both inside and outside Japan, resulting in the port receiving groups of observers from overseas.
The cylinders at the far right are 50-meter-high silos.
CFM responds to demands for food
CFM is only one minute’s walk from CKS. In this 21st-century-standard state-of-the-art plant completed in 1999, reporters observed the processes of wheat mixing, conditioning and milling into flour.
Wheat is first ground through a roller and then sifted with a big sifter. After the purifier removes the husks with its vibrating screen and air blower, the wheat is put through the roller, sifter and purifier once again to be made into an even finer powder.
Use and quality of wheat flour vary according to its fineness. Finished flour has different characteristics depending on the type of wheat and the blend ratio. Blending wheat to provide flour that meets the needs of each customer is valuable know-how for CFM. All processes, including the packaging of the flour, are mechanized. Only a few employees are needed to administer the round-the-clock operations.
With the increasing interest in food in many countries around the globe, CKS and CFM are satisfying diverse needs with their cutting-edge facilities. The role of the food industry is expected to become even more significant in the future.
The appearance of wheat flour differs greatly depending on the stage of milling and type of wheat. Loaves of bread in Japan are made from much finer flour than those in Europe.
The sifter is big in size but silent in operation.
|Site Tour Overview|
|Dates||November 13, 2015|
|Participants||10 reporters from a total of eight newspapers and news agencies|
|Purpose||To provide an opportunity to witness behind-the-scenes activities and see how effectively Sumitomo's integrated corporate strength works within the group businesses.|
|Main Activities||(1) Facility tour to see the silo operations and orientation at CKS
(2) Facility tour to see the milling processes at CFM
- Media, ICT, Lifestyle Related Goods & Services Business Unit
- Food Products
- Business Unit
- Product or Service