Sustainable Stories

Nagase Viita's WEB Magazine


January 09, 2024

Preparing for the Looming “2024 Logistics Challenges”:A Distribution Company's Pursuit of Sustainable Logistics

The power of "logistics" makes it possible to put the necessary goods in the hands of those who need them. While the logistics industry plays an indispensable role in our daily lives, it faces an impending concern of declining transportation capacity due to a shortage of drivers, known as the "2024 Logistics Challenges." One distribution company in Fuji City, Shizuoka, has been taking conscientious actions to overcome these challenges and ensure the survival of both the company and the industry in the best way possible.
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Eco-Friendly Tank Truck Transport: Reducing Container Waste

Logistics forms the backbone of everyday activities, ensuring essential items reach those who need them. For material manufacturers like Nagase Viita, while continuous product quality enhancement is foundational, the added value of a safe and reliable transportation system is just as crucial. Beyond managing costs, companies also bear the responsibility of minimizing their environmental impact during transportation.

This is why our logistics department is implementing various initiatives to reduce transportation costs and achieve sustainability. For example, we are taking all possible measures, such as using Japan Railways’ containers, making paperless forms, and switching to recyclable packaging materials. One of these measures is transporting liquid products (Mizu-ame, starch syrup) by tank trucks.

Our factory produces Mizu-ame, a maltose syrup, which can be delivered to customers (such as food manufacturing plants) in two ways, depending on the quantity. For smaller orders, we use containers and regular trucks for transportation. In contrast, larger orders are directly loaded into tank trucks, reducing the use of containers and eliminating the need for refilling. With the cooperation of our customers, we're continually working to increase the use of tank truck transportation when feasible.

The distribution company in charge of delivering our starch syrup ptorudcts in the eastern Japan area is Towa Tsusho Co., Ltd. The company is part of Minato Distribution Service Co., Ltd. based in Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture.
Among the many forms of transportation, they specialize in the tank truck transportation of liquid products (such as Mizu-ame, drinking water, sake, mirin, and alike) that require strict hygiene control. Towa Tsusho is one of our trusted partners, providing stable transportation services throughout Japan from five key bases in the Pacific region of Japan. The company is deeply committed to the future of the industry and the broader social environment, actively undertaking various initiatives aimed at sustainable management.

Tank trucks are designed to transport large volumes of liquid food materials, utilizing an insulated structure akin to stainless steel thermos bottles. The image on the right showcases Minato Distribution Service Group's inaugural tank truck.▲Tank trucks are designed to transport large volumes of liquid food materials, utilizing an insulated structure akin to stainless steel thermos bottles. The image on the right showcases Minato Distribution Service Group's inaugural tank truck.

Individual Awareness Makes a Clear Difference in Fuel Efficiency

At the award ceremony of the 2023 Eco-Drive Activity Contest
▲At the award ceremony of the 2023 Eco-Drive Activity Contest
One initiative that Towa Tsusho ardently pursues is participation in the "Eco-Drive Activity Contest." This competition recognizes businesses that promote environmentally conscious vehicle use. Contestants are evaluated based on their internal promotion efforts, fuel consumption data, and the success of their implemented measures.
Competing with nearly 1,000 businesses nationwide each year, Towa Tsusho secured the Excellence Award in 2017, just in its second year of participation. From 2020 onward, the company elevated its position, earning the Superior Award (equivalent to second place) and achieved recognition for seven consecutive years. This contest uniquely rewards participants' sustained commitment to the Eco-Drive Activity, demonstrated through consistent participation. Towa Tsusho was honored to present its commitment to sustainable operations at the 2023 award ceremony. The company now sets its sights on the pinnacle award: the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Award, reserved for the field's top-performing company.

Mr. Katsunori Ishikawa, President of Towa Tsusho Co., Ltd. & Executive Director of Minato Distribution Service Co., Ltd.▲Mr. Katsunori Ishikawa, President of Towa Tsusho Co., Ltd. & Executive Director of Minato Distribution Service Co., Ltd.

While it's challenging to instill an eco-driving mindset and ensure every one of our busy drivers acts on it, President Katsunori Ishikawa, who guides the company's direction, shares his perspective:
“We've always placed great emphasis on this area. I've been confident that our drivers delivered award-worthy performances simply through their regular routines. But our decision to participate went beyond that; it was driven by a desire to express our appreciation for the drivers who consistently prioritize safety. We wanted to shed light on and celebrate the individual efforts of each one.”

Drivers who achieve a perfect monthly score receive an internal award, "100-Point ‘Arigato’ Recognition." The word "Arigato" means “thank you” and carries the deep sentiments of the President. The prize is a substantial bag of rice, aimed to provide a sense of weightiness – a tangible measure of the company's gratitude to be happily shared with family members.

The 44th Management Plan Presentation Meeting (Fiscal Year 2023)▲The 44th Management Plan Presentation Meeting (Fiscal Year 2023)

“Many of our drivers are naturally reserved, so I initially spotted a sense of embarrassment when they were openly acknowledged," recalls President Ishikawa. "However, receiving accolades in front of a sizeable audience brings a significant morale boost. It's gratifying to know these awards spur them to maintain their excellent performance." Initially, only a handful achieved full marks, but as recognition ceremonies became more frequent, a shared ambition of "I want to be next" emerged among the drivers. As a result, the number of recipients has consistently risen.

Striving for an Inclusive Enterprise that Benefits Workers and the Community

As part of its commitment to community service, the company has taken the initiative to publicly share data on traffic accidents involving kindergarten, elementary, and middle school students in Fuji City. Leveraging the 'My Maps' feature of Google Maps, the company independently digitizes accident information provided by the local police. Schools can then utilize this data to enhance traffic safety measures for their students. President Ishikawa swiftly implemented this proactive measure after witnessing similar initiatives in other municipalities.
Furthermore, in response to requests from local municipalities and major retailers, the company offers water supply assistance to areas affected by disasters. In the past, they've dispatched water trucks and staff to places like Shizuoka City and the prefectures of Niigata, Miyagi, Wakayama, and Akita.

In recent years, the company has been actively hiring female employees. Although the workplace used to be dominated by men due to the nature of the transportation industry, the company has made strides to be more inclusive by adding facilities such as restrooms and shower rooms specifically for women. Female employees comprise approximately 25% of the administrative staff and 7% of the drivers.
"While our percentage of female employees is notably high within the industry, there's still room for improvement," says President Ishikawa. "I'd like to see at least 10% of our drivers being women."
Providing water supply assistance to Shizuoka City during the water disruption caused by Typhoon No. 15, September 2022.
▲Providing water supply assistance to Shizuoka City during the water disruption caused by Typhoon No. 15, September 2022.

Preparing for Change, Starting with What's Possible

These sustainability-driven initiatives stem from concerns over the forthcoming "2024 Logistics Challenges." The term refers to the anticipated issues starting from April 2024, when regulations will cap annual overtime hours for vehicle operators at 960 hours, which impacts the logistics industry. Though this aims to curtail excessive work hours, it might lead to decreased revenues for logistics firms and reduced earnings for drivers. Consequently, a considerable decline in Japan's transportation capacity is expected.

To address these anticipated challenges, the immediate action is to maximize efficiency and actively tap into available talent. Take tank truck transportation as an example: it can be less cost-effective than general truck transportation because a tank needs a thorough cleaning before the next shipment. In contrast, general trucks can quickly prepare for another shipment after unloading. The more often tank trucks return to their base with empty tanks, the less profit transport companies earn, as the truck runs without a load. This inefficiency not only escalates freight costs for shippers but also inflates the prices of transported products. Therefore, minimizing empty returns and streamlining operations become critical for transport companies, shippers, and consumers.
Nagase Viita has taken proactive steps to address this by installing sophisticated tank-cleaning facilities and sharing detailed route information with other carriers to boost transportation efficiency and minimize empty returns.


Minato Distribution Service Group's Towa Tsusho Co., Ltd. is actively pursuing various initiatives to navigate the significant industry shifts and ensure the continuation of vital logistics services. At the heart of these endeavors is a deeply-rooted management creed inherited from previous generations: "Heart of Gratitude, Heart of Belief, and Heart of Service."
"In an industry where people are at its core, prioritizing our workforce is essential. Our goal is to remain a company where everyone can envision a prosperous future," remarks President Ishikawa.
Similarly, Nagase Viita values our partnerships with transportation companies as we collectively prepare for the anticipated challenges.

Towa Tsusho Co., Ltd.

  • Nagase Viita's Sustainability Focus Points:
  • ●Engaging employees through participation in the "Eco-Drive Activity Contest."
  • ●Enhancing children's traffic safety education by creating a traffic accident map for Fuji City kindergarten to middle school students.
  • ●Offering water supply assistance to communities during disasters upon local governments’ requests.
  • ●Actively recruiting female employees to diversify their workforce.