To improve the efficiency of collection and transport of vehicle parts, as part of its ‘green distribution system’ between Hiroshima and the Tokai District in central Japan, Mazda Motor Corporation on Monday began using newly designed, exclusive cargo containers in its rail transport circuit.

The new rail containers are 31ft (9.4m) long, more than double the length of the containers used before, and allow for a significant improvement in transport efficiency.

The green distribution system includes Mazda’s milk-run system, which uses a single truck to collect parts from multiple suppliers, and a modal shift from truck to rail for service part shipments. The automaker expects these improvements will reduce energy requirements for logistics between the regions by 27% annually.

Mazda initiated the green distribution system between Hiroshima and the Tokai district in April 2006, when it began to progressively introduce the ‘milk-run’ system to pick up parts from its suppliers in Mie, Shizuoka and Gifu prefectures and collect them in Nagoya. Concurrently, the automaker shifted from trucks to rail transport for the final stage of delivering the collected supply parts from the Nagoya cargo depot to Hiroshima. Also in April 2006, Mazda began to transport service parts from Hiroshima to Nagoya by rail.

The latest changes include the expansion of the milk-run system to service suppliers in Aichi prefecture using rail transport and the introduction of the exclusive rail containers.

From today, the new containers will be used for the round trip transport of both supply and service parts between the Hiroshima and Nagoya cargo terminals. Each new container prominently displays Mazda’s brand symbol and corporate mark on both sides.

The green distribution initiatives between Hiroshima and the Tokai district are endorsed by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) under Japan’s Green Physical Distribution Partnership Conferences, which aim to promote environmental policy measures in the physical distribution sector.

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) is subsidising the new system as part of its Support Project for Industries for Increasing the Efficient Use of Energy.

The target of these policies is a 27% reduction in energy used for transport.

Mazda’s senior managing executive officer in charge of production and business logistics, Masaharu Yamaki, said: “In order to minimise the environmental impact of our logistics operations, Mazda is improving its transportation efficiency and cutting CO2 emissions through this modal shift and the milk-run system.”