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Japan's Yamato to offer 3-D printing service

Logistics group adds minifactory to high-tech Tokyo warehouse

Yamato's huge Haneda Chronogate logistics terminal in Tokyo has become a tourist attraction of sorts.

TOKYO -- Yamato Holdings, no stranger to delivering goods, will try its hand at making them at a facility here equipped with 3-D printers.

The Japanese logistics company says its new contract manufacturing business will roughly halve the time between order placement and delivery for medical and other products.

Yamato has installed American-made 3-D printers used in aerospace and medical manufacturing at its high-tech Haneda Chronogate fulfillment center in Tokyo's Ota Ward. It will start a service next month that will supply medical products custom made for each patient.

The minifactory will receive the necessary patient data online and deliver the complete products to medical institutions in about three days, compared with 7-10 days for specialty manufacturers, according to Yamato. It aims to expand the service to industrial and other goods and reach 10 billion yen ($87.2 million) in annual sales in fiscal 2025, by touting fast turnaround times and the ability to handle small-batch orders.

Core unit Yamato Transport's kuroneko, or black cat, logo is a ubiquitous sight in Japan. But the group faces rising costs in its mainstay parcel delivery service amid a shortage of drivers and warehouse personnel. It aims to improve profitability by adding an upstream component to its business.

Rival Nippon Express also has plans to get into contract manufacturing. Together with Tokyo-based Kabuku, which connects buyers with around 300 factories for hire in 33 countries, the transport company will explore global cooperation on shipping and may set up its own 3-D-printer-equipped production facilities.

Such efforts are not confined to Japan's logistics industry. UPS, the U.S. industry leader, now takes 3-D printing orders in cooperation with European software giant SAP.


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