Case Study

Tomoe Dairy Processing

Stratus® ftServer® provides a stable environment in the EDI system for the largest dairy processing factory in Japan

Since its foundation, Tomoe Dairy Processing has been delivering safe and secure milk and dairy products to schools, homes and workplaces under strict hygiene control. Freshness is essential to the chilled products Tomoe manufactures and sells, and the company has initiated a variety of procedures in order to provide the original delicious taste of high-quality raw milk. 90% of products are shipped on the day the order is received. The infrastructure of Tomoe’s ICT system, which supports an extremely short lead time and a stable supply line, is the Stratus ftServer.

With its head office located in Koga City, Ibaraki, Tomoe Dairy Processing Co., LTD. is a familiar name in the city, providing milk products and beverages for elementary and junior high school lunches. Tomoe’s history begins in 1956, when former President Toshio Nakata took over at Kanto Chikusan Kogyo K.K. That company, which processed and sold milk as well as meat and ham, was in financial difficulties, and Nakata restarted it as a dairy farm. The city of Koga is located at the western edge of Ibaraki, and it was difficult to do business within the prefecture from that area. However, Toshiyuki Nakata, President & CEO emphasizes that Tomoe developed by turning this location to their advantage. “When we expanded our business area to the Kanto region, Koga was right in the middle. In those days it was difficult to sell to other prefectures (an administrative district of some countries, especially China or Japan). But by building relationships based on the trinity of ‘production, processing and sales’ we gained people’s trust and our business area expanded in all directions.”

These founding principles of “production, processing and sales” are also displayed in Tomoe’s logo. In 1962 the company changed its name to the present “Tomoe Dairy Processing Co., Ltd.” One of the pillars of the company’s management philosophy, “contributing to society through safe and secure milk and dairy products”, was formed out of the three-way relationship between producers, processors and salespeople, and is represented in the mitsudomoe design (three comma-shaped figures in a circle) of the logo. In response to increasing demand, Tomoe built a new factory equipped with state-of-the-art facilities in the current location in 1994. But after it was completed, the company soon found that it was already too small and plans to build a second factory were drawn up.

However, those plans ended up going back to square one. “We had been planning the second factory since 2005,” says Nakata, “but when the Great East Japan Earthquake happened in 2011 we again felt how important a ‘stable supply’ is, so we reviewed our plans from the beginning.” This second factory, completed in 2013, obviously has an uninterruptible power supply and incorporates a variety of measures to ensure a stable supply, including a substation on the premises and a solid warehouse system that will not collapse even in an earthquake.

Tomoe Dairy Processing is now the manufacturer that boasts the largest-scale processing factory for milk in Japan. However, a stable supply is not established just by strengthening the manufacturing facilities.

The ICT system manages the relationship between received orders and production. A review of the ICT system was urgently needed for a stable supply of safe and secure milk and dairy products.

“Because we were fortunate in that no major problems occurred in our company’s ICT system, the implementation of availability measures had been put on the back burner,” says Kazuto Hiroki, the System Manager of the Sales Department. “Also, our online order management system, which is the most important thing in our business, was operating on a single server. We were living with the risk that, if the server had malfunctioned, that day’s operations—everything from production to shipping—would have been stopped.” Because milk and dairy products are chilled products for which freshness is essential, the lead time is extremely short. “It’s not unusual for an order to be shipped on the same day it’s received. If the system stopped even for an hour during our peak shipping period between noon and 3:00pm, we would incur large losses and it could be fatal to our business. So when it was time to replace the hardware, we started to consider building a highly reliable infrastructure platform that wouldn’t stop even if there were a system malfunction.”

Hiroki listed two requirements for an online order management system server. First, business does not stop even if there is a hardware malfunction. Second, the system keeps operating without human intervention when a malfunction occurs, and recovery is simple and requires no follow-up. “Our factory operates 365 days a year, but we don’t have a full-time information systems department,” says Hiroki. “We thought that, in a setup where people would have to do switch-overs when a system malfunction occurred, we would not be able to ensure a stable supply even with redundancy.” What Tomoe wanted was a server that achieved “unattended operation” so that operations would not stop even if a malfunction occurred when Hiroki was away.

What Hiroki selected was Stratus Technologies’ always-on solution, the ftServer, which was suggested by Daiko Denshi Tsushin, Ltd., the company that had been providing support for Tomoe’s ICT system for over 20 years.

Hiroki explains the reasons for Tomoe’s selection of the ftServer. “We were using an active-standby system as the infrastructure for our automated warehouse system. However, in the past, manual switching was required when a malfunction occurred, and we found that recovery operations were very hard. We considered a cluster system, but we lacked the know-how. It was also very expensive. The ftServer has an exceedingly high stable operation rate and the occurrence of downtime itself can be prevented. It doesn’t need to stop running when maintenance is being performed and recovery operations are easy. Most of all, we can avoid impacting our business. The ftServer was the only one that matched our requirements.” The ftServer’s hardware components are fully redundant and the two CPUs are always synchronized, performing the same processing simultaneously. Thus, if one component malfunctions, the component mirroring it continues processing. In this situation, there is no system “switching” and therefore no impact on the OS or the applications running operations. From the time a hardware abnormality or malfunction is detected until full-duplex operations are restarted by component replacement, the operations continue with the system remaining unaffected. Being familiar not only with Tomoe’s EDI system but also with the challenges of the entire system, including management structure, Daiko Denshi Tsushin suggested the ftServer as a system infrastructure that would support the stable supply required by Tomoe.

“The online ordering system is essential for our company’s business,” Hiroki explained to management, including the president. “With our volume of transactions, when they stop, not only does business stop but the trust relationship between ‘production, processing and sales’ is affected too. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to ensure stable system operations for a stable supply of products. The most important place to start is the system infrastructure.” And the decision to introduce the ftServer was made.

At Tomoe, the first ftServer was initially installed on Intercom’s EDI solution “Biware” platform. “We can really feel safe,” smiles Hiroki. There was actually a malfunction about six months after installation. “The malfunction occurred after I had left the office, but we were able to continue operations without incident, and the following day maintenance support was carried out.”

“We felt that it would really be OK even if nobody was there,” Hiroki repeats. Once again showing faith in the ftServer’s continuous operation and the fact that it requires no follow-up, Tomoe decided to use two ftServers as the platform for the company’s file servers. “Tomoe’s production management data is stored on our company’s file servers. Daily production is performed according to this production management data. At peak production time, adjustments to production instructions are entered hourly, so we see our file server as a mission-critical system as well. That’s why, when it was time to replace our file servers, we decided to use the ftServer. There are still areas where we need to invest in IT, but we feel that we’ve made considerable progress towards reaching the stable supply we profess,” says Hiroki with satisfaction.

Having celebrated their 60th anniversary, Tomoe Dairy Processing is setting up their grand design for the next ten years, with an eye to laying the foundation for 200 years. ”In 2015 we reached 34.5 billion JPY in annual sales. We want to reach 50 billion JPY in expanding sales into the Kansai region, we are going to expand our market into Asia, such as Myanmar and Vietnam,” says Nakata enthusiastically. Besides expansion, Tomoe is also working on developing health-value-added products, building healthy brands, and conducting research into milk to improve its added value.

The “Milk Museum”, located on the company’s premises since 1994, contains over 5,000 unique items related to dairy farming and the dairy industry. It is the only museum of its kind in Japan, offering a close-up experience of the history and development of dairy products, and is popular with many visitors. Part of Tomoe’s management philosophy is “there is culture in industry,” and it is by handing down information about dairy culture that the company is actively striving to preserve and develop the local culture.

“Milk includes a good balance of nutrients that are essential for maintaining good health,” Nakata, who is also a medical doctor, says passionately. “Like the expression ‘ishoku dogen (nutrition and medicine are equally important for health),’ which is part of our management philosophy, as a doctor I believe that, going forward, it is my duty to provide everyone with sources of health.”

From their beginnings as a Kanto dairy manufacturer and expanding their business area throughout Japan and into Asia, Tomoe Dairy Processing has pushed forward to improve the value of milk. They will not stop on their path towards a 200-year business.

About Tomoe

Tomoe Dairy Processing Co., Ltd. was established in 1941 (Showa 16), and is located at 1955 Shimohemi, Koga City, Ibaraki. As of May 2016, Tomoe employed 280 people (including part-time employees).

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About Stratus Technologies

Stratus Technologies’ solutions enable rapid deployment of always-on infrastructures, from enterprise servers to clouds, without any changes to your applications. Stratus products (software and servers) combined with Stratus people, enable customers to prevent downtime before it occurs, ensuring uninterrupted 24/7/365 performance of essential business operations.

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