Tuesday, 29 April 2014 12:21

Inside HDS's Asia Pacific distribution centre


The Hitachi Data Systems equipment in your data centre was almost certainly assembled at the company's Asia Pacific distribution centre in Singapore.

While Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) products are manufactured in Japan, items sold in Australia and other Asia Pacific nations were shipped via the US until 2010, when the company opened its Asia Pacific distribution centre (ADC) in Singapore.

This change allowed HDS to deliver products more quickly to regional customers, explained ADC operations director Luke Teo, as there are many direct flights from Singapore to the countries in the region. It also reduced the company's carbon footprint compared with shipping via the US.

Some third-party products sold under the HDS brand are made in the US, but still ship to this region via the ADC, he noted.

Apart from Singapore's geographic convenience, the location has several other advantages, said Mr Teo.

They include strong government support (including the provision of a bulk 'strategic goods' export licence), a "friendly" tax regime, premises within the free trade zone (so only the products destined for the Singapore market enter the country for customs purposes), and the presence of other Hitachi group companies (providing economies in procurement and other areas of business).

Approximately 40 people work at the ADC, including warehouse, technical, and traffic/order fulfilment staff.

HDS ADC-Assembly 550

The process starts around four hours after a flight carrying an HDS shipment lands at Changi. The pallets are received at the ADC and broken down into individual part numbers for warehousing.

What happens next? Find out on page 2.

RFID is used to track part numbers, quantity and location, and the entire process is systemised and automated, Mr Teo said.

In addition to components for new systems, the ADC stocks around 2000 different parts for service use. This inventory is used to replenish local holdings around the region.

The ADC also handles returned material authorisations, determining whether any returned parts can be refurbished at the factory or if they have to be scrapped. All returned drives are scrapped, and HDS will certify their destruction if requested by the customer.

The next stage in the process is the assembly lab, where systems are configured to order. At the time of iTWire's visit, the first VSP G10000 to be assembled at the ADC was on the lab floor, prior to delivery to a customer in Singpore.

System assembly takes anything from three hours for a basic unit to a full day (up to six person days) for a maximum configuration.

From there, the unit moves to the testing lab where the products are tested in the exact state that they will be shipped to the customer, whether the order is for an individual tray of drives or a complete six-rack unit.

HDS ADC-Vacuum Elevators 550

The final stage is packing and dispatch. Units are vacuum sealed in plastic, and trays (weighing as much as 80kg) are boxed and racks (up to 800kg) are crated, with sensors on the outside to indicate excessive shocks or tilting. Then it's onto a truck for delivery in Singapore or transfer to the airport for destinations elsewhere in the region, such as the crate destined for CSC in Sydney that iTWire spotted in the dispatch area.

Around 130 tonnes of equipment currently pass through the ADC each month, and the volume is growing by 15% year-on-year.

Disclosure: the writer travelled to Singapore as the guest of HDS.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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