Supporting business expansion with new networking and cloud-enabled solutions

SBS Ricoh Logistics

Business opportunities

In 2018, SBS Ricoh Logistics came under the umbrella of the SBS Group, necessitating an overhaul of IT infrastructure across the more than 100 locations in Japan and overseas that form the lifeline of the company’s logistics network. The company adopted software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) and cloud-enabled equipment, which helped accelerate installation and operations while reducing costs and improving security. Overall, this initiative bolsters the expansion of the company’s bases and provides a foothold for digital transformation.


SD-WAN revamped the company’s network. Using products like the Cisco Meraki series and Zscaler’s Zscaler Internet Access (ZIA), Kyndryl worked with SBS Ricoh Logistics to reduce costs, improve business speed, enable telework, and improve services for employees.

Proof of progress

  • Created a network with appropriate security levels and service quality specifically for logistics
  • Replaced network infrastructure within a set time at over 100 locations in Japan and overseas
  • Eliminated the need for a dedicated network team
  • Freed IT team to focus on digital transformation in a streamlined environment

The infrastructure we built in this project has smoothly facilitated remote work, and I believe that we have been able to take one step forward in our digital transformation journey.

Kenichi Shimizu, Manager of Information Systems Department Corporate Planning Division, SBS Ricoh Logistics

Building a new network

SBS Ricoh Logistics is a manufacturer-affiliated logistics company that transports precision equipment. The company’s strength lies in its ability to meet the needs of customers based on recycling-oriented logistics, providing end-to-end services from arterial logistics (packaging design, procurement, production and sales) to venous logistics (collection, recycling and processing).

When it became a member of the SBS Group, the company chose to build its own IT infrastructure independent of existing IT services.

Shimizu explains the goal of building proprietary IT infrastructure: “We decided to consider afresh what would be the most appropriate IT infrastructure for a logistics business, in line with the change from handling a manufacturer’s logistics to becoming a business whose main business is logistics. We then started the project with three main objectives: business continuity, delivery improvement of IT infrastructure, and increasing information security.”

The first objective of business continuity required infrastructure construction and the commencement of operations by March 2022—which the team set as the deadline for using the Ricoh Group’s IT services.

The second objective—improving IT delivery quality of IT infrastructure—was critical, as some aspects of the existing service content and structure were unsuitable for the logistics business.

Finally, the third objective: strengthening information security. With risk of being targeted in a cyberattack on the rise, the company saw preventing incidents as a natural next step to take.

As a provider of network infrastructure and security, we had to become able to manage our own operations by becoming experts in the relevant technologies.

Kenichi Shimizu, Manager of Information Systems Department Corporate Planning Division, SBS Ricoh Logistics

Creating the future-proofed network

SBS Ricoh Logistics worked to optimize network service levels. Rather than making it uniform nationwide, the team optimized costs by altering the level according to the size of the base. For example, at small sites, they used an internet line rather than a closed network to eliminate redundancy and switch to an LTE line if a failure occurs.

As the company continued to build new distribution centers, the question was: how quickly could they build networks? The company’s number of overseas locations was expected to increase, and they needed a structure that could handle overseas operations.

“We also considered increasing use of cloud applications. Although it was before the coronavirus pandemic, telework had begun to spread around the world due to work style reforms, and we often heard about network bandwidth issues. We therefore examined how to create a network that could withstand the increase in web conferencing in the future,” says Shimizu.

A main goal was improving the services provided to employees. Now that smartphones have become commonplace, SBS Ricoh Logistics decided to prepare a wireless LAN environment for people working at logistics bases. In contrast, since there are many people coming and going at distribution centers, SBS Ricoh Logistics decided to introduce a system that allows strict control of the devices that can be connected to the business network.

Partnering for proactive operations

SBS Ricoh Logistics required one more major initiative. In the network infrastructure, the company changed from the position of a “user”—including members of the Information Systems Department—to being in a position where they had to build and manage everything themselves.

 “We had almost zero skills in network infrastructure and security, but we had to create a system that allowed us to independently manage our own technology after becoming able to identify the necessary technology ourselves,” explains Shimizu.

When selecting a vendor to build the infrastructure, the company needed a partner who could offer close support and make changes as products change and IT evolves without a black box situation or vendor lock-in. Furthermore, the team knew they wanted a partner versed in robots and AI.

The company selected Kyndryl (then IBM Infrastructure Services) as the best match for this concept. Shimizu recalls the reasons for this: “Kyndryl was able to combine an extensive lineup that was not limited to specific services and made a number of proposals. In addition, they had specialists in fields such as security and networking, and they explained each of these aspects to us in detail, which was very helpful for us, as we had little knowledge of the subject. Another key deciding factor was that we were able to set up meetings so that we could visit companies that were actually using the service. It was very helpful to be able to hear what user companies had to say.”

“Kyndryl gave us product and policy proposals while taking into account our limited knowledge of security, explaining how to make security equivalent to that of the Ricoh Group at the time, and how to take into account the unique circumstances at our warehouse. Kyndryl was able to consult with us on even the tiniest details, and showed us how we would able to operate the system in a realistic manner.” - Yumi Yamamoto, Manager of the Security Promotion Section, Digital Promotion Department, Information System Center, Corporate Planning Division, SBS Ricoh Logistics

Overhauling network infrastructure at 100+ locations

By October 2019, the project began to take shape. In order to build everything within the deadline, the most important consideration was to organize the project team efficiently.

 “Since we had to change all the infrastructure over a large area, we assigned people to each field, such as security and networking, and Kyndryl also set up an equivalent subject matter experts and clarified the roles and responsibilities, so we were able to receive appropriate support even though we had no knowledge in that area,” says Shimizu.

The team also paid ample attention to rolling out changes at the company’s numerous “always-operational” locations.

“We classified the bases by size and began by expanding the small bases. After these pilot projects were implemented, we confirmed whether or not the bases could operate as desired, established a structure, including procedures, and then began full-scale development. The only times we could stop were Saturdays, Sundays, nighttime, the year-end and New Year holidays and Golden Week, but Kyndryl responded flexibly as we proceeded with the transition,” explains Shimizu.

Following Kyndryl’s proposal, the company selected:

  • Cisco Meraki for SD-WAN and wireless LAN
  • Cisco ISE for authentication
  • Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) for the firewall
  • Cisco Firepower for VPN for remote access
  • Zscaler ZIA for Internet access security

Following the adoption of SD-WAN, setup was completed by installing the equipment and refining the settings from the cloud. Despite the company’s many locations, even employees with less experience were able to handle the changes. But as things moved forward, the company faced some challenges.

 “Many types of handheld terminals are used at logistics bases, and some of them could not be connected to using Meraki’s access points, so we had to start switching over to dealing with handheld terminals. Remote access also had to be urgently dealt with during the coronavirus pandemic. Even if there was a problem that we couldn’t foresee in advance, Kyndryl worked with the manufacturer and specialists to smoothly find a solution,” says Yamamoto.

We chose Kyndryl as our partner because of the broad range of products and the diverse proposals they offered, as well as their specialists in each field which were able to explain things to us in detail, which was very helpful given that we had very limited knowledge in the relevant areas.

Kenichi Shimizu, Manager of Information Systems Department Corporate Planning Division, SBS Ricoh Logistics

Supporting new ways of working

Since SBS Ricoh Logistics replaced the network at its domestic bases with a network of its own, SD-WAN has been particularly valuable to operations.

For cloud services like Microsoft 365, a direct Internet connection was configured from the terminal via Zscaler with local breakouts to maintain security and avoid straining bandwidth with increased telework. Meraki’s cloud management capabilities unlocked remote work that previously would have required visiting the site to connect to network equipment.

“Meanwhile, when we started the project, we were worried about limited use cases of Zscaler. However, now we think it was the right decision because it’s easy to handle, running stably, and the tool has become mainstream. I believe that Kyndryl and the project we implemented were quite forward-looking. It may not be obvious to users, but changes are always taking place to enable a smooth transition to remote work while maintaining a high level of security,” explains Shimizu.

The new system structure has also improved the mobility of human resources. By creating a certain amount of procedures (for example, how to install Meraki), even the person in charge of apps can handle situations when establishing a new base.

To date, there has been no backlash or negative comments about the project from users of the network—which is, perhaps, the best proof that the IT infrastructure was replaced without any problems.

Proceeding toward digital transformation

When the same infrastructure set was installed at the new site, it worked without problems despite a complex configuration with a mixture of handheld terminals and robots.

Even so, SBS Ricoh Logistics sought further improvements. Regarding the future, Yamamoto said, “There are still some security measures that need to be improved. We will continue to strengthen them and are already consulting with Kyndryl to that end.”

Shimizu also expressed his enthusiasm for digital transformation. “The infrastructure we built in this project has been able to facilitate telework without any issues, and I believe that we have been able to move one step up the ladder. We are building an environment where IT can quickly follow up to achieve the aims of top management. I think that once we no longer have to contend with the network construction project, we will be able to focus more on promoting digital transformation.”

The company is now acting as a role model for infrastructure development at the ever-expanding SBS Group. In the future, it aims to lead the way in the digital transformation field as well.

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