Volume 43, Issue 6 - June 2008

Distribution & Production

YKK AP America Nears Completion of $36 Million Expansion 

YKK AP America Inc. has added 250,000 square feet to its facility in Dublin, Ga., bringing its existing footprint on the site to just over one million square feet of manufacturing space. The company has invested approximately $36 million into Phase II of its expansion (see May 2007 USGlass, page 22, for information on Phase I), and already has set plans to invest an additional $30-$40 million by 2010 for initiatives to further increase capacity, as well as to enhance quality, reduce energy consumption and reduce emissions. 

Many of the new machines purchased for the expansion went into production in mid-May. Among the new equipment brought into the plant are three highlights, says Oliver Stepe, senior vice president of YKK. 

First is the addition of a second melting and casting machine. “We’re the only ones in the USA that do it ourselves,” Stepe says. “We actually start with the raw aluminum and we control our own alloys.” 

To keep in line with the company’s goal of energy savings and reduced emissions, the new machine features regenerative burners that take exhaust gas and reuse it for the melting. 

The company also has added a second high-performance fluorocarbon paint line. The new computer-controlled line is a continuous flow, “three-coat one-bake” line. “It helps deliver a higher consistency on the quality,” Stepe says. 

In addition, a third extrusion press has been added to increase efficiency. 

With regard to efficiency, the company is also aiming at increasing automation in its lines. Stepe explains that the facility recently has deployed an automated custom door line. “We’re really starting to move on to a lot more automation in aluminum door and window production,” he says. “Where these types of machines are really headed is integrated and connected to the order-entry systems. What can be projected in the future is that a customer can do an estimate, turn it into a quote online themselves and that will eventually run right into the machinery itself.” 

Despite the trend toward automation, the large amount of space that has been added to the facility begs the hiring of additional employees. 

“It’s projected that this whole deployment could add up to 200 jobs by 2010,” Stepe says. 

With the expansion nearly complete, Stepe expects that the additional capacity will help improve YKK’s ability to offer aluminum products quickly. 

“Our focus is just having the shortest lead-time and the best on-time delivery,” he says. “The only way you’re going to gain market share in a down market is to be better than the next guy, so that’s what we’re trying to do.” www.ykkap.com 

RFID Helps Viracon Monitor Orders
Viracon, headquartered in Owatonna, Minn., is installing radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions to track, monitor and manage all glass carriers throughout its manufacturing facilities. RFID products are able to locate and monitor assets and people over standard Wi-Fi networks, to improve and automate business processes. Since implementing a pilot program of the asset-tracking solution late last year, the architectural glass fabricator has been able to reduce search time for glass carriers, eliminate lost carriers and reduce manual tracking of expedited orders. Based on these results the company is now moving to a full installation. 

Tags mounted on more than 5,000 glass carriers communicate over a Wi-Fi network and relay status and location as the carriers transport glass between cutting, tempering and lamination stations. Software maps and displays their location and enables workers to search for specific customer orders and see where they are in the production process. The information is integrated into the inventory management system, keeping the location and status of glass carriers up-to-date for inventory purposes.  www.viracon.com 

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