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USGNN Original StoryYKK 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 (CLICK HERE 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, but also enhance quality, reduce energy consumption and reduce emissions.

"It's part of our strategic planning to increase market share in the United States," explains Oliver Stepe, senior vice president of YKK. "The existing major assets of that plan had started reaching their capacity lines, so it was just very simply a strategic decision to continue to grow in the USA and needing to deploy assets to do so."

The facility already has been completed and the company is currently working on bringing in new machinery, most of which is expected to go into production by the middle of May. Among the new equipment brought into the plant are three highlights, Stepe says.

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 to help with the melting. "Roughly speaking, that type of option saves about 30 percent on natural gas versus, machinery that does not have that option," Stepe says.

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. The 9-inch 3,000 metric ton press features extended cooling/run-out tables, as long as 200 feet.

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 they're 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.

"We've already added new jobs," Stepe says. "It's projected that this whole deployment could add up to 200 jobs by 2010."

With the expansion nearly complete, Stepe expects that the additional capacity will help improve the company'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."

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