YKK's Vertically Integrated Manufacturing System
Ever since YKK’s founding in 1934, it has been our promise to provide our customers with products that are as perfect as possible. To achieve universal quality in all of our manufacturing facilities, YKK developed and implemented a manufacturing system that’s truly unique. Called our “total vertically integrated manufacturing system,” this focused method requires YKK to produce everything, from raw materials and machines to finished goods in-house. This unique system of manufacturing requires many plants. For example, in Macon, Georgia at our own foundry at the YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. National Manufacturing Center, we produce our own brass from zinc and copper, and we make the zippers’ bottom stops, top stops, sliders and pull-tabs. The purest copper and zinc are melted in a huge furnace and cast. Out comes a narrow ribbon of molten brass that seethes through a hot rolling machine and is formed through intense heat and pressure into brass of superior strength that is 99.98% pure brass. After the brass has cooled, it’s stored in our Buffer Zone inventory system, shipped to YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap and Button Products in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, or stamped out into the three basic parts of a zipper: element, slider and stops. In later processes, these will be joined to tape to complete the brass zipper.
YKK’s CM6 fastener chain machine is the foundation of the company’s vertically integrated manufacturing system. In 1950, the Group introduced a U.S.-made chain machine to Japan to improve its productivity and quality. The machine, which was put to practical use in 1953, featured the ability to alternately fix into place the interlocking parts (elements) of the chain thanks to the modified components, an epoch-making invention which won YKK its first patent. Several years later, YKK began developing its own machinery from the ground up, and in 1959 developed the CM3, which was equipped with punching and alternating fixing mechanisms. Then in 1964, the company developed the CM6, which at the time was the world leader in terms of mass production quality. Since the development of the CM6, YKK has been able to stably produce high-quality zippers at low cost.
In addition to using a system of vertically integrated manufacturing to produce zippers and other fasteners, YKK approaches the architectural products industry in the same way. We make our own aluminum extrusions from T-ingots that we smelt in our own plant; we produce the logs, test produce the dies, and extrude the sash ourselves. We anodize with our Anodized Plus® process for the most consistent finish available. We also produce fine vinyl windows for residences.