YKK AP America Inc. is investing up to $125 million to expand its residential door and window offerings with a new manufacturing facility in Macon, Ga. President Oliver Stepe says the operational goal is to double the company’s capacity while setting a forward course for the decades to come.
Macon has been the headquarters of YKK AP’s residential products business since 2007 and will be home to the approximately 400,000-square-foot residential door and window manufacturing facility set to break ground in October 2022. Stepe says strategic planning for the project has been in the works for two years with final approvals coming down the line only three months ago.
“What’s leveraging the desire and interest to do it is that we’re trying to scale the business,” Stepe says. “Although we’re becoming more known in the residential window business, we still have a lot of opportunity and room to grow. Our currently leased facilities were just out of room, out of capacity. It was really a decision of whether we continue to grow or stay static. Anybody who knows anything about our company and the industry knows we’re all about growth.”
Rising interest rates and a potential slowdown in housing starts aren’t deterrents for YKK AP, in part because the project has been in the works for years. But another factor in moving the development forward is the sheer amount of opportunity on which the company plans to capitalize.
“Even under tight market conditions, we just have so much more opportunity to grow,” Stepe says.
“Historically speaking, oftentimes our largest investments have occurred at times of financial challenges.”
YKK AP acquired 50 acres in Macon on which the new facility will be constructed. Stepe notes that leaves plenty of room for growth in the years and even decades to come. While the operational goal is to double the company’s capacity in the residential market, Stepe says the acquired acreage will allow for the current capacity to be quadrupled in the future.
“The economy always cycles, but those companies that are smart and focus on a disciplined approach in the market and with their employees, those are the ones that are going to grow,” he says.
For YKK AP and its newest facility, that approach means utilizing “advanced sustainable manufacturing and enhanced work environments for employees.” Many of the company’s factories already use internally designed and engineered machinery. The new facility is no exception.
The investment will see the introduction of a $20 million “highly automated” production line. Glass sorting and additional automation are in the works as well, and a good portion of existing machinery will be transferred to the new location once completed.
For employees, Stepe says they focused on an increase in ambient lighting and outdoor space. The factory will be 100% climate controlled and have bright-colored walls and multiple outdoor seating areas. YKK AP will add more than 100 new jobs with the expansion, plus the 250 Macon employees set to transition to the new location.
“We want people to feel happy when they go to work,” Stepe says. “If the environment is comfortable and pleasing, people are going to be happier, so we put a lot of focus on that as well.”
Concerning focus, the new development for YKK AP will in no way take away from its commercial offerings. Stepe says those two areas of business, commercial and residential, will remain in separate lanes.
“They’re in very different markets, so the production, the customers, they’re all very different,” he says. “This particular initiative in residential is just for residential, it has no effect on our desires or interests for what we’re doing in the commercial sector.”
JE Dunn Construction will serve as the construction manager and SSOE Group as architects and engineers.
“We look forward to collaborating with SSOE Group to support YKK AP’s growth and create jobs,” says Scott Bodden, project director at JE Dunn Construction. “This will be a facility built on innovation, and that begins with innovation in project delivery.”
The facility is scheduled to be operational by Q1 of 2024.