Interview with YKK Corporation of America

YKK Corporation of America
YKK Corporation of America

Please brief us about the latest achievements at YKK.

We are working with companies every day to help bring their innovations to life. A few things we are proud of include:
  • In 2016, YKK Corporation received the Japan Institute of Design Promotion's Good Design Award 2016 for ECO-DYE, its waterless dyeing technology for zippers.
  • In 2017, our new corporate headquarters in Japan was awarded the top prize (first place) at the global level in the Ashrae Technology Awards. The YKK80 Building is the first Japanese building to receive the award. In March 2016, this building became the first office building in Japan to obtain top LEED-BD+C (Core and Shell) Certification (Platinum) in Japan.
  • In 2017, YKK provided  the zippers for The Boeing Company's new Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner Spacesuit.

What are the key trends dominating the zipper industry?

Global trends for zippers are heading the same way as most apparel and accessories markets.  The demand for lightweight, cross-functional zippers using sustainable manufacturing and raw materials is increasing. There are a variety of ways in which YKK strives to expand sustainable options-the use of recycled, organic, and other environment-friendly materials, reduction of resource waste in production processes such as ECO-DYE, YKK's technology for the waterless dyeing of zippers, and elimination of toxic and harmful substances both in production and products. With an increasing number of brands standardising their sustainable products with Bluesign, YKK is also committed to increasing its range of Bluesign certified products all over the world.

In which areas is the application of fastening solutions increasing?

In terms of regions, the Asia region (China, Southeast Asia, South Asia) is growing the fastest. Production started shifting to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea in the mid-80s. Then in 2005, production shifted dramatically to China with the termination of the WTO agreement on textiles and clothing and all of its associated quotas. But rising wages and labour shortages in China has led to another big shift in the industry. We have begun to see sewing shift to Southeast Asia and to South Asia.
In terms of applications, in apparel and accessories we see the continued use of zippers as a design element. And there are many interesting industrial applications for zippers. Just a few include: 
1. The drainage ditch used in the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, which connects the main island of Japan to Shikoku island. This bridge has a drainage ditch made from flexible rubber which can expand and contract as needed. Trash often falls into the ditch, but thanks to YKK's water/air tight zipper, it is possible to remove the trash by opening the zipper. 
2. The H-II A Rocket was invented by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) to launch an artificial satellite. This rocket's thermal curtain is connected using a YKK zipper. The thermal curtain protects the rocket from the high heat generated upon launch. At first, the thermal curtain was connected by a cord, but it has been replaced by a zipper because a zipper makes it more convenient to open and close the thermal curtain when checking and repairing the rocket. 
3. When carrying milk by truck, a tank is needed to prevent the liquid from spilling. YKK's technology allows the huge empty tank to shrink after delivery, allowing the driver to haul other items.  A 'soft tank' is made from soft material, so it can be folded up compactly after use. Since trucks using soft tanks don't need to make any trips with an empty trailer, their gasoline usage is less, which is good for the environment. YKK's air/water tight zipper works well in soft tanks because it doesn't leak. In addition, the inside of the tank can be cleaned because the zipper can be opened wide.
In which areas is the application of fastening solutions increasing?

Please share details of the last two fiscals and the expectation for the next two fiscal years.

Our net sales have been increasing at a steady pace 544, 434 million yen in fiscal 2012 to 741,935 million yen in fiscal 2016.

What are the fastening solutions of future expected to be like?

The fusion of fashion and IoT is drawing attention now, and YKK is following this change closely. IoT is expected to have a big impact on the designer's creativity.

Zippers are increasingly being used as an embellishment in fashion apparel. What new fashion innovations can the industry expect in the next couple of years?

YKK makes trend books for each season, but it is very difficult to read trends two or three years ahead. As you pointed out, the trend to use zippers as decorations in apparel and shows has continued since about 10 years ago. In the sportswear industry, reflective and glow in the dark zippers remain popular, and I expect that the trend will continue in the future.

What budget have you allocated towards R&D?

The YKK Group has five research and development centres located strategically around the world to serve our valued customers. Our largest R&D centre, located in Kurobe, Japan, focuses on Core Technology and Fundamental Research for applications across a broad spectrum of fastening markets. Our R&D centre in Italy addresses fastener research to support the fashion industry. The R&D centres located within the US and Taiwan focus on the development of high functioning fasteners for diverse markets such as the automotive, aerospace, military, medical, and industrial safety markets. 

In addition, we currently have development centres located in strategic locations around the world and employ approximately 810 employees, with increases planned, so that we can swiftly respond to customer requests based on the specific needs of each region. YKK's machinery & engineering division works closely with R&D to make their developments operational by designing the necessary manufacturing technologies, processes and tools necessary to economically manufacture these new products. The YKK Group's machinery & engineering group supplies machinery specialised for the fastening products and architectural products business groups to YKK Group factories all over the world by developing materials, developing machinery and equipment, and manufacturing machinery parts and components of machinery and equipment.

Any investment plans for the near future?

In the future, we plan to achieve quantitative expansion, with the ultimate goal being the sale of 10 billion zippers globally. We recently expanded our plant in Vietnam, remodelled the YKK Furumido Plant in Japan to serve as the global R&D Centre for YKK, and completed a new building at the YKK Snap Fasteners Japan Co Ltd's Ageo Plant. We plan to expand the number of development centres globally to better serve our customers and invest in renewable energy, such as the installation of solar panels on the roof of our plant in Anaheim, California and a hybrid power-generation system at YKK Bangladesh.(HO)
Published on: 17/07/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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