• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Local factory readies for growth in its business

EMPLOYEES AT YOKOHAMA loaded a pallet with canned goods that were donated to a church in Hazard, where about 250 boxes of food are given to needy families twice a month (Photo submitted)

By empowering its workforce to make decisions and allowing them to change the culture, Yokohama Industries Americas, Inc., in Versailles has significantly increased its new business over the last 18 months, plant manager Walt Williams said. Yokohama Industries Americas currently has about 300 employees at its Versailles plant. Another 130 employees will be hired beginning with 30 new hires at the end of this year and another 100 next year, Williams said. He said those new employees will come as the manufacturer invests over $5 million in new equipment and upgrades in its plant this year, including an expansion of about 35,000 square-feet into an onsite warehouse space. During a tour of his existing 100,000 square-foot manufacturing facility, Williams explained an automated process to bend two different pipes for automobile air conditioning systems. Yokohama Industries manufactures air conditioning tubes for about 30,000 Nissan Altimas each month. That's the local manufacturer's largest product line, but it also produces auto components for Ford and Toyota. "Our quality is world class," said Williams, who has been plant manager since 2013. He noted that the manufacturer only ships out fewer than two bad parts per one million. "That's the beauty of these people. These are hardworking people," he said. By restructuring how workers are doing their jobs, Yokohama has improved its productivity, safety and quality in Versailles, Williams said. Formerly known as YH America, Yokohama Industries Americas has been operating its manufacturing plant in Versailles since 1989. Williams said the manufacturer was renamed for name recognition. He said YH America was historically known as a producer of automobile power steering tubing components, which are still manufactured here. Air conditioning components have become its largest growth business.

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