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Meet Kozue Childress, director-supply chain management at YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. She’s been with the company 30 years. We asked Kozue to tell us how her journey at YKK got started and to share her best advice for the next generation of YKK employees.

Tell us about how you started your career at YKK

Since I was a child, I always wanted to be an inventor or entrepreneur. When I read the book of respected YKK founder, Mr.Tadao Yoshida, I was impressed by his personality and business philosophy. Especially the concept of “Shinrin (forest)” where “All employees should think and work like top management.”

What were some of the challenges you have encountered during your career at YKK?

When I was first placed in a new position at work, I looked at numbers and graphs. I thoughtfully considered strategy, but I did not come up with a good idea. The actual plan became apparent as I visited the Gemba (Japanese word referring to the location where value is created) or “on-site” and studied our operations and talked with various workers. I knew that was important, but I did not use that concept in my actual work. It was a lesson learned from experience.

What is your advice for high school students trying to figure out what to do next?

Students should follow their dreams as much as possible and study hard. It is important to listen to the opinions of those who are successful and follow their lead.

What are some of the skills an employee must have in order to be successful at YKK?

There are many skills that are important to develop as a professional. From priority management, decision making, time management, negotiation skills to the ability of building good relationships with people. These are all important skills to have, but the most important skill is communication. You can not be successful when you are unable to express yourself effectively.

What is your definition of success?

The concept of success varies from person to person and over the course of your life. In my case, I feel successful when I help others to achieve their goals.

“I feel successful when I help others to achieve their goals.”

What are some of the professional development tools or training you’ve received that have helped you in your career?

There are three areas that come immediately to my mind.

As a new employee:

1. I was blessed with great bosses and learned “business how-to” from them. It was a valuable experience and something not learned in the classroom environment. I am still very grateful for them.

Recent training:

2. YKK leadership training. This is a project sponsored by the president of YKK (U.S.A.) Inc., where leaders from completely different fields gather to come up with new business ideas. It was a great experience and pushed me to excel and develop trusting relationships with my colleagues who worked on this project.

3. “Business Process Excellence” (One of the Total Productive Maintenance pillars). This ongoing activity focuses on collaboration with my colleagues in our other departments. I learned through this project that the most important asset for YKK is each employee’s creativity and their active engagement. When employees are active team players, it improves our customer experience, our quality, cost and delivery and our safety. Taking advantage of this experience, I am now working to improve the process of supply chain management and logistics.

“When employees are active team players, it improves our customer experience…”


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