published: December 30, 2019
This week, we sat down with Akshat Kant, Continuous Improvement Leader, to learn how he contributes to quality at Avigilon.
Tell us a bit about Continuous Improvement at Avigilon, a Motorola Solutions company, and what you do within that team.
Akshat Kant (AK): I lead the Continuous Improvement (CI) department at our manufacturing facility in Richmond, Canada. The CI department is responsible for driving improvements in terms of safety, quality, efficiency and cost competitiveness at our manufacturing facilities while fostering a culture of lean manufacturing and CI across the entire organization. For now, the primary focus is on our manufacturing facilities in Richmond. My goal is to make improvements quickly but continually so that we can provide our absolute best to our customers while also getting rid of activities that don’t add any value in the most cost-effective way. So far, we achieve this by putting a lot of effort into training our production, shipping and warehouse teams on lean manufacturing principles so that they can recognize waste and then systematically eliminate it.
For example, a portion of my work involves identifying bottlenecks in the four main pillars of CI: safety, quality, productivity and cost. This requires rigorous data analysis and number-crunching during initial stages but right after the analysis begins the most interesting and challenging part of the process — we try out innovative in-house solutions to achieve our targets at minimal cost and time. Sometimes we undertake a small but quick improvement project (known as a Kaizen Blitz) and implement effective countermeasures to improve the process, quality or safety. Since we involve our various manufacturing teams in our projects from the get-go, all the solutions have a direct impact on them in a positive way.
What do you like most about your role?
AK: There are not too many ‘manufacturing/engineering’ sector industries in British Columbia, so I feel a sense of pride to be one of the few. I love being a part of such a young, dynamic and diverse workforce — it is both interesting and competitive, which makes for a powerful collective learning community, which is extremely important to our CI initiatives.
Also, being at the core of what I call the ‘ideation to implementation’ process gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Having led various improvement projects at our Richmond manufacturing facility that made a lasting impact is very fulfilling. My team is responsible for engaging and encouraging people to challenge the status quo and target important metrics like defect reduction, efficiency improvement, layout betterment, safety and ergonomics enhancement. A few significant projects we have implemented include cellular manufacturing for efficiency improvement, Kanban implementation for inventory accuracy, 5S programs and several Kaizen projects across many value streams. The benefits of these projects flow through the company right down to the customer, and I like knowing that we’re making a difference behind the scenes.
How did you get into CI and end up at Avigilon?
AK: I earned my bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and went on to gain extensive experience in high-volume, fast-paced manufacturing industries across Japan, India, Italy and Canada. I am also a certified professional in Lean Six Sigma (LSS) from Japan.
At the very onset of my professional journey, I was inducted into Suzuki Motor Corporation in Japan as an engineering trainee. Japanese production systems shaped my mindset of improving processes and systems by following basic lean manufacturing principles. A decade’s exposure to these ideas transformed me professionally.
When I left Suzuki in 2015, I was the manager of the same department that I had started in as an engineering trainee 11 years prior, but by then the Japanese/lean manufacturing philosophy of Continuous Improvement was infused in my DNA. After Suzuki, my work took me to several different places across three continents — Asia, Europe and North America — and I had the opportunity to not only work in highly industrialized set-ups but to also experience different cultures first hand.
Since then, a significant part of my professional career (more than 15 years now) has been centered around roles such as Continuous Improvement and Manufacturing Engineering. Both of these involve improving processes and engaging people in one way or another. I utilize the skillsets I acquired over these years to bring many process and system improvements to wherever I work, including Avigilon.
What aspect of your work are you most proud of?
AK: At our Richmond and Plano manufacturing facilities, the CI team has driven a lot of improvements. Being a key CI resource at Richmond gives me a wonderful platform to utilize my experience and skills to strengthen our manufacturing processes during this transition-phase, as the Motorola Solutions video security portfolio both expands and unifies. There is a great synergy between our teams, and together, we have made tremendous progress in a short amount of time. Upper management’s support of CI ideas and improvements has been phenomenal — this is probably the biggest difference between the organizations that keep moving forward and the ones that stagnate.
It is always a very satisfactory feeling when our teams are happy with the layout of the production floor and the processes they follow are safer, more efficient and more robust from a quality and efficiency standpoint. Everybody wins!
Speaking of quality, how do you deliver quality to customers in your role, specifically?
AK: My work directly impacts our warehouse, production and shipping teams in terms of the processes they rely on, the layout of their work environment, and the flow of materials from the raw material stage to the finished goods stage. Any gap in this value chain can easily disrupt the balance within our manufacturing facilities, which in turn will impact our customers… and our customers are our top priority.
Following a customer-centric approach is the foundation of lean manufacturing — we focus on value-added activities and, by definition, value-added activities are the ones for which the customer buys a product or a service. When it comes to delivering quality to our customers, each value stream matters, from receiving the raw materials to shipping out the finished goods, and CI influences the entire value chain by helping to shape manufacturing processes and layout improvements.
I am a CI professional by nature. I think my strength lies in challenging the status-quo, quickly identifying the root cause of an issue, being biased-for-action and by not shying away from asking for user feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. These four elements keep me focused and determined to keep pushing relentlessly. I approach any problem by revalidating the assumptions. I always ask myself if there is a reason something is being done in a certain way and whether it can be done in a better way. To find the answer to those questions, I take a deep dive as the ‘why’ is often buried under heaps of data. Then, I act quickly to make improvements while still doing my due diligence.
To sum it all up, I help make our manufacturing processes better, and when manufacturing is top-notch, we are better positioned to deliver high-quality products that our global customers can rely on.
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Avigilon, a Motorola Solutions company, designs, develops and manufactures solutions in video analytics, cloud, security cameras, video management software and hardware, and access control. Avigilon is an industry leader and, together with Motorola Solutions, provides integrated solutions for video security, access control and critical communications. To learn more about Avigilon, visit avigilon.com.