Employee Spotlight: Varun Kesavkumaran

Varun Kesavkumaran
Varun Kesavkumaran

Manufacturing Engineer, Ottawa, Canada

Can you share a bit about your professional background?

After completing my engineering degree in India, my first job was for a manufacturer of stainless steel products. That experience made me want to learn more about manufacturing, so I decided to get my masters in the U.S. At the same time, I worked at Universal Instruments on research related to the reliability of lead-free surface mount assemblies.

After that, I moved back to India and worked for Sanmina in the Chennai region from 2010 to 2015, starting as an industrial engineer and then becoming Manager of Product Engineering and Industrial Engineering. In 2015, my wife and I decided to move our family to Canada, where I re-joined Sanmina in Ottawa and have been there ever since. It’s been a rewarding journey.

What kinds of responsibilities do you have in your current position?

My major area of focus is manufacturing process development and new product introduction (NPI). I collaborate with the customer engineering team on new products and internally coordinate between different teams like Production, Quality Assurance, Test, Supply Chain Management and Planning for all NPI and production builds. The NPI build starts from the early alpha design phase and progresses to validation build and production builds. I handle all of the technical issues related to the product – right from receipt of raw parts, all the way to production build issues, test failures related to manufacturing and process, final inspection and packing.

I also coordinate the implementation of Engineering Change Notices/deviations on the production floor. I ensure that all product documentation is current and set up and manage the product traceability system. I investigate technical issues highlighted by the customer and provide the root cause and corrective action.

I am involved in the manufacturing of high-end networking and video surveillance products. The networking products we manufacture for our customers are based on coherent optical technology and are capable of delivering 800G speeds, maximizing fiber capacity in communications networks.

Varun has worked at Sanmina for more than 11 years in both Chennai, India and Ottawa, Canada (pictured above).

What do enjoy most about working at Sanmina?

I’ve been working at Sanmina for more than eleven years between India and Canada and I can most definitely say there has never been a dull moment. I see every issue as a problem-solving opportunity that enables me to learn something new. In Ottawa, I work with a great set of colleagues that are always willing to help out. I also enjoy the work-life balance that lets me spend quality time with my wife and two children who are 6 and 8 years old.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

At Sanmina Chennai, I was involved with a number of implementation projects that resulted in direct cost savings and value. I consider these to be some of my biggest accomplishments.

At Sanmina Ottawa, my focus is on delivering quality products. We get involved with products early in the design phase and work through numerous changes before we even build the NPI prototypes. I’m proud to have played my part in successfully delivering many new and high-quality products to our customers.

Who has been an inspiration in your life?

Dr. Srihari, my professor at Binghamton University, has been quite an inspiration. During a lecture, he once asked what would be the most useful book to an engineer. There were many good replies from students, but his answer was the Yellow Pages in the phone book. He felt that an industrial engineer should be a jack of all trades and understand the big picture and who to approach in order to successfully get the job done.

When he gave us projects, he would usually give us only a day or two to provide our first update. We would hurry to the library to collect information from journals and online to put together the update. Once he listened to our initial findings, he would then give us a more realistic project deadline. After later interactions with him, I learned that his theory was that the most difficult part of a project was to get it started. These are important lessons that have stayed with me during my career.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy watching movies, anything from mystery and suspense to drama. I watch both Indian and Hollywood movies, along with foreign films. I also enjoy cooking and trekking (hiking) during the summer.

What are your thoughts on how manufacturing or manufacturing jobs will evolve in the future?

Compared to a decade ago, more automation is being integrated into manufacturing lines and it will continue to grow moving forward. More robotics and AI are coming into play. I know that some people worry about automation replacing people’s jobs, but in reality you need a lot of people to manufacture robotics and enable automation. It can enrich your job because you are focused on optimizing and troubleshooting processes and machines versus handling more mundane tasks. It’s more efficient and prevents more failures in the field. As more automation is introduced into manufacturing, I think it’s going to mean more jobs as well.