AkzoNobel - Paints & Coatings
Working at Akzo Nobel - Rafael Ayala Morales

Working at Akzo Nobel - Rafael Ayala Morales

Last week, I celebrated my two-year anniversary working for AkzoNobel, which made me think about the steps that got me to this day. Before moving to the Netherlands, I worked for two and a half years as a process engineer in a paper manufacturing company in Mexico. After closing this chapter, I was determined to explore new career opportunities and since I have always found international experiences rewarding, I decided to pursue a Master’s in Management in the Rotterdam School of Management. Short after my graduation, I joined AkzoNobel as a production planner because it was just the perfect opportunity to leverage my background in manufacturing and the learnings from my master’s degree. One month in the job, I was already discussing shift patterns with the production site, checking the feasibility for a promotion with demand colleagues and collaborating with the commercialization team to ensure that a new product introduction could be produced on time.

Although I went through a really nice onboarding process, I had many questions in the beginning. However, for every question I had there was always a colleague willing to help me out. I am happy to see that even during the pandemic, we have managed to keep these practices on going. During my time as a planner, I always fought hard to achieve my objectives; however, what I valued the most was the feedback and support I received when I couldn’t reach them. After one and a half years, I was convinced that AkzoNobel is an organization in which I could truly see myself growing; therefore, I decided to take a next step in my career and apply for a Planning Project Manager position.

As a project manager, I am currently involved in two main projects. In the first one, together with a team of planners, we designed a standard meeting structure that will help planning and manufacturing have effective discussions, track their performance and agree on gap closing proposals when necessary. In the second one, another project manager and I are responsible for the process standardization in three production sites that are planned outside of our centralized planning hub. These are only a couple of examples of projects that a project manager could coordinate supported by a team of planners and a sponsor that could be either a Supply Planning Manager or a Director. These initiatives can range from moving towards a touchless planning environment while reducing our inventory levels all the way to endeavors to map the various careers paths we can follow within the company, so you are aware of the skills you need to develop to get there.

When I look at other activities colleagues from my team are doing, I can be nothing but amazed. While some teammates are coordinating efforts with suppliers to mitigate the effects of the pandemic by prioritizing the material allocation amongst our sites, other colleagues are ensuring that the products we will produce in the next months will be compliant with the upcoming regulations. Finally, while some members of the team have become experts on the tooling and ERP systems we use in production and material planning, other project managers are making sure that all our processes and best practices are well documented and available to all our planning colleagues. To summarize: the project team’s mission is to support planning when requested to keep operations running and to drive improvement in all our processes.

For the moment, my main goal is to keep developing my project management skills and getting involved in new projects that will expand my knowledge in different areas. I truly believe that the future will bring plenty more years to celebrate within AkzoNobel and I only expect that each new step will be more challenging and exciting.