Daniel J. Dechant
Vice President, Corporate Engineering
Dan Dechant assumed the role of vice president of Corporate Engineering within Engineering, Technology and Mission Assurance in May 2012. Dan provides leadership in engineering execution and oversees the development of engineering processes, tools and practices, enabling collaboration across the company to support Raytheon’s growth strategy. He ensures engineering curriculum alignment across all Raytheon businesses to improve workforce productivity, effectiveness and efficiency. Dan leads and actively participates in review teams ranging from key proposals to program independent assessments. He is focused on achieving One Company behaviors that include promoting continual improvement and providing recognition for engineering expertise; both are critical to Raytheon’s success. Dan strives to achieve cross-business coordination to offer Raytheon customers best-value solutions and technologies. Prior to leading Corporate Engineering, Dan was chief systems engineer, providing oversight and guidance to system engineering efforts enterprisewide. Prior to that, he was director of the Systems Architecture, Design and Integration Directorate within Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) business.
Technology Today spoke with Dan about improving productivity, program execution and innovation. We also discussed the importance of modeling and simulation in Raytheon programs.
TT: What are your objectives in your role as VP of Corporate Engineering?
DD: The primary objective is to maintain and improve our competitiveness. This ensures the future of the company and of our jobs. This is accomplished in three ways: 1) continue improvements in productivity, 2) continue technical excellence and innovation leadership, and 3) flawlessly execute on our programs to ensure good customer relations, confidence and past-performance ratings. We need to offer superior technical solutions at the most cost-effective price.
TT: In that context, what is Raytheon doing to improve productivity?
DD: The corporation is making a number of investments to improve our productivity and our ability to perform work across the company. The largest such effort is the Product Data Management (PDM) investment that provides a unique capability to “Design, Build and Support Anywhere,” which is primarily focused on mechanical engineering and CM/DM [Configuration Management and Data Management]. This is a bold vision based on a cultural change to work across the company with common tools. Another example is the Software Innovation for Tomorrow [SWIFT] initiative that addresses four pillars of focus for software and systems engineering. For electrical engineers, there is the Lean Product Realization program that improves commonality and shares critical information and tooling for CCA [Circuit Card Assembly] designs. I am encouraged by the corporation’s demonstrated commitment to make the investments, not just in technology, but also in our business processes and tools that help us improve and stay competitive in the marketplace.
TT: How does Corporate Engineering help with program execution?
DD: First, members of Corporate Engineering participate in gate reviews and color team reviews that ensure our programs are executable and are doing the right things to ensure excellence in execution. But we also are industry leaders in compiling organizational metrics that allow us to: 1) monitor ongoing performance and long-term organizational improvements and 2) provide leading indicators of potential difficulties in program execution.
TT: And innovation?
DD: ET&MA sponsors annual innovation challenges and enterprise campaigns, and our engineers are key contributors in these activities, across the board.
TT: Given these areas, which do you consider to be Raytheon’s strength?
DD: We draw our strength in these areas from our people. I am continually amazed by the depth and breadth of technical expertise our engineers have, as well as their strong commitment to succeed at every assignment they endeavor to undertake. Our engineering leaders, with our HR business partners, work continuously to recruit the best people, and further their development throughout their careers with assignment development opportunities and through classroom and online learning opportunities. Recently, our ability to identify a person’s development needs or competency gaps was significantly improved through the use of competency models within the Talent and Career Explorer (TACE).
TT: Name some of your development opportunities?
DD: Prior to joining Corporate Engineering, I was a systems engineering director within IDS and predecessor organizations for 12 years. That provided me the opportunity to be involved in many programs from start to successful conclusion. I find that some of the best learning occurs when you have the opportunity to observe the evolution of your early decisions as a program moves forward. For my role, it was making key proposal-time decisions related to the system design solution, the process tailorings we make for a program, the aggressiveness of the productivities and their balance with the risk register, and the chemistry of the systems engineering teams and their leadership. This “life cycle” of learning is available to all of us, and I always encourage people to stay in one or more roles long enough to experience this level of learning.
TT: This issue of Technology Today focuses on modeling and simulation. Can you provide some words on how modeling and simulation contributes to our programs?
DD: My first assignment as a new college graduate was in the modeling and simulation of radar systems. Back then, FORTRAN was the tool of choice rather than some of the more advanced development environments discussed in this issue. For an individual, modeling and simulation is a great way to develop a keen understanding of how systems operate and interact within an environment. As an example, you can read a book or take a training class, but the rigor required to create a correct and executable mathematical model doesn’t allow for unresolved ambiguities in understanding. As an example, for me, creating a model of distributed ground clutter, and evaluating the improvement factor of pulse-Doppler waveforms and its processing provided an excellent way to understand how radars work. Of course I need to add the caveat of George Box’s insight that all models are wrong, [but] some are useful.
In this edition of Technology Today, you see many such examples where we are able to model the quantitative performance of our systems and in many cases the look and feel of our systems. We are truly dependent upon these models for development and the optimization of our solutions, and for selling off requirements by analysis. But we are on the cusp of a change in how we do engineering. Performance simulations are not the only models we create and use. We have a host of architecture models that characterize other aspects of the system such as behavior. And different models are developed by different disciplines, including systems, software, electrical, mechanical and whole life. The integration and linking of all these models will lead to a major advancement in how we develop systems. This will provide advantages for faster development times and fewer errors introduced by the manual steps that we perform today. We have begun planning for this future in activities we call model based engineering (MBE) and model based systems engineering (MBSE). Over the next few years, we will see these concepts mature, and we will be able to justify another major investment by the corporation to improve our capabilities, productivities and competitiveness.