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Dennis Hu Director-EHS and System Safety Engineering, Ball Aerospace


Dennis Hu

Director – EHS and System Safety Engineering Ball Aerospace
Website: http://www.ball.com/aerospace
Twitter: @BallAerospace
Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/dennis-hu-6613293

Please tell us your job responsibilities and day-to-day activities.

I am responsible for regulatory compliance, occupational health and safety, permitting, emergency response, sustainability and system safety engineering for Ball Aerospace. As far as a typical day, I am usually focused on developing the strategic path forward for the EHS and System Safety Engineering (SSE) groups. I also support our customer programs for building hardware (i.e. telescopes, satellites, instruments, and sensors).

In general, I am always looking at how the EHS and SSE functions can help support our business units and future company growth while maintaining EHS performance and compliance. As such, I meet with our business leaders frequently to ensure operational alignment. In addition, I spend a lot of time building relationships, both internally and externally, to help support my team in getting work done.

I like to think of my job as setting strategic direction and then supporting my staff and removing roadblocks so they can meet our team’s objectives. I am very lucky that I have a highly competent professional staff which results in our group getting a lot accomplished.

Tell us your biggest environmental/sustainability challenge in 2017 and how you are addressing it .

In 2017, I would say our primary focus has been to continue to build our internal team brand and reputation as problem solvers and collaborators. We have seen a lot of success in our approach from this perspective by the increased “pull” that has been generated by our business units and other departments at Ball Aerospace in asking us for help and by being included in project discussions, both strategically and tactically.

We have also been leading efforts this year to increase the robustness of our emergency response programs and capabilities. Having more pull for our expertise and being seen as collaborators has helped us gain better engagement and support from other stakeholders in this enterprise-wide effort.

Is there a specific recent project or implementation you worked on at your company that you can share? Any tips you can share that would help colleagues at other companies who are contemplating similar projects? Please don’t hesitate to point out people in your organization who helped make it a success and who also deserve recognition.

I previously mentioned a project related to further developing our emergency response capabilities across the entire company, which also includes mitigation. As you might imagine, there are numerous groups that need to be engaged and supportive for such a broad impact project. In fact, many different groups within Ball Aerospace are actually responsible for the implementation of such response actions.

A bit of advice in tackling such a large-scale project…COLLABORATE WITH OTHERS! Engage all the other groups in the development phase, not just the implementation phase. Practice good listening skills and take the perspective of others when trying to come up with practical solutions. And lastly, get your internal communications department involved to ensure that the project has a strong communications plan for all phases of the project.

Please tell us what you see in the market in the next few years. What will be the biggest challenges the industry will face?

For the aerospace industry, the future is all about cost, risk and resiliency. The traditional model of zero operational risk at any cost has been turned on its side by companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin who are developing launch systems at a fraction of the cost of heritage suppliers. Also, national budget concerns are always a downward pressure on costs as well. So it’s all about bringing costs down and accepting some level of higher risk.

And now it is accepted that “space” is no longer an uncontested field. It is considered to be a new “battlefield” among nations. So the hardness and resiliency of systems is becoming more important…in other words, how susceptible is your hardware to attack (cyber or physical) and how quickly can your hardware be operational again after an attack. Ball Aerospace is focused in all these areas with our state-of-art and one-of-a-kind solutions.

Tell us about a favorite hobby, passion. or book you’ve read recently that has an impact on you.

I love to spend time with my family, play golf and travel. Getting to the outdoors is also a priority…something easy to do in Colorado. My children have taught me to be patient, golf has taught me to persevere and the outdoors has taught me to be humble.

Two good books I recently read were by Randy Olsen…”Don’t Be Such a Scientist” and “Houston, We Have a Narrative.” They both stress the importance of how technical people (EHS professionals, for example) need to be better at telling stories when communicating with others…say non-EHS professionals. It’s about connecting science with society.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For every EHS and sustainability professional out there, I challenge you to be a business leader first. Have strong communication skills and know basic business acumen…by doing so, you will be more successful garnering support for your technical EHS and sustainability solutions and ideas. You have to compete to get resources for your activities. This applies whether you’re in the public or private sector…last I checked no one has an unlimited budget.

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