Behind the Build: Interview with Dan Doron, Vice President and General Manager at Fab Construction Enterprise at Intel

When the topic of intel comes up, many people would likely think of computers and semiconductor chips. And while chip design and production is certainly the main focus for the company, Intel actually has an extensive leadership array of construction and infrastructure projects as well.

Case in point: the Fab Construction Enterprise (FCE) at Intel

FCE oversees planning, designing, and building. and converting Intel's semiconductor manufacturing factories globally. Comprising Intel FCE team with outsourced GCs, AEC firms, and key trade companies, FCE manages a sizable portfolio of capital projects. 

We had the privilege of meeting Dan Doron, Vice President and General Manager at FCE, and we had an interesting conversation about his career journey and what it's like leading the Fab Construction Enterprise.

Check out the highlights from our discussion below. 

Tell me a little bit about Fab Construction Enterprise (FCE) and what you specialize in.

Fab Construction Enterprise is celebrating five years since we reestablished the organization. We're operating as one enterprise that gives our customers—i.e., factory managers and business units—a complete A to Z construction solution. 

We do new builds, conversions, tool installs, and more. Sometimes, we also build additional auxiliary buildings, such as offices, parking, or water treatment plants, which are part of the overall project. 

We call ourselves an "enterprise" because we operate together as one unit, consisting of the operational, procurement, estimate, and financial teams. Ultimately, we bring a real solution to the business's needs. 

We operate on 15 sites worldwide, from West China through Asia, Europe, Israel, the United States, and Costa Rica. We're very proud of what we do because it is part of Intel's evolved, integrated device manufacturing strategy—IDM 2.0. We are building spaces that enable our customers to drive the best technology at Intel. 

We prioritize safety as we care for all employees working with and for FCE and Intel. My first commitment is ensuring everyone goes home safe every day. Then, we strive to deliver the best solution to our customers in terms of cost and schedule while meeting their scope demands.

We're doing our best to continue learning and optimizing. We're using a lot of OSM (Off Site Manufacturing) and are making a massive transition to digital transformation and AI, which is becoming a key to our success with the magnitude of our projects and the current worldwide head wins. 

Walk me through your career and what led you to becoming Vice President and General Manager at FCE

After I retired from the army, I started my career at Intel in the process engineering department. I grew on the side of engineering through the management chain in our manufacturing operations. 

This helped me understand the fab operation, but I knew my passion was always around project management, integration of massive systems, and construction.

I then had an opportunity to lead a massive conversion project—i.e., converting factories. That was when I transitioned to construction. 

In 2014, I left the company for a couple of years, which gave me the opportunity to see what was happening outside of Intel. During this time, I built a construction organization for a leading fertilizer company. I was introduced to their systematization and learned what others were doing. Then, I got the opportunity to come back to my dream job in construction and rejoin Intel. After that, IDM 2.0 started, and here we are five years later.

What is your proudest accomplishment in your career at FCE?

Everything starts with the people. So, my biggest pride is seeing how people develop themselves. And when I say people, I'm looking into everyone and how we succeed in building the right coalition, consisting of the sites with our suppliers, with the trades, and everyone to drive it.

On the more technical side, I'm very proud that we completely transitioned the organization to a higher level of repeatability. We used to build each factory with a new design, starting fresh.

But in less than two years, we were able to build everything in a repeatable manner. That is mind-blowing, especially considering that we build in various locations, including Arizona, Israel, Ohio, and Germany. We start from the same foundation, from the same design, and then we upgrade and improve project over project.

With all our digitalization, think about what you could do when you already have the same design and use it for all the information—not just the data or drawing, but all the information. This helps us go faster and take design off the critical path.

Alongside this is building resilience. We are facing super high headwinds right now, such as a lack of materials. How do we build resiliency within the supply chain? What do we do to ensure that we won't be stuck without the valve?

I'm proud of all those systems and processes that we've instilled. That said, I can’t take any of the credit without my amazing staff and organization; each member has their own role. That's what's generating those key accomplishments.

How are you managing your capital project data to help drive greater predictability and confidence on your projects?

This is one of MegaProject's biggest challenges today. How do we drive predictability and meet the schedule? I'll be honest and say we don't always succeed. With the headwinds we have right now, doing this isn't simple.

So, I think this is where we need to use data. At the end of the day, this is a journey. 

How do we know where we stand in terms of the project when you have so many lines and elements to manage? How do you know you're on the right cadence to finish that work? This is where the data is going to help us. The level of granularity that we can get from the data that combines all of that. This is the only way we can get feedback on exactly where we are. Once you get the feedback, you can do a course correction and resolve it. 

We are not yet at the level I want, which is precisely why we should continue advancing our AI efforts. 

Because of the size and complexity of the enterprise, we're far from having all the systems in place, but that's where we want to take the organization. It's a must.

Today, I was reading an article from Autodesk about preconstruction cloud solutions, which are excellent tools. The question is, how do we connect all the tools? At the end of the day, it's about providing a tool for the project manager to make the right decision and understand where they are. Based on that, when you have all the data, we can also make the right predictions.

What has been the impact of centralizing your data in Autodesk Docs for you and your business?

Each team in our organization has been trying to build a dashboard with their data. Everyone was using the data on some local shared drive, but we could never connect the data to get project control. We couldn’t get to that because one team is managing it here, and another is managing it there, and we don't have consistency in handling and analyzing the data. We must create consistency of inputs and outputs, the same metrics with the same meanings. Once you have that, you can start driving decisions out of the data instead of working hours just to analyze it. The data MUST work for US!

Once we put all the data in one place, we standardized how we used it, and then we could connect it between all the databases for a better understanding of the trends to react better and more accurately. 

Project control is one of the essential items we are also driving across the enterprise. For example, how do we connect the schedule piece to the labor, to the material, and to the purchasing? And how do we connect those all together? We were not able to do it earlier. Before, we had to lift all the data and put it in one place. But now, we can centralize the information and analyze it. Now, we have consistency. When looking into PAS (progress against schedule), I know exactly what I'm getting. Everything is the same. Now, we can make the right decisions at the RIGHT time.

What do you value most about your partnership with Autodesk?

Right now, we're using BIM 360, Navisworks, and Revit. These solutions help our organization do everything using BIM. 

Beyond that, our FCE digital transformation and innovation teams are working with Autodesk to deliver our vision regarding all the items I shared earlier. There's also a partnership and a great opportunity around the AI solution. This solution is a necessity.

These collaborations with us, owners, and EPCs are beneficial. I don't know all the solutions, but I can share my vision with you, and we can learn from each other and come up with answers. 

Now, there are also a lot of solutions out there. I think that collaborating with your team and other startups can help us form synergistic connections.

Ultimately, the key is for all of us is to stay relevant and to bring the next ah-ha moment out of that.

When you think about the future, what are your plans to advance innovation and productivity at FCE?

We're introducing a lot of AI. We shortened some of our design processes for allocation, point of connection, and routing selection by a factor of 10 in many cases. This helps us to optimize the resources so our teams can focus on advanced planning and execution. We must increase productivity and predictability; digital solutions help us move faster.

Today, we're working with the Autodesk team and a couple of startups. I'm also very proud that we are preparing the ground for a startup to come and say, "Hey, come test our facility. What do you want? What do you see?" Sometimes, we succeed, and sometimes, we don't, but we invest in that as well.

AI is a necessity. The level of complexity of projects today does not allow us to continue with traditional methodologies and PM competencies. The ways we've been doing it in the past don't work today.

In our organization, we say we're very data-rich but information-poor. So. the question is, how do we take all the data and transfer it to information on which we can make decisions? This is exactly where AI comes into play. 

We're already using it in certain places. For example, some of this is still in the machine-learning phase of an advanced optimization algorithm.

We're also looking into automated design. How are we going to automate some of the designs that we have? Some of our designs can basically be automated once you're given the routing zone. When you give the space and build it into the machine, it can immediately route it and just split it as a 3D model for schooling.

We're also using AI to understand where we're making progress. 

Previously, we used BIM with HoloLens to see whether we were building according to the model. But we're taking it to the next step, and we're just asking ourselves: Where is the model's progress? Is that making the right progress against schedule? Against cost? Against the labor hours planned?

Then the next layer is the cost. Once I'm going to connect them all, the PM can know exactly, exactly where he is. And again, if in the past the PM could go to the field, they would know that; "That's my line, and this is part of my package." 

Today, it's so complicated that you can’t just go to the field and identify the package as purchased versus where other packages start. There are hundreds of packages on these sites. If you have AI to help you with that, that would be great.

Another area where we're using the AI? Safety. We've got more than 40,000 trade workers for us. Think about it. It's our responsibility for each of them to be safe and get home the way they got to work. 

We can't be everywhere, but we're using AI systems and cameras in the field to help us identify unsafe situations and areas with potential risks to alert the workers.

It is also helping us with site traffic. There's so much site traffic on job sites, so AI helps analyze and understand on-site safety and provides alerts. We do that by taking the data from the cameras and looking into that.

What advice would you give to the next generation of men and women entering and preparing for the future of the industry?

First, be curious. If people are curious, willing to break boundaries, listen, and take challenges, they will be winners.

I also believe that diversity powers synergy. Every month, I meet with all my organization's new hires, and everyone comes from completely different places. And I tell them, "Look at each other. Each one of you brings something so different. Now you're going to synergize it and bring something that we've never had there before."

At FCE, we are diverse and inclusive, which gives us a unique opportunity to collaborate with many people globally and gives us great insight into how we can grow our teams and skills.

So, in addition to being curious and not being afraid of systems, I would advise people to think about integrations. A world that's all about silos is not going to succeed. 

Kelsee Campbell

As a Senior Customer Advocacy Program Manager at Autodesk, Kelsee has the privilege of working with Autodesk customers to champion their stories on the Digital Builder Blog. Kelsee strives to create an engaging experience that amplifies customer perspectives, fostering a sense of community and connection.