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Harmonizing Products, Nature and Life: Dassault Systèmes Charts its Next 10 Years

Dassault Systèmes is a company that plans its future in 10 year increments.

In the 1990s it coined the term product lifecycle management and for the past decade has presented itself as a PLM company with a focus on a portfolio of products. Among them are CATiA for product design; SOLIDWORKS for 3D CAD; GEOVIA focused on modeling and simulation for sustainability; DELMIA, which enables the optimization of production systems and processes; SIMULIA for, as you might suspect, realistic simulation; and everyone’s favorite, ENOVIA, which delivers new levels of 3D digital collaboration.  There are a number of other products covering such areas as 3D communication and social innovation, as well as information intelligence, and, by dint of a recent acquisition, NETVIBES, a comprehensive dashboard that provides analytics, knowledge sharing and decision support.

Now a decade has passed and it’s time to move beyond PLM.  Last week, in Orlando, Fla., the company articulated its new vision – a concept that incorporates all its products and commitment to PLM, but in a new broader framework that the company is calling its 3DEXPERIENCE.  Even the name of the annual get together was changed to reflect the new approach, morphing from the more mundane “Dassault Systèmes Customer Conference, to the 3DEXPERIENCE FORUM.

A Holistic Experience
Bernard Charlès, the company’s President and CEO, describes the transition this way: “We have evolved the V6 platform with our customers over the last few years. The addition of intelligent information search-based technologies, social innovation capabilities and realistic 3D virtual experiences made us ready to pioneer a new technological wave: a 3DEXPERIENCE Platform to serve the social enterprise of the 21st century. I am convinced that within this century, people will invent and innovate more than ever before. We must provide businesses and people with holistic 3D experiences to imagine sustainable innovations capable of harmonizing products, nature and life.”

All the new collateral supporting the launch of the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is accompanied by a symbol covered in arcane signs that will have archeologists 10,000 years in the future puzzling over its meaning.  Hopefully they will also unearth the graphic below, which explains the hieroglyphics.

The phrase “harmonizing products, nature and life,” also became clearer during the course of the two-day conference, particularly through statements by the company’s top management and the examples presented by Dassault customers.

The keynote by Joe Pine, management consultant and author of The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, put Dassault’s new focus in the context of a change in the global marketplace where most products are being customized. Creating an “experience” for the customer is the new hallmark of successful competition.  For example, he mentioned Boeing’s customization of its 787 for each individual buyer, Tesla’s revolutionary new electric vehicle and its unique marketing gambit (more on that later), and, of course, Starbucks.  You take two or three cents worth of coffee beans, grind them up, and you can make coffee for next to nothing.  Howard Schultz took those same handfuls of coffee beans and wrapped the Starbucks experience around them, motivating people to spend three to five dollars for their cardboard container of augmented espresso.

Customers Embrace 3DEXPERIENCE
As important as that morning cup of coffee is, Dassault is offering much more through its 3DEXPERIENCE platform.  More examples: At the conference, the company announced that Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) has selected the platform to run its enterprise integrated product management process.

Glenn Isbell, Director, Systems Engineering and Engineering Operations, a speaker from another aviation company, Bell Helicopter, described how the company has moved from a paper-based operation to a fully on-line system using Dassault software.  Queue times, he said, were cut in half and the entire PLM process became visible across the company. Of course, the implementation had to circumnavigate the usual roadblocks – Isbell noted that among those impacted by the change from paper to bits, 10 percent reacted with enthusiasm, 60 to 70 percent went along with the program, and some 20 percent either “curled up in a fetal position under their desk” or actively opposed the switch.  But the transition was successful because, as Isbell noted, “It’s easier to install a system than change people’s behavior.”

The pioneering automotive company, Tesla, has fully embraced the 3DEXPERIENCE for the production of its latest offering, the Model S with its falcon wing doors, 265 mile range, and 89 mpg equivalent electric performance.  One of the ways the company is transforming its customers’ shopping experience is by opening Tesla stores in shopping malls.  The Model S has been named winner of AUTOMOBILE Magazine’s most prestigious award, "Automobile of the Year".  A Model X is in the works.  The cars are manufactured at the company’s facility in Fremont, Calif.

ORACLE TEAM USA, winner of the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010 and 34th America’s Cup defender in September 2013, is working to defend its title on its new boat designed – from concept to reality – with Dassault’s platform. The 3D software applications enabled designers to quickly and easily make changes to the 72-foot racing yacht in order to optimize its performance. ENOVIA and SIMULIA are among the Dassault software products being used for engineering design, syncing all the information and creating a virtual mockup of the entire boat. The 3D modeling application enabled the racing team to render the entire AC72 racing catamaran in detail and review the design as a whole rather than piece-by-piece.

In addition to enhancing the designers’ experience using the 3D software, the Oracle team also plans to bring a new experience to the race’s spectators.  Previously the sailboats moving away from shore were reduced to tiny silhouettes on the horizon; now on-board cameras will provide a 360 up close and personal look at the sailors and their boat as they battle their way to – they hope – victory.

REI, the outdoor apparel retailer, is another Dassault user embracing the 3DEXPERIENCE.  The forum speaker, Kevin Myette, director of product and supply chain sustainability, said the company uses PLM to accelerate up-front decision making, unify its large and complex supply chain, and model the physical and social impact of its offerings.  As part of his presentation, Myette focused on sustainability, noting that in the world today there are “…too many people using too much stuff.”  By 2050, earth’s estimated population will be nine billion.  Extrapolating from its current performance, the U.S. alone will need the equivalent resources of seven planets to sustain its operations.  Obviously something has to give. REI is doing its part by using modeling and simulation technology combined with a vision of a sustainable future to modify its operations. REI commitment resembles Dassault’s stated goal of harmonizing products, nature and life.

Just how Dassault’s new direction based on the 3DEXPERIENCE plays out remains to be seen.  It’s a far more complex vision than the previous product-centered approach with a hint of metaphysical overtones that may or may not be translated into an effective corporate strategy. Given the company’s track record so far, odds are it will succeed. The next ten years should be interesting.

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