At the 3DEXPERIENCE event in Las Vegas last week, Dassault Systèmes representatives rhapsodized about the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. They were genuinely excited. They talked about “vision” and the “experience economy” and the ways business will work in 2021. Read on to get my take on how that is going to impact product design technology.
I needed help to decode the Dassault Systèmes marketing message, but found some surprisingly worthwhile answers once I understood. I think the reason for the marketing speak is because the truth is complex. The executives can’t unpack enough information in short sound bites to convey the scope of the project.
So for a more detailed answer, I turned to lengthy conversations with systems integrators and analysts: 9 pages of single spaced notes from conversations with Dan Smith from Inceptra, Jack Schroeder from ArcherGrey, Peter Bilello from CIMdata, Marc Halpern from Gartner and Bob Camp from Integware. In summary, they told me that:
1. 3DExperiences are industry solutions
2. The Architecture has changed and that is a big deal
3. The DS vision for product development will enable teams to design in a more social and collaborative way
Here’s the short version of their collective feedback. I apologize to any of you if your views are not properly represented here:
1. 3DExperiences are Industry Solutions
Dassault Systèmes grew by acquiring a lot of horizontal products. They bought applications for everything from PDM to visualization, from dashboards to social idea management. These applications spanned any and every industry.
Now imagine that a customer in the medical devices business, for example, wanted a more tailored solution for their needs. They might have found a partial solution with SIMULIA or CATIA, but they wouldn’t have been able to get a fully integrated solution from Dassault Systèmes. Each brand had their own stand-alone industry solutions if they had anything at all.
Since they go to market through 12 industries, not having integrated solutions for any of them was, shall we say, a bit of an issue. Enter the “3DEXPERIENCES”, a suite of apps that are industry-focused and integrated, built around industry best practices and processes. These apps are subsets of the existing software brands, so customers will still need to evaluate whether to buy individual applications or the packaged "experiences".
In the transportation and mobility industry, for example, Dassault Systèmes packaged their best practices into a set of industry “experiences” that span all 10 of the their application brands. One of the benefits to customers is that if the "experience" bundle they select is close to their requirements, the amount of integration work will be greatly reduced.
So, customers can buy the industry solutions/3DExperiences, or they can buy the individual applications, depending on what works best for them. According to Olivier Sappin, Vice President for Transportation and Mobility, the five industry solutions (“experiences”) currently available in this vertical are:
1. “Mycar” supports information gathering that delivers a coherent “voice of the customer” into product development.
2. Ideally suited for body in white, “Target zero defect” is a tool set for end-to-end processes, from concept to 3D modeling to manufacturing. It includes elements of ENOVIA, CATIA and DELMIA.
3. “Smart Safe and Connected” is a suite of tools that helps automotive design teams develop mechatronic dashboard systems that require mechanical, electronic and software inputs.
4. “Lean green and compliant” allows automotive manufacturers to set performance targets and leverage simulation to integrate, validate and certify their virtual models.
5. “Supplier Bid to Win” is a supply chain tool that automates the information gathering and RFX / RFP process to more rapidly and more accurate respond to bids.
Other industries have other 3DExperiences that are specifically tailored to problems that companies in those industries commonly face.
2. The Architecture is different too and that matters
When DS bought the various solutions that now make up the full spectrum of their offerings, like many large PLM players they weren’t able to rapidly integrate all of the various data structures. That led to frustrating implementations and stories of failures from the days of Smarteam right up to the early V6 efforts.
The bad news is that there is an enormous development effort required to put all of these applications on a common data architecture. The good news is that the DS development team appears to have made significant progress, making failed implementations less likely in the future.
The main change is that with V6, the data architecture has moved away from file structures towards objects, which is inherently a more flexible and configurable way to manage data. For example, a search function within a PLM system would be stumped when it encounters a file, because that will appear as a black box. So turning all of the information into objects will allow the relevant data to move between applications more easily.
On the UI front, there is a lot of work to do. For example, a copy command in one application won’t as yet work like a copy command in another application. But they have made good headway on dashboards. Those present very much like a social media interface. The dashboard widgets also have enough intelligence that what’s accessed from the dashboard of a novice user may not be the same as from a more expert user, even though the icons appear the same. That is all to the good.
The intent is that users will work within the “experience” rather than through a series of applications. This means that the data can transfer seamlessly from your requirements gathering, for example, to your 3D model, iterate through your simulation applications for a while, and then into your manufacturing app. All of this without having to check-out / check-in or document all of the steps you took. That has the potential to be a really big time saver.
3. It really is a different way of thinking about product development
Dassault Systèmes’ new logo is meant to evoke a compass and represent a different way of carrying out product development. In the new Dassault Systèmes way of creating products, the 3D virtual model is no longer the centerpiece of the development cycle. Instead, all aspects of a product definition are intended to be captured, stored, shared, implemented and validated: from requirements to commentary around the concept, to simulation results.
In this environment, social collaboration will be key and that may be uncomfortable for some design teams. The customizeable dashboard widgets are intended to make product development data available to a large group of non-expert users. The full search and dashboard integration is planned to be released with V6R2014 early next year.
The goal of this approach is to bridge the gap between engineering, marketing, sales, and services to create a collaborative environment for a product development team that is as big and as flexible as it needs to be. With this approach, the company’s executives believe their customers will speed time to market and ensure that development errors are surfaced earlier and remedied faster.
At the 3DEXPERIENCE customer event in Las Vegas I heard rave reviews from Tesla who was an early adopter through Dassault Systèmes’ Lighthouse project. But like Jenny Craig says about weight loss, “results may not be typical”.
And this brings me back to the compass logo. To understand this symbol, start at the top. The product development process starts with people and their ideas, so pressing that button connects the users to the members of the product development team with social and collaborative apps.
The button on the right is used to share and socialize these ideas over the intra/internet. The left side button is a 3D model that for mechanical devices is useful for documenting and sharing the ideas. And the bottom is the union of virtual and reality with content and simulation apps.
And there you have it.
There is still a lot of this story still to be told – there’s a lot of good stuff in those other 8 pages of notes.
So, does this all make sense to you, and do you think it will drive value for users?