The Long and Winding Road to the Cloud: Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE and Why Model-Based Design is Gaining Ground
Verdi Ogewell posted on September 18, 2020 |
Change is tough when moving a PLM platform from on-premise installation to Cloud equivalent.

Change is often a tough process when moving a PLM platform from an on-premise installation to a Cloud equivalent. Dassault Systèmes’ journey is a good example of how long and winding the road to this goal can be—not only in terms of the technological challenges that come with the creation of a solid cloud-based platform, but also as a result of different levels of “resistance” among customers.

In Dassault’s case, they were depending on both sides of their customer base—their mainstream SOLIDWORKS community, and the high-end OEM users. In both these customer groups, a general transition can be equally hard to digest—for quite different reasons, of course—but the end result remains that a move to a new technical platform will take time. The reasons vary, from financial limitations and general technological conservatism to security aspects, IP protection and a general reluctance to risk processes and tools that work if the implementation of the new platform would drag out in time—and in the worst case, fail.

It is also clear that this “cloud resistance” is not limited to Dassault Systèmes; all the other competitors face similar problems to varying degrees, from Autodesk’s PLM segments—where cloud PLM really is the only option—and Aras PLM, to Siemens and PTC.

The way things are going, however, it seems inevitable that the final destination for Dassault’s customers is the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and the Cloud. There are several reasons for this, from a desire to use relatively new technologies such as IoT, IIoT, advanced simulation and others, to demands for computing power, easy upgradable infrastructure and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). 

"In the 2021X version of Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE, we have come a long way in creating the conditions for a complete flow, which means that you can actually work model-based all the way through a product development project, from idea to finished product. This means, among other things, that what was previously done in 2D and reviewed in more traditional PDM processes has now become partly 3D and thus model-based, and partly subject to expanded collaborative solutions. If you review something, you do it in 3D and everyone who has a login in the system can be part of this process. This functionality has been made very broad, in the sense that all stakeholders can participate in the process," says TECHNIA's CTO and PLM specialist, Johannes Storvik, in today's interview about Dassault Systèmes' latest version of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which was first launched in the cloud before it will be released as an on-premise version in November 2020.

Today’s article looks at Dassault’s journey to the cloud, which I discussed with Johannes Storvik, CTO and PLM specialist at TECHNIA, one of Dassault Systèmes’ leading global partners. Our discussion covered a couple of interesting facts:

  • Earlier this year Dassault launched the Cloud version of 3DEXPERIENCE 2021X before the on-premise version, which is a good signal for where developments are heading.
  • 3DEXPERIENCE will have six upgrades a year starting from the 2021X version.
  • Model-based design capabilities are one of key aspects in the 2021X version, leading to “3D to all.”

Upgrades Are an Always Ongoing Process

PLM has changed its character when it comes to software upgrades, just like the sub-areas of the concept, such as CAD, simulation, IoT and digital manufacturing. Where we previously spoke of one new annual version and software upgrade, today this has moved to a "scrum-like" incremental methodology. This means that the upgrade work has more or less been transformed into a continuous process, with significantly more "stations" containing function enhancements.

When it comes to Dassault Systèmes and 3DEXPERIENCE, it's about new feature extensions every two months.

“Exactly,” says TECHNIA's CTO and PLM specialist, Johannes Storvik, when we discussed the latest version and the progress it brings to the table.

“Today, the software is continuously developed, which is not least connected with the generally rapid digital development in all areas,” he says. “Six times a year this type of feature upgrade comes and as we have now released version 2021X, there are a number of special factors in the game. Number one, this is the first time Dassault releases first on the cloud. In the past, the main version has always been released as an on-premise local installation. For the 2021X release, they did the opposite. The cloud release came in February of this year, containing everything that is ‘cloudy’ and adapted to it, while the large on-premise version comes in November. Furthermore, and making factor number two, we see a trend towards model-based design, or MBD.”

In today's interview, TECHNIA's CTO and PLM specialist, Johannes Storvik, talks about the important trend towards model-based design work. This trend has had a major impact on Dassault Systèmes' latest version of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, 2021X.
In today's interview, TECHNIA's CTO and PLM specialist, Johannes Storvik, talks about the important trend towards model-based design work. This trend has had a major impact on Dassault Systèmes' latest version of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, 2021X.

But even though the cloud is on its way to becoming the main carrier of PLM suites such as 3DEXPERIENCE, there is still a ways to go, says Storvik.

“Cloud is important, absolutely, but on-premise still dominates for us. This applies above all to the larger companies, which is understandable given such things as complexity, adaptation changes and other things required for the cloud. But Dassault’s cloud strategy as such is completely correct and will be a driver into the future.”

Model-Based Design in Focus in the New 2021X Version of 3DEXPERIENCE

It is clear that Dassault, like most other PLM developers, is moving in the direction of the cloud as the main technical platform. At the same time, most of what Dassault's development department does when it comes to upgrades is the result of what customers want. It is obvious that the cloud as a technology platform is at least partly a reflection of these demands, but other things of a more rapidly implementable nature are often more important. This is manifested in the 2021X version with above all new tools for model-based design.

Therefore, it is relevant to first take a look at the definition of this technology. What is the concept of model-based design, when today we even talk about the model-based company, the Model-Based Enterprise, or MBE?

“Data must be able to be reused over the systems' life cycles in business networks,” says CIMdata’s chief, Peter Bilello.
“Data must be able to be reused over the systems' life cycles in business networks,” says CIMdata’s chief, Peter Bilello.

I have spoken to Peter Bilello, CIMdata's CEO and President, about model-based design.

First and foremost, he states that the MBE concept includes everything, such as the digitalized company, IoT, Industrial IoT, digital twins, digital threads and more. Together, these trends and development threads form a complicated puzzle, which boils down to the idea that every piece must be able to work together as a whole.

“This entails demands for increased interoperability, democratization of the availability of data and competent platforms for collaboration,” says Bilello. “Data must be able to be reused over the systems' life cycles in business networks, which requires a broad definition of MBE. The concept is interdisciplinary by nature and extends not only to the organization internally, but also to the entire network.”

"Model-Based" Does Not Necessarily Need to be About 3D Models

Overall, this transition to model-based work is one of the most important signs of the time in both companies and organizations. Of course, there are many variations in this area. Some of the common acronyms related to model-based work are:

  • Model-based design (MBD)
  • Model-based engineering (MBE)
  • Model-based systems engineering (MBSE)
  • Model-based simulation (MBS), etc.

Taken together, CIMdata sorts all these acronyms under the term MBx, in the same way as summarizing everything that happens within the framework of CAD, CAE and CAM under CAx, where the “x” stands for different techniques related to computer-aided technology.

A "model" does not necessarily have to be a 3D geometric image of a product or component. The "model concept" can contain a number of variants in everything from a 3D model to defined, written work or logistics models. However, in this age of digitization in product development, simulation, manufacturing, distribution and end customer use, physical models are often largely replaced by digital 3D models.

This affects the entire product realization, distribution and use chain - in short, the entire product life cycle. The digital models—for example digital twins—are included throughout the cycle, first as prototypes, then as information carriers to support the management of the physical product during its life cycle.

“Life cycle management strategies reshape how many organizations and companies manage their data. We have begun to apply a holistic view of the products, from the original concepts to the end of their ‘life’ and often beyond. In this, nothing of relevance is omitted. As digitalization continues its rapid penetration of companies, government organizations, the overall economy and even how we are governed at the government level, change is something that tends to fully embrace us all in almost every respect,” asserts Bilello.

It can be added that MBE applies to many industries such as aviation, defense, automotive, factories, construction and more.

The aviation industry is one of the segments that often works according to a
The aviation industry is one of the segments that often works according to a "model-based design approach."

Requires a New Attitude

What does the journey towards a model-based approach look like? To get there, we need to let go of the "business-as-usual" attitude that often characterizes organizations.

“Think outside the box. It's all about changing corporate cultures and getting people into an organization,” says Bilello. “It is perhaps the most important part of creating a climate prone to change. One must be enthusiastic, point to individual development opportunities, to the company's survival conditions in an increasingly tough competitive climate. If you succeed with that, half the battle is won. People who are interested and motivated see opportunities to create something new and dare to change. Suddenly, a dynamic is unleashed that can lead any distance. IoT, IIoT, digital twins and threads—in short, the way forward offers things that many in their wildest imagination did not think were possible.”

Addresses a Model-Based Approach

TECHNIA’s CTO and PLM specialist, Johannes Storvik.

TECHNIA’s CTO and PLM specialist, Johannes Storvik.

TECHNIA's Johannes Storvik agrees with this and believes that Dassault, with its 2021X version of 3DEXPERIENCE, addresses working methods for model-based design to the highest degree.

“That's the way it is,” Storvik says. “In 2021X, a lot has been done around packaging and interfaces when it comes to how to access various functionalities. At the same time, there is continuous development around how to work. What is now becoming increasingly clear is the transition to how to work model-based, which in turn has a great significance for the functionality you bring into the system.”

“In 2021X, we have come a long way in creating the conditions for a complete flow, which means that you can actually work model-based all the way through a product development project, from idea to finished product. Among other things, this means that what was previously done in 2D and examined in more traditional PDM processes has now become partly 3D and thus model-based, and partly the subject of expanded collaborative solutions. If you review something, you do it in 3D, and everyone who has a login in the system can be involved in this process. In short, this functionality has been made very broad, in the sense that all stakeholders can participate in the process.”

"System of Operations" provides access to the digital tools needed to get the job done. This is really about a grouping of all functionality from CAD and simulation to drive change matters in ENOVIA.

Meet What Customers Demand

Tools for broader stakeholder participation is not revolutionary in and of itself. What is new in the 3DEXPERIENCE environment and the 2021X version is that everyone has access to things that were previously more divided and provided with more limited access. For example, in 2021X if you have to report a problem, you can now do it directly in a 3D view and drive all communication around this in the tools that have been made available—extended tools for simple collaboration.

“Exactly,” adds Storvik. “It will be a democratization of 3D, which has happened and is happening gradually. In 2021X, Dassault has taken great strides forward in this and made the whole process much more cohesive, including more functionality in how to access the tools—for example, in the change processes.

There is a lot of work behind this in terms of harmonizing, modernizing, simplifying and improving the user experience with the "3D dashboard technology" that Dassault has worked on over the past five years, claims Storvik.

Is this, then, what the customers demand?

“Of course, this is a lot about user-friendliness and simplification, without losing out on advancement and capability, which are things that customers really demand. Everything like that should be under the surface. It should be easy to understand, easy to use and require minimal training resources. If you want to reach beyond R&D, engineering and specialist levels, all this is a prerequisite,”

Furthermore, TECHNIA's PLM specialist, Storvik believes that this can therefore reach a level of commitment in the entire company, including the supplier and partner side, which today is the main theme in the development track. A business platform for an entire company is what Dassault strives toward.

Dassault Takes a Step Back to Grasp the Entire Industrial Process

What we’re seeing in Dassault's development work around 3DEXPERIENCE is that they take a step back to view the development work as an industrial process, rather than talking about increasingly refined—but in its technical complexity, more widely inaccessible—specialist solutions.

Dassault asks, What do you as a customer buy? An application? A role or process solution? How do you want to market the product? The packaging of the solution you buy is of great importance in this regard.

“The latest development here is that they have taken further steps towards a holistic industrial process,” Storvik says. “It can be about change management or BOM handling, or the like. When we talk to our customers, we often discuss it in these terms. To support these and other product development processes, a number of applications are needed on the platform being used.”

A lot of work has gone into harmonizing, modernizing, simplifying and improving the user experience with the
A lot of work has gone into harmonizing, modernizing, simplifying and improving the user experience with the "3D dashboard technology," which Dassault has been working on for the past five years.

“What has been the focus until now has been what could be called ‘industrial solutions at a very high level.’ For example, what do you need to build a car? Or what is needed to build an airplane? This is all in combination with different roles. A challenge here has been to get the roles to match the customer's or user's vocabulary, or how the roles are configured. Everything that looks different in different places. It varies a lot and it may not be the case that an ‘automated’ standard role fits into the individual company. If you now highlight this and speak from a point of view of what is to be carried out as an industrial process, it will be easier to understand how the matching versus what a company needs should look like,” Storvik said.

“In addition, part of this is industry dependent. If you look at a company that makes cars and at one that develops industrial equipment, parts of the production methodology are similar. Here you can create modules that can suit several different types of industry. From my perspective, the capabilities to meet these challenges make it easier to meet diversified customers and their varied needs,” he adds.

What is significant in this context, Storvik also points out, is that Dassault is known for inventing new concepts, even if there are already existing concepts with a general meaning that most people understand. Dassault’s effort to create a "standardized" perception of conceptual meanings is therefore important.

The Difference Between "System Operations" and “Business Model”

Yet there is more to this than meets the eye.

“I would like to point out the way in which the information is structured,” stated Storvik. “According to an image that Dassault often exposes in this context, information goes from industrial solutions at the top, which will cover a number of specific industrial solutions such as automotive, aerospace and etc., to a number of ‘industry process experiences’ that have been developed until the 2021X version. The latter are the solutions that aim to solve a business problem. If you buy one, you get a number of applications that are a mix of ENOVIA, CATIA and SIMULIA, and you need to perform mechanical constructions in an industrial company.”

More specifically, what does this mean?

“Here a distinction is made between ‘systems operations’ and ‘business model.’ What is meant by the former is that you have all the digital tools needed to get the job done, or really a grouping of all functionality from CAD and simulation to drive change matters in ENOVIA. The latter, the ‘business model,’ is more about services you can get through the platform. For example, 3D printing services, sourcing of components and the like. The point is to get in direct contact with service providers via 3DEXPERIENCE,” Storvik explains.

The New Compass

All of what we have discussed in this article belongs to what Dassault’s marketing of the new system calls, "a new Compass experience."

We are talking about the navigation compass that has long been used as a symbol for 3DEXPERIENCE. It is via this compass that you navigate forward in the system to reach the tools needed to get the job done.

As a designer, you can also look in the system and view a catalog of the functionalities and tools that are available to you within the framework of your company's 3DEXPERIENCE system.

There are also lists of all the tools that are available in the Dassault system in general. This means that what is missing from your company’s system—for example, tools for a more advanced simulation session in a product development sequence—can also be accessed via the system to "rent."

In short, this functions as a kind of app store layout within the Dassault environment.

In connection with the launch of the new 2021X version, Storvik emphasizes the importance of and the steps towards developing Dassault's main solution to serve as a business platform, in the sense of being able to solve the product development and manufacturing pieces and to have functions in this which connect not only the technology, but also the business relationships.

He also points out that TECHNIA obviously uses the 3DEXPERIENCE platform in its work, not least when in communication with Dassault.

“If we work together with a customer, it is in the same way via the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that we share and retrieve the information that is needed,” he said.

A Solution Under Development

Overall, the new 2021X can be seen as Dassault's response to the general shift in the world of product development and manufacturing—specifically, that model-based work is a growing trend and PLM systems are working toward the idea of “beyond PLM.” In exchange, model-based work also becoming part of companies’ and customer’s business system.

This is not an unbalanced development path, but rather it is one that fits well into the current PLM journeys forming a trend among customer companies.

CAD, MBD, MBSE and simulation are the platform’s strong points, as are those aspects of the product development work that have come such a long way, and the efforts to build a broad network of service deliveries.

The design of industrial process tools also feels sympathetic and in line with market needs, while there is still a ways to go when it comes to having ready-to-use IIoT and smart factory automation Industry 4.0 packages. Competitors like Siemens—which has everything in-house—and PTC, which has got off to a good start in its collaboration with Rockwell Automation, have both advanced faster. So far, Dassault's partnership with the Swedish-Swiss ABB has manifested itself only in a couple of cases, rather than as “ready-to-use” cohesive package solutions.

It will be interesting to see how this collaboration develops.


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