SOLIDWORKS' CEO: "We Will Never Fight With a Low Price as an Argument for PLM in the Cloud"
Verdi Ogewell posted on October 02, 2020 |
Exclusive with Gian Paolo Bassi on 3DEXPERIENCE Works and SOLIDWORKS’ journey to the cloud.

One of the secrets behind Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS’ journey to becoming a world-leading software in the mainstream desktop 3D CAD arena is its sensitivity to users' wishes regarding improvements in functionality and the continuous addition of new solutions through annual software upgrades.

But not everything has succeeded all at once. One example is Gian Paolo Bassi’s burning desire to start a mass transition to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and SOLIDWORKS in the cloud. I will take a closer look at this in today's article, since Dassault recently announced the new 2021 version of SOLIDWORKS, which includes several improvements in terms of connections to the cloud and utilization of the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio. In summary, SOLIDWORKS 2021 provides better opportunities for integrated collaboration, cloud-based data management and access to more advanced tools such as simulation.

But will this be enough to achieve what Bassi expressed so eloquently in a previous PLM & ERP News interview: “a volcanic eruption of people in the SOLIDWORKS community who want to invest in 3DEXPERIENCE Works”?

"Absolutely," Bassi claims in today's exclusive interview. He formulates the development of the company's cloud ambitions very poetically:

“There are two types of volcanoes; some are explosive, like Vesuvius in Italy, ever famous for the enormous destructive force that obliterated the towns of Pompeii and Ercolano. Some are effusive, like those in Hawaii, more peaceful and predictable. Effusive volcanoes often end up building beautiful islands and are still at work today. So, to continue the geological analogy I’d say that we are working on the latter type of volcano, forceful but gradual and constructive,” Bassi says.

He also says that SOLIDWORKS and the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio will not fight with low-cost solutions, but with competence, high quality and long-term sustainability. "Otherwise, it can go as with some volcanoes, where they end up as dead ash-heaps," Bassi adds.

Expressive Language. SOLIDWORKS' global manager, Gian Paolo Bassi, states during engineering.com’s interview that the transition to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform in the SOLIDWORKS community is growing at a rapid pace.
Expressive Language. SOLIDWORKS' global manager, Gian Paolo Bassi, states during engineering.com’s interview that the transition to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform in the SOLIDWORKS community is growing at a rapid pace. "But not as an explosive volcanic eruption; rather it 'swells' our user base at a good pace," he says. Bassi also claims that the latest 2021 version of the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio, “strengthened our competitive position incredibly much. Our vision is that the future of technology software includes more mobile and browser-based systems, and that our customers need to gradually expand their tool arsenal with more advanced features. At the same time, everything still has to work seamlessly together. I mean that we stand out significantly from the competition. I do not see any competitor in the rearview mirror with a consistent and mature platform strategy that corresponds to what we have," says Bassi. "We will not compete with a low-cost solution, but with program expertise at the highest level at an affordable price."

Apart from this, SOLIDWORKS’ product development has been well in sync with the wishes of the user community. Today we have arrived at the 2021 version, which has now launched on a broad front, and the impression is that SOLIDWORKS remains on track when it comes to improvements and the ability to relate new functionalities to customer needs. This is true even when it comes to the great watershed of the last half decade and the objective of Dassault SOLIDWORKS’ hottest wish: to get the community to embrace the promise of a more capable future in the cloud with the tools in 3DEXPERIENCE Works’ cloud platform.

An extrapolation of the development is that Bassi sees the cloud as the inevitable goal for the next few years' journey, towards not only "3D for all," but also "PLM capability for all."

CAD in a cloud-based browser solution. With its 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio, Bassi believes that Dassault has developed a solution that is both tailored to the needs of SOLIDWORKS customers and small and medium-sized companies everywhere and future-proofed for these customers who need advanced IT support.
CAD in a cloud-based browser solution. With its 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio, Bassi believes that Dassault has developed a solution that is both tailored to the needs of SOLIDWORKS customers and small and medium-sized companies everywhere and future-proofed for these customers who need advanced IT support. "3DEXPERIENCE Works combines unique social collaboration with the design, simulation and fabrication of ERP functions in a single digital environment to help growing companies become more inventive, efficient and responsive in today's tough environments," Bassi says.

Keeping an Ear to the Ground

Say what you want about Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS, but there are few companies in the PLM world that are as activity-oriented and actively listening when it comes to their customers' requirements. This feeling sits in the walls of the company and goes all the way back to Jon Hirschtick, who established this culture when the company was founded in the mid-90s.

Since then, of course, a lot of water has flowed under these bridges. The world has changed, and above all, technology has changed. What was a revolution in 1995 with 3D CAD for everyone on the desktop is today an everyday phenomenon that everyone matches.

“Our customers expect the right functionality, at the right price and level of integration, which has been our brand since the start. In the past, no one has been able to offer sufficiently sharp solutions for this. With 3DEXPERIENCE Works, this is realized. In my opinion, the most noticeable addition to the portfolio is the product line developed by DELMIAworks, formerly known as IQMS, in the discipline of ERP and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems). We can finally say that we are now closing the

“Our customers expect the right functionality, at the right price and level of integration, which has been our brand since the start. In the past, no one has been able to offer sufficiently sharp solutions for this. With 3DEXPERIENCE Works, this is realized. In my opinion, the most noticeable addition to the portfolio is the product line developed by DELMIAworks, formerly known as IQMS, in the discipline of ERP and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems). We can finally say that we are now closing the "innovation spiral," claims Bassi.

However, that does not stop Bassi and his colleagues from continuing their hard work—not only to develop the range for SMEs to stay at the forefront of the market in the form of sharp digital product development tools with technical capabilities that customers have taken to heart—but they have also advocated for and developed solutions and bridges regarding things that have been difficult and expensive and therefore encountered some resistance: the Cloud and Dassault's 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

“Indeed,” says Bassi. “Everyone in the community knows that we have been working hard to bring about the gradual volcanic effect for a few years now. In 2019, we introduced the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS portfolio and in Nashville in February 2020, we announced the most sweeping transformation ever done in SOLIDWORKS with the introduction of the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Offers, which include the SOLIDWORKS you know and love plus the 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud services that keep you more productive, collaborative and mobile.”

This was recently followed up with the new version of SOLIDWORKS 2021, and several new features for the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio.

The Tireless Attempts to Get People Onto the Cloud

It remains to be seen how Bassi’s message can get the user base motivated. To date, the many attempts to connect users to Dassault's 3DEXPERIENCE platform may not have appealed to them to any great extent. The reasons vary depending on several issues, but Bassi's tireless efforts to get people onto the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and the cloud are not wrong at all. On the contrary, predictions from major analysts agree with what Bassi has had to say on the topic.

On the other hand, given the resistance it can be assumed that the previous solutions have not been sufficiently attractive, sufficiently correctly priced and sufficiently technically needs-related.

A number of factors must be considered in the balance sheet. In general, however, one often encounters resistance when the winds of change blow. Furthermore, methodological conservatism related to new technology is something we all have in slightly different doses.

But if your convictions are strong enough you will keep on trying, which is exactly what Bassi and SOLIDWORKS have done. They have persistently continued to try to find new angles of attack with constructive–and in some cases less constructive–solutions to erode the resistance. A qualified guess is that they are about to turn the curve more steeply upwards with the help of 3DEXPERIENCE Works. When Dassault put the 2021 version of SOLIDWORKS on the table, the enhancement of this portfolio is one of the most interesting advances from a PLM point of view.

“In July of this year, we have delivered exactly that,” says Bassi. “With the launch of SOLIDWORKS 2021 on September 22, we have unified the message: one brand—SOLIDWORKS—and one portfolio—3DEXPERIENCE WORKS—with the options to be on premise, connected to the Platform Services, or fully in the cloud and just working in a browser. When you are connected, everything has the same data model, scalability and capability are substantially endless.”

DELMIAworks’ ERP system is tailored specifically for factory environments in the SMB sector (small and medium-sized companies with SOLIDWORKS environments). The solution aims to streamline processes over sales, order management, finance, human resources, planning, production, warehousing, purchasing and more.
DELMIAworks’ ERP system is tailored specifically for factory environments in the SMB sector (small and medium-sized companies with SOLIDWORKS environments). The solution aims to streamline processes over sales, order management, finance, human resources, planning, production, warehousing, purchasing and more. "It will be the backbone for visibility, execution and communication of manufacturing activities and data throughout your supply chain," Bassi says about this software, which is part of the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio.

In Range of SOLIDWORKS Users

"One portfolio" is Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS' new slogan, and of course we’re talking about 3DEXPERIENCE Works. More precisely, what's going on here?

A lot, claims Bassi. “The 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio (3DX Works) now has capabilities in design, data management, simulation and manufacturing that were simply out of reach for our customers, since they expect the right functionality at the right price and level of integration, which has been our trademark since the beginning. In my opinion, the most noticeable addition to the portfolio has been the line of products developed by DELMIAworks, formerly known as IQMS, in the discipline of ERP and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems). We can finally say we are closing the ‘spiral of innovation’ that starts from ideation and ends at the shop floor. ERP and MES is a very large opportunity in our mainstream market because, believe it or not, often resources and manufacturing planning still happens on paper.”

With 3DEXPERIENCE Works and the cloud platform come excellent and sharp opportunities for advanced simulation. The cloud increases accessibility, but also processing power that is built into the infrastructure. SIMULIAworks is a portfolio of networked, powerful and collaborative solutions. As Bassi puts it, you can “get to work without importing or exporting data. Users can view and share simulation data and results from any browser—no more expensive hardware required. And because it's in the cloud, SIMULIAworks allows users to harness the infinite power of the cloud for faster product validation from anywhere, no matter where you are.”
With 3DEXPERIENCE Works and the cloud platform come excellent and sharp opportunities for advanced simulation. The cloud increases accessibility, but also processing power that is built into the infrastructure. SIMULIAworks is a portfolio of networked, powerful and collaborative solutions. As Bassi puts it, you can “get to work without importing or exporting data. Users can view and share simulation data and results from any browser—no more expensive hardware required. And because it's in the cloud, SIMULIAworks allows users to harness the infinite power of the cloud for faster product validation from anywhere, no matter where you are.”

The Power of Advanced Simulation

Another interesting development is the traction of advanced simulation with the products developed by the sister brand SIMULIA for 3DEXPERIENCE Works, such as Structural Simulation Engineer. “If you think about that, it makes sense,” Bassi explains. “We have thousands of small engineering firms that are highly specialized and are employed by the larger corporations to solve very difficult technical problems that occasionally emerge in product development.”

Additionally he also states that an interesting trend is, “the use of advanced simulation in the life science industry, both for the design of critical implants and also devices that need to perform even if dropped multiple times.”

Moore’s law is dead, says Bassi, quoting NVIDIA’s Jensen Huang. Instead, the computing power comes through all the data centers that now replace the perception of the computer itself.
Moore’s law is dead, says Bassi, quoting NVIDIA’s Jensen Huang. Instead, the computing power comes through all the data centers that now replace the perception of the computer itself. "That's why we say that 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS finds its most powerful extension in the cloud."

“Moore’s Law is Dead”

There are undeniably important points in this. But there’s more, and Bassi accentuates the background of the need to move to the cloud with what Jensen Huang, CEO of NVIDIA, said last year:

“Moore's Law, which predicted an exponential increase in computer capacity, is dead.”

Why? Bassi explains the matter with the help of his old computer.

“It is five years old and is almost as powerful as newer computers. Same thing for desktops. On the other hand, the need for computational power to process AI-based algorithms or multiphysics simulation does not seem to slow down, does it?”

Bassi wonders, Where do you find all this power? No one needs to doubt the answer.

“Obviously in all the data centers that now replace the perception of the computer itself,” he says. “This is why we say that 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS finds its most powerful extension in the cloud. My personal addition to this is that it is the only logical extension given the current status of the IT industry and technology trends. While we have been working on this development for at least a decade, it seems that it is only now that all our competitors are also starting to sing the song of the cloud platform.”

The Important Trends in Product Development: Integration, Automation and Simulation

Apart from this, the content of Bassi’s narrative points out what the path of future development looks like, and it is a story that has become increasingly relevant in relation to the technological trends now beginning to be translated into concrete technology applications.

What are these trends?

“I see three major trends in product development: integration, automation and simulation,” Bassi says. “Automation is impossible without integration. Integration is the fastest and most secure way to achieve digital continuity, which is the foundation of Industry 4.0. Automation and simulation are often interconnected; for instance, when we talk about topology optimization or generative algorithms, iterative simulation is at the core of the process. AI is also a fundamental trend, but the goal is always to achieve automation not only in manufacturing but also in all processes including design, procurement, pricing, data management and more.” 

What does this look like in the future, the so-called "beyond PLM?”

“Extending a little further in the future, I’d say that cyber-physical systems are the new frontier for the development of products that merge with and enhance human life. Today we fabricate advanced prosthetics; in a non-distant future, we will fabricate things like eyes, parts of the brain, blood vessels and more out of synthetic-biological materials.”

Improved connections to the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS portfolio provide better opportunities for integrated collaboration, cloud-based data management and access to more advanced tools for simulation, as an example. With the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio, you and your team have access to real-time information to reduce product time to market and improve business results. In short, these are Bassi's strong reasons for investing in 3DEXPERIENCE Works and the cloud.

How Have the Difficult Times Under the Coronavirus Affected SOLIDWORKS Business?

The effects of COVID-19 have affected most of the players in the PLM industry, but the impact has varied. What does it look like in terms of SOLIDWORKS’ competitive position?

“I dare say that the introduction of our ‘swelling volcano’ in the form of the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio has strengthened our competitive position an incredible amount. Our vision is that the future of technology software includes more mobile and browser-based systems, and that our customers need to gradually expand their tool arsenal with more advanced features. At the same time, everything still has to work seamlessly together. By this I mean that we stand out significantly from the competition. I do not see any competitor in the rearview mirror with a consistent and mature platform strategy that corresponds to what we have.”

Bassi went on to state that the coronavirus has heavily affected all businesses and has indicated new priorities for society at large: we must use science and technology even more to improve the world we are living in.

“One effect was the realization by our customers that resilience is very important, the ability to resume business even in extreme scenarios, such as the global lock down that we have seen, is now mandatory. We spent countless hours to help our customers set up remote offices and connect to corporate servers just to access information.”

Needless to say, the benefits of instant connectivity and availability of a cloud platform is now more evident than ever.

“We have also seen the importance of a digital twin to quickly solve unexpected problems. For instance, many public spaces, hospitals and schools now need to understand the efficiency of the ventilation systems to evaluate the risk factor of having multiple people, possibly affected by the COVID-19 virus, in a common space. This is not difficult to do with modern CFD software; what is difficult is to have access to the 3D model of the buildings,” asserted Bassi.

Volcano on Russian Kamchatka. (Photo credit: Sergey Gorshkov/Minden Pictures/Corbis.)
Volcano on Russian Kamchatka. (Photo credit: Sergey Gorshkov/Minden Pictures/Corbis.)

On Unrealistic Pricing and the Risk of "Ending in an Ash Mountain"

It is clear that Bassi has a strong belief in what SOLIDWORKS has on the table for 2021. At the same time, he is aware that development has costs, and he claims that short-term pricing related to development costs is not a long-term sustainable approach. Sooner or later, development costs must be reimbursed and those who buy cheaply can suddenly face large price increases.

“What I see among the competitors is that from this perspective there is a kind of unsustainable destruction. It feels more like unrealistic pricing that can only be motivated by dramatically reduced development investment or short-term tactics. This is not our strategy, and we are convinced that the right value must come to the right place. If this does not happen, there is a risk—to return to the initial volcano parable, of explosive eruptions, which only leave ash behind.”

All in all, Gian Paolo Bassi says that we live in extraordinary and difficult times.

“But I think we now realize that we all share a planet that is more sensitive than we thought,” he says. “The human species is also more sensitive than we thought, so it's time we recalibrate our models and priorities. I am very optimistic. I have seen what people can do when they see a problem and act in unison. Then we can come together to solve these problems. Technology is a positive force in this, but it needs a strong value system to realize its full potential. I believe that technology must be tempered by the humanities and true innovation always takes place at the intersection of science and art.”


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