Will Dassault Systèmes "beyond PLM" vision be realized any time soon? – TV-report
Verdi Ogewell posted on December 17, 2014 |

Dassault Systems visionary leader, Bernard Charles, is working hard to promote the company's ”3DEXPERIENCE” platform as a concept beyond PLM. He argues that this platform, which is based on Dassault's V6 architecture, "is way ahead of what any competitor can show".

At the recent Dassault 3DXperience Forum in Las Vegas, Charles pointed out that the platform is being adopted by Dassault's existing customers. The Dassault CEO also said that Dassault is expanding their PLM coverage to new industries including medical devices, bio sciences, fashion, mining and others.

He was clearly upbeat, but somewhat sensitive to questions about the up-take of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. ”It's a success,” Charles said. ”Look at Jaguar, look at Renault or Airbus, and many, many others. They are doing amazing things with 3DEXPERIENCE”. While those customers are impressive references, they represent an initial migration from within Dassault PLM customers of early adopters rather than new names.

Changing a PLM system doesn't happen overnight. Dassault's longstanding V5 PLM customers have already been through a complex implementation process. Many are large companies and they are cautious about changes to their core business systems. When they decide to move into the 3DEXPERIENCE environment, they will do so in a stepwise fashion.

Like any technology, it will take time for the new Dassault platform to mature and for users to adopt it. Charles claims that Dassault has invested over $2B in the new technology, so it is perfectly understandable that he wants the breakthrough to happen quickly. However, PLM history has taught us that nothing moves fast.


The good news for Dassault is that their customer community has started to move. It used to be hard to find case studies of customers who wanted to go on the record. These days it's getting easier. The solution is moving from vision to reality.

"Yes, it is", says CIMdata's analyst, Peter Bilello, in this TV-report. "We are at that point where there's reasonable awareness among people and we're starting to see adoption, specially with the Enovia V6 (the 3DEXPERIENCE cPDM backbone) and the capabilities around that. Still, we are early in these processes, but the future looks positive for the platform approach itself."


”We have adopted the 3DEXPERIENCE system and we’re working
together with Dassault, giving them feedback on how
our processes should work”, says Dura Automotive’s Nizar Trigui

A great customer case study for the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, but there's still a way to go

Nizar Trigui is the executive VP and CTO of Tier 1 supplier, Dura Automotive. He was very enthusiastic about 3DEXPERIENCE and V6 in this TV report.

Trigui asserted that this technology fundamentally will change the way business is run, ”We want 3DEXPERIENCE to be really core to everything we do; both in terms of product creation as well as running the entire business. The whole idea behind this solution is to have a connected set of systems that makes the design of the different parts. You have CAD, a BOM, a BOP, manufacturing, and you have financial modelling that goes with that; everything linked together and the system takes you to and through the production line and puts it all in one system. It's incredibly powerful”.

While Dura has launched ”the DS 3DEXPERIENCE ship”, the journey has just begun. ”True”, said Nizar, ”we worked in the V5 PLM environment and it has been very popular. Now we have adopted the new 3DEXPERIENCE system and we're working together with Dassault, giving them feedback on how our processes should work.”

Is the Product Innovation Platform a blueprint for the 3DEXPERIENCE platform?
The 3DEXPERIENCE solution, which was launched as an concept about 3 years ago, has many similarities to another next generation PLM platform. The ” Product Innovation Platform ” was outlined by analysts Gartner, CIMdata and IDC earlier this year.

These analysts concluded that digital business is changing the nature of products towards products-as-a-service. This change in business model requires a new type of PLM platform to define and design products and to manage life cycles. The new platform is and end-to-end solution that is focused on system-centric design and holistic governance.

PLM is to become an “all in one” business system that can deal with every aspect of the value chain, including requirements, design, manufacturing, distribution, services, maintenance, and more. Furthermore, these analysts see the Product Innovation Platform ultimately being able to communicate on all new platforms like the Cloud, Internet of Things, Social, e t c.

Michel Tellier, Dassault’s VP of Aerospace & Defense:
"It’s a holistic business system"

”This is spot on what the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is about”, Michel Tellier, Dassault's VP of Aerospace & Defense, said to the TV-team. “It's a holistic business system, it's scalable from the 10,000 user level to the 3 user customer, it's easy to deploy, lighter solution footprint than we had in the past. The platform can make you think that it is some “monstrous thing”. But it's not. From a software standpoint it is quite efficient and compact”.

“Experiences” is a central tenet of Dassault Systèmes communications

A striking fact is how central the term “experiences” is to the company's communications. 3DEXPERIENCE is about simulating real life experiences that you want to deliver to your customer. According to Dassault, until now PLM has been about helping companies to develop their products. But the world has moved beyond the product such that end-customers are now demanding experiences around the product. As a result, companies “have to be able to innovate not only on the product, but also on the experience” to quote DS Enovia's CEO, Andy Kalambi.

In this report Bernard Charles takes that explanation a bit further using an example from airplane manufacturer Airbus, ”It's really about the creation of next generation processes that connect to the 3DEXPERIENCE end-to-end idea.” He admits that Airbus is not there yet across the whole company, ”But it is the roadmap for 2020 and the 3DEXPERIENCE is a logical step for them.”

European airplain manufacturer Airbus’ model A320 designed in CATIA.

Adopting the Dassault platform is about Airbus elevating their business practices to the next level, explains Charles, adding that this platform gives customers the capability to really connect the engineering design work to, ”for instance, how the interior of the cabin will provide greater flight experiences; how the usage of composites contributes to increase the humidity levels and you will suffer less from dry air; and how the entertainment system can be improved. These are the ”flying experiences” that are needed to develop better products. No matter how you look at it, this is where the aerospace industry is going”, Dassault's visionary CEO says.

Michel Tellier agrees, “The people who are creating the aircraft are not doing it for themselves. They are doing it for the people who own them, operate them and for the comfort of their passengers. That experience has to be engineered and now we have the technology to help do that”.

My take: About PLM, Dassault and ”Innovation”
PLM developers often describe their software suites as "innovation systems." But are they? PLM systems in themselves can't innovate anything. The human bioelectrical system, the "brain" is the only system capable of "innovation".

The most that modern PLM systems like Dassault's 3DEXPERIENCE can help your team do is to gather ideas, collaborate, design, coordinate, visualize, virtually test, prepare for production and service innovations. They can even, according to Bernard, ”simulate nature and life”. But if you ask your PLM suite to develop a new kind of mobile phone no sensible ”answer” can be expected.

That said, the PLM systems remain a critical success factor for realizing innovation and speed to market. The lifecycle of an innovative product, from launch to service and maintainenance, can be just as important as the innovation in itself. This is where capable PLM systems come into play.

“Standing on the shoulders of giants”
Few visionaries have done more to develop the concept and potential of PLM than Bernard Charles. When I talked to him in Las Vegas he pointed at a history of disruptive technologies made by Dassault, like the 3D Mock Up, digital manufacturing and the concept of PLM, “These are Dassault innovations and they have changed the industry. 3DEXPERIENCE is the next logical step in this sequence of promoting innovations.”

In fairness, like other visionaries, Charles has been “standing on the shoulders of giants”, to quote Newton. The basic ideas around cohesive and seamless product development processes were discussed by the former UGS (today Siemens PLM) leader, John Mazzola. PTC's Samuel Geisberg developed the groundbreaking parametric technology that still forms a critical element of the product development process. We can credit Charles for being the first to formulate a concrete and coherent PLM “recipe”.


"Dassault innovation have changed the industry",
said Bernard Charles.

Will we look back a decade from now and view the 3DEXPERIENCE platform the same way? The concept is still in an early stage, having been first presented about three years ago. Dassault delivered their first ready to use platform on the Cloud or on premises earlier this year. According to analysts like CIMdata, the main body of Dassault's customers (some 190,000) have now reached the point of awareness of the platform, with many having progressed further. That is not, however, the same thing as being ready to swap systems.

No quick breakthroughs but the wheels have started to roll
Executive decision makers are going to proceed with caution regarding major changes to product realization flows that are currently working smoothly. These customers have generally finished their first or second PDM/PLM implementations (e.g. DS V4 and V5) loops.

What do such customers most want in an upgraded PLM system? If we disregard startups and companies that have not previously had a PLM system, the average next-generation PLM customer first wants to see a mature technology that integrates well in their existing environment. Next they might expect it to have the ability to interface with expected future technologies like the Product Innovation Platform. They will want to see proofs of concept that demonstrate how the new technology can provide significant advantages in product development. Finally, they will expect that an upgrade, when decided, can be implemented stepwise.

My view is that the 3DEXPERIENCE platform can live up to many of these demands. It has some great technology and generally works seamlessly, at least in Dassault environments. Many CIOs prefer the simplicity of having a single system provider.

In contrast, the analysts touting the Product Innovation Platform predict that product realization systems will be modular and connect with a federated PLM platform where one solution can be switched for another. How the 3DEXPERIENCE platform will work in this perspective remains to be seen.

Hear more from customers like Dura Automotive, industry analysts, and Bernard Charles and Michel Tellier of Dassault in this TV-report from the 3DXperience Forum North America, in Las Vegas.

* Dassault's CEO and President, Bernard Charles
* Dassault's VP of Defense & Aerospace, Michel Tellier
* Dura Automotive's EVP and CTO, Nizar Trigui
* The owner of Dura and 74 other companies, Lynn Tilton
* CIMdata analyst, Peter Bilello
* Olivier Sappin, VP Transportation & Mobility, Dassault

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