The promises and pitfalls of modernizing PLM

Valeo Partners with Dassault Systèmes to upgrade legacy PLM, connecting 15,000 users in a virtual ecosystem across R&D, purchasing and manufacturing.

Valeo seeks to accelerate the digitalization of its R&D through PLM modernization. (Image: Dassault Systèmes.)
Valeo seeks to accelerate the digitalization of its R&D through PLM modernization. (Image: Dassault Systèmes)

Paris-based Valeo manufactures mobility technologies, providing transportation electrification, lighting, driving assistance and connected solutions to improve user experience onboard vehicles. The company has been using software solutions from Dassault Systèmes for decades, from Catia for design and CAD engineering, to Envia MatrixOne for its product lifecycle management (PLM) and Delmia for digital manufacturing.

In June 2024, Valeo announced a partnership with Dassault Systèmes to upgrade its legacy PLM systems to the 3DExperience platform. More specifically, “Valeo will rely on Dassault Systèmes’ Global Modular Platform and Smart, Safe & Connected industry solution experiences based on the 3DExperience platform to accelerate the digital transformation of the Group’s research and development activities.” While the benefits of this digital transformation are substantial, it is important to address the potential challenges and risks associated with such a significant technological overhaul.

Upgrading legacy PLM is no small feat

Despite the undeniable advantages of maintaining an evergreen system, the process is riddled with potential pitfalls. A poorly executed major implementation can cripple a company, while even a successful one often spans years and demands substantial resources. This is a critical aspect that frequently escapes the spotlight in discussions about digital transformation.

These upgrades are not only about software, but also about the people involved, including business change, testing and training. Transitions typically involve not just a technical upgrade but are often coupled with a fundamental shift in workflows, processes, data model evolutions and readaptation of configurations and customizations. Legacy systems, deeply entrenched in a company’s operations, come with their own set of complexities and dependencies. Replacing them requires meticulous planning, robust change management strategies and a clear vision to avoid operational disruptions.

Even when migrating to the latest PLM release within a single vendor ecosystem, the process is far from straightforward. Companies might assume that staying within one ecosystem simplifies the transition, but the reality can be more complex. Newer systems often introduce advanced functionalities that necessitate retraining staff, reconfiguring integrations and revisiting data governance policies. This learning curve can be steep, especially for teams accustomed to older systems. Therefore, it is imperative for organizations to approach such migrations with a strategic mindset, ensuring they have the necessary support and expertise to navigate the transition smoothly.

Upgrading from one software version to another typically brings challenges related to legacy data migration, system integration, de-customization, re-customization, change management, user training and cost of ownership. However, the advent of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions provides a promising avenue to mitigate these risks. SaaS platforms are designed to minimize these complexities by offering scalable, flexible and continuously updated environments. Key questions remain about the frequency of upgrades, the capacity to realign configurations and integrations and the ability to adapt to change.

The imperative of digitalizing R&D

Despite the challenges, the need to digitalize R&D activities is more pressing than ever when driving product innovation. The benefits of a well-executed digital upgrade can be transformative, outweighing the risks associated with implementation. For Valeo, deploying Dassault Systèmes’ 3DExperience platform is a strategic investment aimed at future-proofing its operations in an increasingly competitive automotive landscape.

As an existing user of Catia, Enovia and Delmia, one might expect a straightforward upgrade process within the Dassault Systèmes portfolio. The press release does not specify if Valeo is considering transitioning to a SaaS version of 3DExperience or a more traditional cloud-managed implementation. Nevertheless, it likely involves a pre-configured industry solution tailored for the automotive sector, compatible with ISO 26262, ASPICE and MBSE development.

By connecting thousands of users across various departments into a cohesive virtual ecosystem, Valeo is not merely upgrading its tools but reimagining its approach to innovation. The PLM platform’s ability to capitalize on legacy data to drive intelligent decision-making is a game-changer. It ensures that every step of the R&D process is informed by the most accurate and up-to-date information, thereby accelerating development cycles, driving margin improvement and reducing costs. Companies like Valeo must stay ahead of the curve by continuously innovating and optimizing their R&D processes. As a Tier 1 supplier to the automotive industry, Valeo likely shares data across multiple PLM systems when interfacing with its OEM customers.

Christophe Périllat, CEO of Valeo, emphasized the significance of this partnership, stating, “At Valeo, we are proud to be the key innovation partner of our clients. Our more than 20,000 engineers develop innovative solutions combining hardware and software and leveraging AI to make tomorrow’s mobility safer and more sustainable. Thanks to our partnership with Dassault Systèmes, our teams will have more efficient solutions enabling digital continuity to support our world-leading R&D activities.”

Navigating the path forward

For Valeo, the partnership with Dassault Systèmes represents a critical step towards establishing itself as a tech-driven leader in the automotive industry. The 3DExperience platform is set to streamline Valeo’s R&D activities, offering a robust foundation for developing next-generation mobility solutions.

Pascal Daloz, CEO of Dassault Systèmes, succinctly captured the essence of this transformation, highlighting, “Creating new mobility usages and universes of experiences requires proven capabilities for styling, electrification and software-defined vehicles. Our 3DExperience platform is this differentiator. It leverages the power of generative AI to connect models from science to data from experience, along the full lifecycle of the vehicle.”

Interestingly, Valeo has also been using Teamcenter through its Powertrain Systems business which integrated Valeo Siemens eAutomotive (VSeA) in 2022. This illustrates the complexity and breadth of Valeo’s digital transformation efforts. It also poses several questions regarding the group’s PLM ecosystem:

  • Will it transition to a SaaS platform to leverage future upgradeability?
  • How much integration and re-customization are expected and how complex will the transition to 3DExperience be?
  • Will Valeo use this opportunity to converge its PLM landscape towards a consolidated platform based on 3DExperience?
  • Alternatively, will the group continue to use multiple PDM and PLM systems in the foreseeable future?

These questions underscore the challenges and strategic decisions Valeo faces as it embarks on this significant technological overhaul.