Dassault Systemes Looks Beyond Digitalization

Company says digital transformation is driven by how society and industry use technology, not the technology itself.

If you’re tired of hearing about digitalization, Bernard Charles, president and CEO of Dassault Systemes, has some good news for you: Digitalization is so yesterday.

Dassault Systemes President and CEO Bernard Charles says the value is in the experience the product provides, not the product itself. Dassault Systemes President and CEO Bernard Charles says the value is in the experience the product provides, not the product itself.

“When something big is happening, you need to put a name on it, and I think something big is happening,” said Charles as he introduced the “Industry Renaissance” theme of the Dassault Systemes 3DEXPERIENCE Forum June 19-21 in Boston. “The leaders of tomorrow will be those who are creating new categories of solutions, or new categories of services or new categories of companies. The losers will be the companies trying to digitize the past. That’s why I believe we’re far beyond digitalization. It’s about a renaissance: society, industry and experience. The product is not enough anymore. The value is in the usage of the product—that’s the experience.”

The company has alluded to the Industrial Renaissance before, as seen in our recap of last year’s Design in the Age of Experience conference in Milan, Italy, titled “Dassault Systemes Looks Forward to a New Design Renaissance.” But the point was driven home during this year’s Science in the Age of EXPERIENCE and 3DEXPERIENCE Forums, which did not detail the new technical features of the company’s SIMULIA, CATIA or ENOVIA brands, for instance, but instead focused on how companies are responding to digital disruption using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

We all know large enterprises that are being disrupted by the possibilities of technological innovation. The transportation industry is looking for ways to capitalize on electric powertrains and autonomous technologies. The energy sector is finding new service models based on data. The consumer products sector is trying to take advantage of new supply chain efficiencies and sales channels. Manufacturers across the spectrum are trying to make use of artificial intelligence and new processes, including additive manufacturing, to improve how products are made. The list goes on and on.

But none of those are the biggest challenge Dassault Systemes is helping its customers meet, according to Charles. “In many companies the top executives don’t get it,” he said. “They don’t understand what’s happened. That’s our biggest challenge today.”

GE Divides and Conquers Disruption

The Forum featured presentations from companies that do get it, one of which was GE. Craig Platt, VP of Digital Technology at GE opened his presentation by questioning how to deal with a particular kind of disruption.

“What happens when governments around the world outlaw your products?” he asked, referring to laws that regulated the efficiency of incandescent lightbulbs.

“We took a 100-plus-year-old business and created a new startup within it: Current, powered by GE,” Platt said. “When we walk around and look at lights, we don’t see lights. I see infrastructure. I see opportunities to create digital environments to help drive customer outcomes.”

The near ubiquity of lights make them useful infrastructure for all types of smart services, from monitoring temperatures in rooms to letting retailers know which displays shoppers spent the most time browsing, and more. GE Current created a new line of business by opening that infrastructure up to other suppliers who can build apps and services upon it.

“We were way back on the MatrixOne platform,” said Platt, referring to product lifecycle management (PLM) software Dassault Systemes acquired in 2006 and integrated into its ENOVIA brand. “Never upgraded since it was put in almost 20 years ago. We were on a burning platform. Not only that, we were in a burning data set. All of our infrastructure was combined with GE Appliances, which was sold a couple years ago, so we were on the clock to exit.”

Platt said he had a choice to make. On one side was the “Dark Ages,” which involved loading the old servers on a truck and driving them from Louisville, KY to Cincinnati, OH because they were afraid the old software wouldn’t function on new hardware. On the other side was the “Industry Renaissance,” which meant jumping from the 1999 version of MatrixOne to the 2016 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Platt chose to make the upgrade, but as anyone involved in PLM knows, the choice is the easiest part. GE had to get everyone on the same page in terms of understanding the benefits vs. the risks involved in getting its 1300 users across four continents off the old data center and onto the new platform in less than a year.

“Oh, and by the way, my team: 5 people on my digital thread team, both in product management and engineering,” Platt said. “Suffice it to say, we needed help.”

Platt turned to internal services at GE Power for the platform-as-a-service infrastructure, Dassault Systemes for the software and Capgemini to build out the configuration. The initial estimates the team developed for the transition was 18 to 24 months, but the old data server was shutting down in 11 months. Platt used agile development—doing two-week sprints—to move the project forward faster.

Then Platt saw a demo of the 3DEXPERIENCE dashboard. “I said ‘I have got to have that,’ because it brought everything together,” he said. Unfortunately, it was not offered for the 2016 version of the platform being implemented. The 2017 version of the software was being released on Nov. 7, but Platt had promised to make a go/no-go decision by the end of October.

“I’ll take the risk,” Platt said. “Trust was critical. I knew it was going to be solid. We bet on it.”

After getting the software installed, configured and tested it, Platt said GE Current launched the new platform April 2. “We needed a new operating model to deliver our products to our customers,” he said. “We have a digital twin of what you might think of as a light. It’s not. It’s an operating model, it’s a new infrastructure.”

The data those new products are collecting are the basis for GE Current’s new service model.

A Renaissance of Competition

As Platt noted during his presentation, GE’s next competitor could be in a garage right now. Digitalization has given entrepreneurs access to unprecedented resources without the legacy infrastructure of big companies. That infrastructure was once a barrier to entry that kept smaller competitors out, but it has become a liability for some large enterprises who are unable to pivot fast enough to capitalize on the digital transformation.

“I think the biggest hindrance to innovation is the lack of flow of information,” said Dean Marsh, managing director, North America, Dassault Systèmes.

Think of all the cycles spent finding information, making sure it is up to date and accurate and sending it back and forth. Marsh says the 3DEXPERIENCE platform will unleash creativity and innovation because it is where the knowledge resides.

“We put the platform in the cloud. We put our expertise in the cloud,” he said. “This makes the information available to people who then can focus on their ideas, and not have to focus on the infrastructure.”

That’s the promise of 3DEXPERIENCE and what Charles dubbed the Industry Renaissance: democratized access to information, whether you’re an entrepreneur working in you garage, a well-funded startup or a 100-year-old multinational corporation.

See also:

Bursting Additive Manufacturing’s Last Bubbles

Dassault Systèmes Completes No Magic Acquisition

Dassault Systems and Granta Design Set Up Material Partnership

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Jamie Gooch

Jamie Gooch is the former editorial director of Digital Engineering.

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