Dassault Systèmes: A platform for the model of the future
München, 20. April 2017
Dassault Systèmes, founded in 1981, already started to construct its 3DEXPERIENCE platform in 2012, well before digital platforms achieved prominence. This supplier from France, originally known for its CAD solutions and later for PLM, is still operating in these industries, but today at a far higher level. Software tools for industry are being supplemented by more and more tools and apps for all who require virtual, as realistic as possible, visualization and wish to immerse themselves in the “3DEXPERIENCE”.
The groundwork for the current article was laid down in discussions with the Dassault Systèmes specialists Dr. Darko Sucic (on the left), Technical Sales Director, and Robert Klein (on the right), Technical Executive. This article describes the strategic direction of the Company and has been released by Dassault Systèmes (photos Dassault Systèmes).
"Dassault Systèmes opens up the 3DEXPERIENCE universe to both companies and people, letting them create lasting innovations that harmonize product, nature and life.”
This is how Bernard Charlès, a leading figure at Dassault Systèmes since the middle of the 80s, President and CEO since 1995 and Vice-Chairman and CEO since 2016, formulated his vision in 2012. A digital twin of the world – i.e. models of any and all conceivable things – should be able to be built utilizing these tools emanating from Paris and the manufacturer’s many other facilities. Dassault Systèmes currently employs a workforce of around 15,000 worldwide.
Many others, not only engineers and inventors, will, with the help of 3D models and virtual reality, be able to experience these digital “twins of things” as if they were real.
Dassault Systèmes realized very early on that the digitalization of engineering and the other value creation processes in industry had reached a turning point. In essence this no longer concerns only, or even mostly, IT support for processes and management of the data created in the course of such activities. This is to a large extent already possible and is seen as state-of-the-art technology by leading industrial companies. The focus now is increasingly on the results of the processes, the products themselves, being digitalized and networked.
The resulting Internet of Things (IoT) therefore demands totally new approaches from IT suppliers – but it also offers new opportunities, to a large extent on new markets.
Dassault Systèmes led this realignment with its 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Its main characteristics are:
- A single platform for all applications (apps) on offer for the 3D experience
- The possibility of being able to use this platform on-premise on a own server, or via a private or public cloud on-demand
- Integration of the participating systems in a manner that networks dynamic data while operating, for example data from the production process
- Open platform design that can run applications from third-party suppliers
Compass, control center of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform (source Dassault Systèmes)
The hallmark of the platform is a diagrammatic compass representing the control center from which all apps are started and controlled. Its subdivision into four application quadrants shows how Dassault Systèmes classifies its portfolio. At the top the Social and Collaborative Apps quadrant is followed clockwise by three quadrants representing Information Intelligence Apps, Simulation Apps and 3D Modeling Apps. These four quadrants depict the wide extent of the fields being worked in – fields in which numerous acquisitions have been carried out in recent years, permitting the portfolio of offerings to be expanded accordingly.
At the top of the compass, as well as 3DEXCITE for visualization, can be found ENOVIA, an app for document management, data availability in real-time and the structure of end-to-end business processes. The ENOVIA infrastructure is both distributed and at the same time the backbone of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and thus forms its basis since it contains the database accessed by all the apps on the platform. It is also the collaboration hub, since this is where the data that acts as the lubricant for every type of communication and cooperation is collected.
At the same time ENOVIA represents a new way of handling data. When working with the platform’s apps, the files of the individual application are no longer the medium where changes and extensions (for example to a 3D model) are stored and through which they are accessed. As Dr. Sucic notes, today the runtime data present in the database is utilized. This results in associated data from various representations of the model, for example for calculations or for requirements management, being very quickly acquired and processed without the need for file synchronization and data exchange between systems.
The second quadrant comprises two systems that are also relatively new. From the 3D geometry and the meta-information (for example from PLM, ERP, CRM or PDF) EXALEAD creates a digital fingerprint that permits context-specific data searches, making CAD models more readily reusable. NETVIBES is used for the individual composition of a dashboard with important role-specific information. Both tools help user companies create information from data and generate knowledge from this information, an aid in making correct decisions.
The lower quadrant, V+R, is dedicated to the fusion of virtual reality and true reality: representation and simulation of the virtual model through to utilization of the results, e.g. for the virtual commissioning of the real production process. DELMIA supports virtual production planning and manufacturing simulation, while 3DVIA comprises numerous functional blocks for utilization of 3D models, for example for 2D and 3D representation and animation. SIMULIA is at the heart of many calculation and simulation tools that enable early determination of product characteristics at the virtual model stage.
The actual 3D modeler can be found in the fourth quadrant. As well as the flagship CATIA and the widely-used SOLIDWORKS midrange system, this now includes GEOVIA, used for geological modeling purposes from mining through to city planning.
With BIOVIA, Dassault Systèmes also supports scientific research in biology, chemistry and materials science and its use in a range of industries. BIOVIA is an example of how Dassault Systèmes is placing itself on a broader footing, and as well as the classic mechanically-oriented production disciplines, is now also covering the research, industrialization and manufacturing of chemical, biological and pharmaceutical products.
The very comprehensive portfolio of the platform is one side of this realignment. However, Dassault Systèmes may also build up this platform to be a marketplace in which not only software from Dassault Systèmes and its partners can be obtained and used, but also software that fits the platform even when it comes from completely different suppliers.
Industry solutions, processes and roles
The 3DEXPERIENCE platform means that the traditional range of company software offerings must be turned away from. The individual system, its implementation and utilization are no longer of prime interest, but rather the activity of the user and the requirements he or she places on IT have taken center stage. This is a fundamentally different approach that will naturally lead to products coming to market in a different manner.
Dassault Systèmes investigated which activities – whether in the company, at suppliers, at dealers and also at end users – are supported by which parts of the comprehensive software portfolio on their own platform. The user is now being focused on and his individual role and the functions of the specific software tools that he needs to fulfil this purpose formed the starting point from which access to the functions of the many systems were defined.
A process, whether in the production industry or implant building, whether in commercial operations or at a supplier, generally consists of several different roles. The development process of a machine-building company, for example, will consist of the roles of construction and electronics designers as well as those of computational engineers and quality assurance specialists. Roles are assigned to each user and dedicated apps are assigned to the roles. The individual can now see his roles within the application running on the platform by creating a personal “My Apps” list where he can separately switch on or off each role and the assigned apps as required. He no longer needs to start up a specific CAD system and then open a further system for FEM analysis – within the platform he walks his construction through the various tasks of his role using a partial model.
The two pictures above show the role-specific app usage. To access the applications, the user first selects his / her role in the company. By selecting the role, the user is provided with the applications which offer the necessary functions for the efficient fulfillment of his tasks. (Source Dassault Systèmes)
Within a particular industry, the different roles provide an Industry Process Experience (IPE). The IPE therefore summarizes those roles normally required for a specific business process. Multiple IPEs taken together form an Industry Solution Experience (ISE), in other words a solution for that industry. In previous decades, suppliers mainly focused on four industries – vehicle building and mobility, machine- and plant-building, shipbuilding and offshore industries as well as aerospace. In 2012 Dassault Systèmes extended its target markets to include eight further industries:
- Aerospace & defense
- Architecture, engineering & construction
- Consumer goods & retail
- Consumer packaged goods & retail
- Energy, process & utilities
- Financial and business services
- Industrial equipment and life sciences
All 12 of the industries addressed by Dassault Systèmes can be found on its Homepage.
With this realignment of its own offerings and its focus on industry solutions, Dassault Systèmes created for itself good conditions in which to keep pace with the rapidly changing requirements of its customers and also support them in the best way possible. This change, designated by the manufacturing industry in Germany as Industrie 4.0 and across the globe by terms such as Industrial Internet, Internet of Things, or Digital Transformation, is being observed by Dassault Systèmes to be taking place in all industries. In line with its strategy of 3DEXPERIENCE, Dassault Systèmes coined its own term – the Internet of Experience. It consists of the product that the customer uses, the information that he can access with it and finally the services that it makes available to him.
High-tech marches forward
The current upheaval can be well seen by taking the example of an industry that first achieved prominence through this industrial realignment – namely high-tech. Originally this primarily included suppliers of mobile devices and entertainment electronics. Here, extremely short product life cycles are the norm and intuitive user interfaces are at or very near the top of the purchasing criteria list.
At the same time the products of this industry, above all smart phones and tablets, were the pioneers in the Internet of Things and in the world that Dassault Systèmes designates the Experience and describes with three Cs, namely “connected”, i.e. connected to the Internet; “contextual”, i.e. used by a specific user in a specific context, both person -related and personalized; and “continuous” in that the producer can maintain an ongoing connection with the user and continuously appeal to him through updates and new services, thus achieving permanent customer contact.
In just a few years this high-tech sector has become a new core industry for Dassault Systèmes. Nothing else approaches the experience the user here has or would like to have with the products. Nowhere else is it so extremely important to score points just that tiny bit faster with a function. As a consequence, for example, it is absolutely crucial to what extent such a function can be run through and simulated well before the product is released to market.
For this purpose, Dassault Systèmes today offers not only the usual tools. By “usual” here (and also standard for competitors) is meant, for example, tools that permit a virtual examination of the digital twin of a physical product. But the high-tech industry is already, as Robert Klein explains, several steps further along the way. How can I test whether a new product is really IoT-ready? I need Internet-capable tools that can simulate the networking and functioning of an app in the Internet using the virtual product. Not only must the digital twin reflect the physical product, the physical product’s connectivity and services planned for the future must also be testable on the virtual twin.
New Dassault Systèmes customers include the Swedish mobile telephony supplier Ericsson, who decided in 2016 to change all of its processes over to “Business Operation Excellence”, one of the new solutions for the high-tech industry. Johan Torstensson, Head of Group IT & Enterprise IT, in a press release points out that “faster entry to market is just as important as the necessity of offering our customers Ericsson products via digital channels. The new project differs from previous efforts to introduce a new IT platform through its orientation towards business processes.”
From household appliance to smart home
High-tech is not, however, just a new core segment for Dassault Systèmes. High-tech increasingly includes industries that were previously classified differently. A good example is its customer Miele. This manufacturer of high-quality household appliances sees itself being increasingly confronted with challenges which even a few years were not there at all. Just as “Made in Germany” does, the Miele brand represents a long service life and products that maintain their value accompanied by good workmanship and first-class mechanical and mechatronic components. New characteristics of Miele will refer to properties like connectivity and Internet-based services, if the the challenge of connecting all new products shall be met successfully.
Overnight, as it were, the competitive situation is changing because the values, and the manner in which they are perceived and experienced by users, is shifting. A machine with a touchscreen suddenly scores points that count against a long operational lifetime; the possibility of networking this machine in a smart home, an app that offers new utilization opportunities for this – these could become values that make a decisive difference for the user. A manufacturer of high-tech devices may, at least initially, be better positioned to achieve this than a producer of household goods.
Dr. Sailer, Technology Director at Miele until the end of 2016, recognized this development early on. With "Smart Kitchen" in 2020 home appliances will be connected within an eco-system inside the house and externally. This allows for new business models based on services, like Dr. Sailer explained in the Compass Magazine of Dassault Systèmes. With the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and its own self-assessment as a high-tech concern, Miele is well on the way to achieving this.
Almost all Miele products can today be networked. This manufacturer, based in the town of Guetersloh and employing a staff of almost 18,000 around the globe is one of the leading players in the Smart Home field, which comprises all household devices both inside and outside the home. With a wide range of apps, Miele invites its customers to try novel ways of using its products, offers information and the delivery of goods over the Internet with the aid of its own devices and other mobile devices.
Under the auspices of the German Federal Research and Science Ministry’s KogniHome project headed up by the Cognitive Integration Technology Excellence Cluster (CITEC) of the University of Bielefeld, Miele is participating in the Digital Kitchen sub-project and its networking with other sub-projects.
In exactly the same way that Dassault Systèmes is here supporting its customer Miele with products, partners and consulting, the supplier is also involved in macroeconomic applications. The City of Singapore had also been looking for a partner to help in the further development of the city state with the aid of a digital twin. Now a cooperation between Dassault Systèmes and the National Research Foundation in Singapore has been set up to develop “Virtual Singapore”, a realistic, integrated and dynamic 3D model with semantics and attributes.
This is a platform intended to let Singapore’s citizens, companies, government and science communities develop tools and services to deal with approaching complex challenges. It utilizes geometric, spatial and topological data and images as well as real-time data such as demographics, movement and climate. Users can digitally research the effects of urbanization on the city state and develop solutions that, for example, influence logistical, governance, environmental and catastrophe management or infrastructure and homeland security measures.
New ecosystems involving the cloud, big data analytics, machine learning
Even a big supplier of software such as Dassault Systèmes can by no means fulfil all the requirements of digitalization itself. The main areas that have been focused on for many years are the generation and utilization of a wide variety of types of three-dimensional data. This no longer comprises only engineering or the core processes of several key industries, but also companies and persons both inside and outside organizations that no longer encompass not only a small number of industrial sectors but almost all of the important industries and, for example, communal and other governmental bodies. Dassault Systèmes is open to partnerships with many other companies and organizations regarding further usage of the data and what value is created (and in what manner),
With its offerings, Dassault Systèmes is moving, as are most software manufacturers, in the direction of the cloud, but the company does not intend to become a general supplier of a cloud platform. Carrying out comparative analyses of large volumes of real-time product data to derive valuable services for end users is becoming increasingly important for its customers, but this does not necessarily mean that Dassault Systèmes will become a supplier of big data analytics.
Most recently, machine learning has been evolving fast from being science-fiction to a question that even for a mid-range machine building company is of central importance. Again, this does not necessarily mean that Dassault Systèmes itself has to become a deep learning specialist.
It appears that an ecosystem is growing up around the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that encompasses all questions concerning the digital revolution. There will be a close juxtaposition of competition and partnership and even customers will be increasingly involved as partners.
Robert Klein is convinced that this joint development will increasingly spread to the entire market even if currently (in Germany at least) small and mid-range companies in particular are still not particularly enthusiastic. Even when it can be demonstrably proven that data in a cloud environment can be held and used more securely than in a company server located on the company premises, the “feeling” of insecurity is often stronger and thus holds back innovative solutions. From Robert Klein’s perspective, however, change will also be driven by start-ups who do not have the problems of old data and do not need to take a large and already installed system environment into account.
Five years after the commencement of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Dassault Systèmes has still not implemented everything that they originally envisaged. But the market no longer has to be satisfied with statements of intent only – there are already tangible solutions out there and very many impressive results that customers have achieved using these.