Dassault Systèmes: Digitalization Must Pay Off For The Customer
The article is based on discussions with Klaus Löckel, Managing Director EuroCentral, and Dr. Barbara Holtz, Senior Business Consultant, at Dassault Systèmes.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in these discussions about Dassault Systèmes' strategic direction was that the products of the IT provider are almost irrelevant. They are the basis on which offers are made to customers. But the offer itself has moved much closer to customer needs. The projects and transformation processes for digitalization, which are currently being tackled by industries of all special branches, are intended to prove Dassault Systèmes' overall offering. Which parts of the huge product range are helpful is secondary.
What a change in just six years! While at that time, everything was still about switching from version 5 to version 6 of the 3D-CAD flagship product CATIA, now the 3DEXPERIENCE platform launched in 2012 is the center. Or even more: the focus is on what customers can do better in their processes with the help of this platform, not the platform itself, and certainly not some of their components or products.
The Default Is Value Engagement
The customer's approach by the manufacturer has changed. "Value Engagement" is the motto today. The value that the use of the platform has for the customer should grow with the application. And the added value for the customer should get faster and better. That's what the customer talk is about. And that this increase in value succeeds can now be proven with examples of successful projects.
Klaus Löckel (photo Dassault Systèmes): "The times in which benchmarks and comparisons of features and functions were in the foreground, are over. The customer usually shows us a very specific task today. Our experts then explain how to solve this task on the basis of our platform. And there are a number of well-known companies from Kärcher via HOMAG to CLAAS, who are achieving spectacular results with these solutions."
Dassault Systèmes has made Value Engagement a way of approaching the initial situation, the section of the process chain to be addressed, the desired outcome in business figures, and finally the implementation itself in clearly defined steps together with the customer. Whereby the vendor sees itself in the role of the editor of such projects.
With this change – away from the pure orientation on the product sales to the benefit of the product use at the customer – the provider is not alone. But the consistent focus on engineering as the core of the industrial value chain, namely on its modern form of intensive collaboration in multidisciplinary teams of ramified ecosystems - that's what sets Dassault Systèmes apart.
What Is Behind Digitalization?
More or less all customers now understand that they need to digitalize their processes, products and business models. But few are aware of what digitalization really means for them. Therefore, the proportion of consulting, partly by involving professional consulting firms, but to a large extent by the own team, is becoming ever more important for the manufacturer, which originally grew up as a pure IT tool provider.
If Dr. Barbara Holtz talks to customers about a project that aims to tackle digitalization or take it to a new level, then often, very basic questions must first be clarified. What exactly is the goal of the project? Why and how should digitalization play a major role?
It usually turns out that the biggest obstacle to optimizing processes is that the ever-growing number of experts cannot communicate well enough. Not good enough almost always means not fast and not accurate enough. It takes too long for information to get from one project partner to another, and it is not self-evident that it is the right and up-to-date information. That's because the information in today's almost-prevalent processes is not accessible as real-time data, but is stored in some directory that not everyone knows and can open, in the worst case filed on paper in a folder. Then the processes are not data-driven, not digital. It does not matter with which tens of different IT systems the data was generated.
Dassault Systèmes believes that the most important step in digital transformation is to identify and understand this huge difference between traditional document-driven processes and digital, data-controllable processes. Then it becomes clear that acceleration and improvement cannot be achieved simply by using a particular system. So it's not about comparing the cost and functionality of IT tools. Because accelerating or optimizing existing processes would be beside the actual problem. Rethinking it digitally in order to redesign it with the appropriate methods and tools in a second step is the challenge.
Specifically, this means that if a 3D model is available from the design that contains the geometric data of a component, it can be used to collision check, create an NC program and create a beautiful image for marketing. But these are not the big problems of the present time, in which products become connected systems with integrated services. These are the problems that were previously in the foreground in mechanics and should have long since been solved in the companies.
Maximum Support For Model-Based Systems Engineering
In a modern development project with a connected system as the goal, everyone involved not only needs a 3D model, but data from all areas, in every dimension. For example, behavioral models for the test, logic diagrams from electronics or software development, models for simulation and calculation. And not only after the specific area has done its job, but from the first idea, when the requirements are defined, which clarify what the system shall be able to do later and how it should work.
Incidentally, in today's industry, this area is the one most in need of skilled workers: system architects, for example, who can describe the overall architecture of the product system, drive its development, and verify performance at all times. For the industry is increasingly working in the development of such products and systems – especially in SMEs – with the method of model-based systems engineering (MBSE). This pursues the requirements (R) over the definitions of the functionality (F) and the logic (L) required for it up to the realization of the physical (P) components. RFLP has become the shorthand for this method.
"There is hardly a company," says Dr. Barbara Holtz, "in which these questions are not very fast in the center. And that's exactly what we're addressing with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, and by the way, almost all the acquisitions we've made in recent years were focused on. Data from all parties involved in a system development should always be available exactly where it is needed. This works best if you do not have to search and convert them first, but if they're on the same platform in real time."
The data model that a company works with should therefore be as much as possible be able to support systemic development work. The data model of the Dassault Systèmes engineering platform is increasingly meeting this requirement, and it is barely comparable to the one the platform began six years ago. (picture: Dassault Systèmes)
A Predefined Data Format Is No Longer Sufficient
It does not have much to do any more with the traditional data models of IT systems such as the CAD, PDM or CASE (software development) applications. In the early decades of IT support, such data models were defined for a specific specialty task and they provided exactly the data elements needed in the particular area.
Now it's about extending the model in almost every direction.
Multidisciplinarity: The processes in electronics should work just as well with the data model as they do in mechanics, computer science or computation. That alone is a great challenge, because each of these areas had its own language, its own systems and, of course, proprietary data formats. But how is the functioning of an engine control system for a window regulator in a vehicle to be simulated in relation to the mechanics of the window and to be checked securely if all the data is available separately and in different formats? At best, they then need to be converted with an amount of time into a functional model via interfaces for the simulation.
Cross-linking the value chain: The consistency of the data model should extend from the first idea or requirement not only to production, but also beyond distribution to commissioning and operation. Otherwise there is a break between the data of the engineering and the data from the operation. But the industry's new B2B services, the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), which are now being discussed everywhere, allow the manufacturer, for example, to offer its customers predictive maintenance. For this, the product data must be available on the machine. But conversely, completely new data from the factory at the manufacturer – at the same time a provider of new services – for processing, which did not occur in the conventional engineering of analogue, not connected products.
For manufacturing and process industries: Solving this task may be the most difficult. A single data model that meets the challenges outlined above, but not only for the manufacturing and engineering industries, but also for plant manufacturers and operators, such as in chemistry or pharmaceuticals. One area is the development and production of things and services, the other is the formulation and processing of molecules in order to be able to offer services with the results.
All this is not possible, as it used to be, with a single 'format' and with possibly needed data elements defined in advance. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform instead relies on the model of a so-called 'data lake', where all the data of the company and its products and services can be found. While they are not simply thrown in completely unstructured, but are immediately and accurately accessible via their metadata.
This most comprehensive and genuinely generic approach to a data model is a unique selling proposition. It enables customers to quickly resolve tasks that seem almost impossible today. As an example, Dr. Barbara Holtz points to an aircraft manufacturer who has to save a lot of weight on a component in the wing area for some reason, but without questioning the safety and functional quality of the part. For the solution suddenly data from the field of materials technology and possibly even the production of plastics is crucial, which can extend to questions of molecular biology and chemistry. The entire data environment from traditional engineering in the manufacturing industry is no longer sufficient for this. A very typical case for an even cross-industry requirement for the data model.
A Configurable Platform For Everything
Originally, the motive for the 3DEXPERIENCE platform was to keep all data in a single database if possible. Previous work on files and directories, including the need to exchange data with conversion, should be superseded by working in a database where all data from all applications is available in real-time.
Two reasons in particular set limits to this approach. First, it may not be possible for any company, and still less for project partners in a whole ecosystem, to shut down or replace any system that has emerged, developed or adapted for countless specialized tasks. So there will probably always be tools whose data is stored somewhere in a proprietary format. Secondly, although Dassault Systèmes has taken over an immense wealth of specialty vendors and integrated their systems into the platform, it will never be possible to have the best tool in their own offering for every conceivable task.
Breakout-Session HOMAG at the 3DEXPERIENCE Forum 2018 (photo Sendler)
Therefore, there are several ways in which customers today work with the platform, while also using systems that are not integrated into the 3DEXPERIENCE. Of course, the platform can also deal with data from files and directories. Nowadays, data conversion is no longer a task that presents companies with unmanageable expenses. But – and this was emphasized at the last 3DEXPERIENCE forum by both CLAAS and HOMAG – with Power'by based on the PLM Collaboration Services, Dassault Systèmes now has a capability that allows working with data from third-party systems at a pace that is very close to that within the platform.
Dr. Barbara Holtz: "Engineering is the creative sector in industry. With digitalization, the challenge of engineers' creativity is increasing dramatically once again. Our platform has to meet these needs. It should always easier be configured by the customers themselves."
And what goal is Dassault Systèmes aiming at with its platform? Will the Marketplace, where developers and manufacturers meet in Additive Manufacturing, become another industry cloud with industry apps for the industry? "No," says Klaus Löckel, "what we are aiming for is a platform where engineering specialists of all stripes meet to develop the connected products and services of the future. For that, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform has to give them everything. "
So not another industry cloud, but maybe the engineering cloud. An exciting approach with a lot of potential that differs from the competition in any case.