Digital Transformation at SOLIDWORKS World 2018

By Will Hastings

Technology Trends

Digital Transformation on display at SOLIDWORKS World 2018

Gian Paolo Bassi, CEO of Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS, opened SOLIDWORKS World 2018 with a statement that captures the spirit of Dassault Systèmes strategy to define itself apart from typical Digital Transformation marketing.

The question still remains; what can we do to empower you, the amazing innovators? How can we help you become the leaders of what many call the next industrial revolution? But shouldn’t we rather foster something much better than a revolution, shouldn’t we foster an industrial renaissance? Just like the original one in the 1500's - put more focus on the humans.  The big novelty of the renaissance is that humans became the center of the art, became the center of the action.   We like this connotation much better, humans not machines. 

How is Dassault Systèmes delivering this human-centric approach to digital transformation and is it any different than what its competitors are doing?

Digital tranformation at SOLIDWORKS World 2018

Accessibility and Collaboration are Key

A major point of pride for Dassault Systèmes in recent years is its brand strategy.  The company has made it a priority to homogenize its core products and integrate acquisitions to create a cohesive user experience across its portfolio.  The approach has culminated in its 3DEXPERIENCE platform.   Unlike other emerging software platforms in the industrial space, the message of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform is not about connecting machines, but about connecting people.  Dassault Systèmes recognizes that its most impactful proposition is in facilitating the innovation process of its users and has altogether avoided the battle of IIoT Platforms.

In addition to unifying its historically autonomous brands, Dassault Systèmes has incorporated new functionality into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to promote collaboration among peers and between businesses.  Two of these initiatives were highlighted during Bassi's keynote:

  • 3DEXPERIENCE Social Collaboration Services – A social media-style application were users can share, review, and revise designs in a secure environment.
  • 3DEXPERIENCE Marketplace Make – A secure online ecosystem that connects designers to industrial manufacturing service providers based on product specifications.         

“We want to become the Amazon for engineers all over the world”, said Bassi after the announcement of Marketplace Make.  A bold goal, but one that Dassault Systèmes, as a global leader in PLM, is in a position to achieve.

3D Printing, 3D Scanning, and Augmented Reality  

In a way, these technologies feel like a natural extension of PLM into the real world.  From the perspective of the user, they demand the least number of steps to transmute a design from digital to physical and vice versa.  By no coincidence almost every presentation during the general sessions of this year’s SOLIDWORKS World touched upon at least one of these technologies.   Likewise, the showroom floor was populated by many companies within this space.  3D Printing was represented by Stratasys, HP, 3D Systems, Desktop Metal, and Markforged, 3D scanning by Zeiss, Artec 3D, Creaform, and Faro, and augmented reality by DAQRI and Meta.

It appears that Dassault Systèmes has concluded that streamlining its brands is part of a much greater ambition: to streamline the creative process by blurring the line between the digital and real.    Near the end of his presentation Bassi capture this idea when he said, “Design to manufacturing is now dream to doorstep.” 

Dassault Systèmes is by no means the only PLM company working with these emerging technologies, but its focus on the user experience as a critical aspect of its products may be a differentiator.  What does success mean in this scenario? Users will feel less and less like they are working with tools to realize an idea and feel more like the tools are working with them.  A perfect example of this shift in experience is generative design, where software, given constraints such as boundaries, loads and strength requirements, will generate a lightweight design using topological optimization.  It just so happens that the resulting designs are perfect candidates for 3D printing, which makes for a very compelling story, and one repeated many times at PLM conferences.

Looking Forward

Dassault Systèmes is a perennial leader in the PLM market and they’ve maintained their reputation by providing the tools engineers need today.  For most software companies to thrive in the long term, they must be constantly looking ahead to ensure their vision aligns with customers future needs.  And while they have proven to be adept in this exercise, Dassault Systèmes seems intent now to provide customers with capabilities and an experience they haven’t yet realized they’re missing.  I look forward to seeing how the market reacts.

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