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The Race to Build a Platform that Supports the Entire Digital Thread

The Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE Forum last month differentiated the company’s vision for providing the tools needed by industries as varied as transportation, retail, life sciences and nine more.

“Our customers, across all 12 of the industries that we serve, have increased their investment in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform by more than 50% in the past year,” said Dean Marsh, the new managing director, North America at Dassault Systèmes. Marsh is a former materials and software enigneer, most recently with IBM where he was VP of Global Analytic Solution Sales. He joined Dassault Systèmes in July. “Our customers are embracing the chance to innovate on our platform and digitalize their businesses. They understand that they can’t afford not to. It’s either be the disruptor or be left behind. Those are the stakes.”

Marsh’s conference introduction was followed by two days of plenary sessions and industry tracks. The 3DEXPERIENCE Playground pavilion provided examples from manufacturing, life sciences, packaging, retail and more.

What a Platform is Not

Monica Menghini, executive VP and chief strategy officer at Dassault Systèmes.

Monica Menghini, executive VP and chief strategy officer at Dassault Systèmes.

Monica Menghini, executive VP and chief strategy officer at Dassault Systèmes wasted no time in embracing the company’s platform approach in her plenary session. The word “platform” may trigger pre-conceived notions to some and be overly generic to others. In her presentation “Shattering the Myths about Platforms,” Menghini set about defining the term via three myths:

1. Platforms are for business process automation. Simply adding digital tools onto an analog process doesn’t make a digital platform, Menghini said.

2. Point solutions can transform into platforms. Menghini called out Dassault Systèmes’ competitors for taking a point solutions approach to building a platform. “Can a frog become Prince Charming?” asked Menghini “A point solution that was created for PLM or for CAD and extended a little bit further, the capability in that specific discipline, cannot be called a platform.” The company’s own well-known point solutions, such as SolidWorks and Simulia, are available via the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, but Menghini seemed to be drawing a line between Dassault’s approach to a broad, integrated workflow vs. their competitors’ approaches. She drove the point home with her description of the third platform myth.

3. Any platform is an innovation platform. “Innovation is a holistic process,” she said, adding that five years ago Dassault Systèmes created the 3DEXPERIENCE platform as an answer to what comes after PLM, knowing the enterprise would continue to extend.

Menghini concluded her presentation with: “If someone else is coming to you, pretending to be Prince Charming, don’t go to them, come to us”

The People Part of the Platform

Bernard Charlès, vice chairman and CEO of Dassault Systèmes.

Bernard Charlès, vice chairman and CEO of Dassault Systèmes.

While Menghini focused largely on what a platform was not, Bernard Charlès’ presentation focused mainly on what a platform should be. Charlès is vice chairman and CEO of Dassault Systèmes.

“I think the power of engineering is not just about doing things right, it’s about doing the right things,” he said, adding that “we need to improve the sustainability of what we do every day to leave a better world for our kids and our grandkids.”

The “digitalization of the world,” provides more opportunities for collaboration, according to Charlès. He said the digitalization of industry “must be centered on how people work, what do they do … The people-centric aspect goes far beyond the automation of the plant. For Dassault Systèmes, this is at the very heart of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.”

That comment may or may not have been pointed at Dassault Systèmes’ competitor, Siemens PLM Software, whose parent company is known for industrial automation solutions. In any case, it touches upon the importance of people as part of the platform. The social/cultural/human aspects of digitalization goes far beyond ease of collaboration.

“The workforce of the future—you have it already in your company, but most of the management team doesn’t see the talents,” he said. “It’s also hard sometimes to convince the people who are doing their daily job … to look at their own job in a different way. That’s also a social and human challenge.”

Charlès says how people connect ideas, disciplines and knowledge is in the DNA of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which he said was critical to the “post-PLM era.”

The engineering technology industry has seen its share of platform wars over the years. They don’t always go well for the end users caught in the crossfire. Time will tell whether the one brewing now will follow the same path, or if a more open, collaborative approach among platforms will prevail.

Watch the video below for an on-site discussion with Menghini at the 2017 3DEXPERIENCE Forum.

For more, read DE’s coverage of the 2017 Design in the Age of Experience and the company’s Additive Manufacturing Symposium.

About Jamie J. Gooch

Jamie Gooch is the editorial director of Digital Engineering. Contact him at de-editors@digitaleng.news.