New- 3D and business

When one Mr. CD signed up with Dassault Systemes at the age of 26, he was married to science. After graduating with honors as a mechanical engineer from Ecole Normale Superieure in Cachan, France, CD immersed himself in research. Even in his first year at Dassault, he contemplated quitting so as to boost his career in research. At that time, Dassault Systemes had just 30 employees. Today, with a workforce of 15,000, CD sits at the helm of affairs at Dassault as its president and CEO.

Much has changed for the former professor at Superieure. Though he continues to lecture engineering students with the same passion he had 25 years ago, a strong element of business has seeped into his method. Charles, 51, clearly sees an end to the means. We want the practical experience to come to theory, virtually says the Frenchman, who is in India to attend the company’s annual PLM (product lifecycle management) forum at Mumbai.

It is this practicality in the virtual space that has propelled Dassault Systemes from nowhere to a $2 billion workhorse in flat 25 years. A world leader in PLM software solutions, Dassault designs and develops industrial products by offering a 3D vision of the entire product lifecycle, from initial design to maintenance. And that has given the company a leverage across 11 sectors, including automotive, aerospace, fabrication and assembly, consumer goods, electrical and electronics, ship building, with over 100,000 clients.

“Next time, I’ll show you something new,” is his oft-repeated phrase, peppered liberally through the conversation, as he uses his iPhone to effect by demonstrating a retail experience in 3D and various other nuggets from core verticals. That’s something he also tells Ratan Tata each time they meet. For the first 15 minutes, Ratan tells me about his new projects knowing fully well that CD will reveal some new secrets. The last time we met, CD showed him 3DVIA and how one could do city-planning.

The Tata-Dassault equation doesn’t just pop up in isolation. Tata Motors is a major client and work on the ‘Nano’ has gathered steam. The whole plant has been designed and simulated in advance so that there is no wastage. Also, with franchisees, they can replicate the same plant across the country. The heart of our platform is to use the virtual or digital definition so that you can verify things yourself before actually physically rolling them out. Never underestimate the huge savings you can have if waste is removed.

The ongoing global recession will have a strong bearing on human behavior. The buying experience will change and probably people will be more comfortable in buying a product that offers value, and value will become the reason for the emotion.

Retailers, like GAP, Gucci, LVMH, Quicksilver and Under Armour, too, are thronging to Dassault to realise their moment of truth. They put laser beams on store shelves to read where consumers’ eyes are going and why they choose one product over another, with our 3DVIA Virtools. Indian retailers are also queuing up at Dassault.

Dassault emerged as a major player in the technology space in the 80s by “telling companies not to think flat, but in 3D”. That made Dassault gain heavyweights, like Mercedes Benz, BMW and Northrop Grumman. In 1994, when the Boeing company demonstrated to the world that an aeroplane of the size and complexity of 777 could be produced digitally without physical prototype, that was Dassault’s first achievement. Boeing saved itself hundreds of millions of dollars as it delivered to customers without a physical prototype.