Bernard.Charles_Steve.Levine.0839Why do you do what you do? What’s your end goal? Only when you’ve answered those questions, think about how —which tools and techniques, how you’ll approach the task, whether and how you’ll simulate and collaborate … That’s the nexus of Dassault Systèmes (DS) 3D Experience platform and the central message of last month’s 3DEXPERIENCE Forum in Las Vegas. Thinking differently about what we do lets us imagine different end results, which in turn lets us be more creative with what we bring to market.

3DEXPERIENCE isn’t a user conference in the traditional sense. Users do speak, of course, but there are no classes to attend on how to set up ENOVIA or run a tough TOSCA optimization. It’s a chance for DS to roll out its vision and explain how the lessons learned in creating digital design technologies for manufacturing translates to other parts of the manufacturing enterprise and to completely new industries as well.

We expected to hear from large automotive and aerospace customers, long the DS core audience — and we did. For example, Lockheed Martin’s David Markham spoke about LM’s “immersive idea dunk tanks”, which get disparate groups and disciplines together to solve problems, while Honda’s Eric De Hoff showed very realistic crash test simulations, which are intended to help non-CAE users understand the impact of their design decisions.

This year we also started seeing greater evidence of DS’ diversification into new industries. Anglo American Mining’s Tony O’Neil pointed out that almost everything we rely on has some mined components (certainly, all of our advanced technology does). Mr. O’Neil started a theme that carried through the natural resources sessions at 3DEXPERIENCE: the technology advances that permeate automotive, aerospace and other manufacturing industries haven’t hit mining — it’s generally seen as 20 behind the times. On the bright side: speakers believed that mining can leapfrog ahead, learning from other industries, and make up that 20 year gap in the next 5 or so. There’s not much alternative: as in oil and gas, many mines are nearing the end of their planned lives and miners must go deeper to find quality orebodies. Miners are looking to technology to help them move from general to selective mining to improve the quality of their yield and to minimize environmental impact, go from direct mechanized to remotely-operated and more automated machinery, and from batch to continuous operations (think from trucks to conveyors, and to more intelligent machines), and to find ways to make their operations more energy and water efficient — all of which need advanced modeling, simulation and real-time optimization techniques.

DS also showcased Steven Levine’s Living Heart Project, which developed a computer-based model of a living, working human heart to aid in diagnosis/treatment and the development of medical devices. Dr. Levine pointed out that many medical devices, including heart valve replacements, are often selected for specific patients based on the best judgment of cardiologists and surgeons. Why not take a more quantitative approach and “test” the device in a heart that’s as close to the patient’s as can be modeled? Or let a surgeon plan and practice risky surgery on a heart model? Dr. Levine said that the medical industry is so fragmented among profit/non-profit, commercial/academic, practicing/research that progress is slow and cumbersome; he and DS believe that the 3D Experience platform and Living Heart can create a common platform for far better collaboration than was possible even just a few years ago. DS CEO Bernard Charlès announced at this year’s 3DEXPERIENCE that Dassault Systèmes has signed a five-year collaborative research agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the development of tests for the insertion, placement and performance of pacemaker leads and other cardiovascular devices used to treat heart disease. If successful (and it’s likely to be), this could usher in a new era in simulation and collaboration in the medical world.

After the main-stage sessions I bounced between tracks, spending most of it in the Oil and Gas and Mining sessions but I think there were many common themes as all projects in our world follow a similar path: concept to more detailed to construction/fabrication/manufacturing to service/operations to deconstruction/recycling. In all cases, greater visibility into project progress and issues leads to an improved ability to course-correct and manage issues as they arise. Access to a common data store makes it easier to know what everyone is doing and communicating about, and ensures that everyone is working on the latest iteration. The sessions I attended were all tailored takes on: today’s workers and consumers are connected and expect instantaneous answers, and user experiences that are simple and elegant. Whether on a construction site or in an office, rapid access to information on which decisions can be made is a must, and not having it leads to significant, bad consequences.

The brands were rarely mentioned in the company’s presentations, though they did come up every so often during the customer presentations. But this wasn’t a brand event, so that’s not surprising. A pleasant surprise, though, was DS’ mention of expanding the electronic lab notebook (ELN) technology acquired with Accelrys last year from chemists to others who need to keep track of their progress. I played with Contur ELN iLabber (now Accelrys Notebook Cloud), the SaaS offering, last year and see how it can replace paper lab notebooks with a digital solution that can be searched and communicated.

What else did DS say? Company representatives continue to promote the 3D Experience message of creating solutions that let their customers craft the ultimate end-buyer experience. They still spend too much time explaining the vision behind the Experiences and too little time showing how the platform concept creates benefit — the dashboards, collaboration, rapid search, visualizations, simulations, access to information of all sorts (much more than CAD or other traditional PLMish data) and so on. Customers are starting to talk about it but aren’t using the “Experiences” term yet.

My favorite quote of the event? DS EVP Monica Menghini: “I have to deliver to you what you think is valuable, not what I think you need.” Refreshing. To fully use the 3D Experience and all of its capabilities, buyers may need to reconsider how they do what they do, and examine why — peel back the onion on processes that may have been in place for decades. Is that still the best way to reach the goal? Does it help or hinder innovation, agility and meeting customer demands? That’s what the 3D Experience Forum was all about. Thought-provoking.

A couple of other things. Jon Carr of Textron Aviation showed video of a bird strike test, where chickens are shot out of a cannon to hit the windshield of a prototype aircraft. I had no idea this was still done and tweeted about it, setting off a teeny tiny Twitter firestorm. First off, the chickens are already dead; they’re all 4 lb birds bought at a local supermarket for the test. No live birds are harmed in the tests. Second, bird strike is a very real threat to both aircraft and human life, so this is a vital part of the aircraft’s test program. Last, it’s hard to simulate and so the CAE program is often supported by a test at some point. Move along now. Nothing more to see here.

The 3DEXPERIENCE keynotes are up on DS’ YouTube channel. Worth a look if you didn’t attend or stream live last month.

Finally, mining is everywhere right now. DS, Hexagon and Trimble all have made acquisitions recently to bolster their offerings for mining; Bentley announced a significant new product set at its recent Year in Infrastructure event. It’s clearly a new frontier, and I’m going to be doing some research into the industry and its issues over the next few months. If you’ve got questions you’d like me to answer, please send them via the contact link above.

Note: Dassault Systèmes graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation at the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post.

Image of Steve Levine and Bernard Charlès courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.