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ESI Live 2022: Moving towards a sustainable digital future

ESI Live 2022: Moving towards a sustainable digital future

Oct 19, 2022 | Hot Topics

One of the best things about being at a live event is the spontaneous conversations. While waiting for an elevator, you share stories of tired feet, why you walked miles to get to a specific session, and what you learned. You’re in line for coffee and find out what the person ahead of you does, and why — and what they want to get out of the event.

Or, in the case of ESI Live, you’re in Paris, looking out at the window at the gorgeously lit Eiffel Tower and … chat. Long day, jet lag, a glass of wine, a good meal — and conversations happen. Good hosts set the stage and then step back to let these interactions flow. And flow they did at ESI Live 2022.

I was at ESI Live to moderate a panel and speak with the ESI team and their customers. You can watch replays here, and I hope you tune into as many of the presentations as possible. I’m in the opening panel and then wrap things up with ESI CEO Cristel de Rouvray at the end of the day. Here are my main takeaways from the event.

First –and I sort of had a sense of this but had it confirmed at the event– ESI really is the little engine that could. It’s listening hard to customers and working to deliver what they need. The ESI staff I spoke with was very focused and on-message. They are looking to leapfrog ahead in business processes and go-to-market to meet customers where they are, with what they need. It’s both simple and very, very hard to do.

And their customers, time and again, rely on ESI and its solutions and see the company as a trusted partner. Outsiders (and, to be honest, not a few ESI customers) generally know only one facet of ESI. It’s a CAE company, making simulation solutions a la Virtual Performance crash simulations. No, it makes manufacturing solutions such as PAM-STAMP. Or, it makes virtual reality solutions with ICI.DO. Part of that siloed perception is due to the simple reality that the people who cast steel don’t also do crash tests, making cross-selling a real challenge. But ESI is working its way across customer organizations to reach potential users who have no interaction with ESI today — a meaningful way to grow revenue per account and, more importantly, become a strategic partner to these accounts. 

Second, what seemed like an unusual acquisition when it took place, the ICI.DO virtual reality offering is increasingly important to its users. Several of the presenters spoke about how they use virtual reality to bring new stakeholders into the decision-making process — and to give them information in formats they can use. A service person may have no experience dealing with a CAD model but can interact with a design in a VR setting. That enables them to offer valuable insights into maintainability or something else the team may not have considered.

And that gets to a topic we discussed during the opening panel: diversity. The panel was a first for me in that it was all female. In addition to ESI CEO Cristel de Rouvray, we had Camilla Vitelli from Volvo Group Digital, supporting Volvo Construction Equipment and Volvo Autonomous Solutions with their PLM implementations, and joining virtually, was Jennifer Goforth, General Motors Executive Director of Global Aftersales Engineering & Service Operations. A fourth panelist, also female, had to drop out at the last minute.

Being female wasn’t the point; it was about representing different perspectives and experiences. Ms. de Rouvray was instrumental in setting up the panel and told us that ESI believes the company and its customers cannot move quickly enough to meet today’s challenges if we don’t accelerate learning. And one of the best ways to do that is to cast the net as widely as possible, looking for as much diversity of thought and opinion as is practical. Experienced workers know their jobs, end products, and industry. New hires might ask interesting questions that challenge assumptions. Looking outside the industry or functional silo may lead to ideas that can be used in one’s own industry or silo. The more differing viewpoints you can bring to a problem, the more likely you are to find a creative solution and something that truly differentiates one product from another.

The panelists and the presenters who followed talked about how virtual prototyping transforms many product development processes — but not everything, not everyone, and not yet. The ESI Live team ran several polls during the event. One set of results stunned me: when asked when the attendees thought their processes would be 100% digital: 28% said they already are; 5% said within the next year; 22% said in 2 to 3 years, and a whopping 45% said it would take more than three years. My thought bubble was that attendees at an event about virtual prototyping would be more digital than average because of the event they’re attending and that they’d be pushing through more digitization to move their careers forward. Ms. de Rouvray chose the opposite viewpoint. She focused on the fact that almost one-third of respondents are already primarily digital today and that another 27% will be there soon. These companies have roadmaps and milestones to get them there. From her conversations with ESI customers and prospects, Ms. de Rouvray believes that the attendees who responded “more than three years” likely see the need to move faster, especially in the areas where the gains would be most important.

Two last things about that poll. First, there’s a significant opportunity for ESI and its peers to sell solutions that allow for better, faster iterations on products that address end-buyers’ pain points and the realities of producing sustainably and with unreliable supply chains. And second, Ms. de Rouvray and her team really know their customers and each account’s readiness for this type of technology. For many, these tools are game-changers and can be used as levers to push an organization forward. For others, these will be point fixes that prove benefit before they are rolled out more broadly.

One last vignette from ESI Live 2022: I met a gentleman who is doing very cool things with lightweighting in aerospace. Potentially game-changing. Eco-friendly, sustainable, working on a deal with a major aircraft manufacturer. He is also working on a folding bike that uses standard diameter wheels, which makes sense for riders who can’t or don’t want to use the tiny wheels/very high seat profile that currently dominates that market. The group I was with, all Europeans, was polite about the lightweighting but fascinated by the folding bike concept. They see it as a way to improve the ride, avoid theft and make the bike carryable onto buses and subways. If he goes into production, I believe he has at least three customers from this one conversation alone. Bottom line: Go to the event! Talk to strangers! You never know whom you might meet!

ESI Live was a terrific event, all about using digital tools and virtual prototyping to create end-products that meet and exceed buyer expectations. Whether those are related to functionality, sustainability, safety, or other factors, it is ever harder to stay ahead of the competition. And, as the speakers made clear, they cannot do this without the support of the ESI team.

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

The title image is of the Eiffel Tower looking out a window at the ESI Live 2022 event venue, the Les Salons de l’Hôtel des Arts et Métiers, in Paris. Window box! Wrought iron! Eiffel Tower! It’s not a great picture, but what could be more French!? Photo by me.

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