The Future in 3-D
From airliner design to the next Avatar, Dassault Systèmes CEO Bernard Charlès is plotting the French software company’s next moves.
“I’ve had my dreams, and I’ve been able to follow them,” says Bernard Charlès, president and CEO of Dassault Systèmes (NYSE Euronext: DSY), of his nearly three decades at the French software company. “I said, ‘Can we make 3-D to replace flat drawings so that everyone can understand them?’ I was obsessed with developing software that would unflatten the world of engineering.”
Since Charlès joined Dassault Systèmes in 1983, when it was a two-year-old startup, the company has moved from helping car designers by transforming the flat into the solid to being a pioneer in product lifecycle management, or PLM. Dassault Systèmes’ latest PLM platform, V6, uses the supreme versatility of digital content to allow companies to follow their products from design and manufacture to maintenance and recycling — in short, from cradle to grave — optimizing processes all along the way.
JUST THE FACTS
- Headquarters: Vélizy-Villacoublay, France
- 2009 sales: €1.3 billion ($1.6 billion)
- Market cap: €6 billion ($7.4 billion)
- Employees: 7,834
- Listed since: 1996
- Claim to fame: Bringing 3-D technology to product lifecycle management
According to Sanjeev Pal,* a PLM industry analyst with International Data Corp., or IDC, Dassault Systèmes has taken PLM to a whole new level. The company not only added a visual, specifically 3-D, component to PLM — what had been a dry, engineering-based applications market — but it dissected the market vertically into sectors, and not just the old computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) stalwarts of aerospace and automotive, but other, nontraditional PLM verticals such as life sciences and construction.
MORE ON DASSAULTA 3-D Reality
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3-D Goes Green
“They are very innovative,” Pal says. “With their new V6 platform, they said, ‘We’re going to innovate and come up with a platform that not only does social computing but does it in the cloud.’ They’ve opened it up to everybody.” In doing so, Pal adds, “they’ve reinvented the PLM business.”
In November 2008, Dassault Systèmes moved from Suresnes into a sparkling new campuslike headquarters in Vélizy-Villacoublay, a slice of Silicon Valley transplanted to the Paris suburbs complete with a futuristic virtual reality center for clients to experience the possibilities of 3-D firsthand. Charlès says the company has offices in 27 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Last year Dassault Systemès reported that it had generated net income of €221 million ($273 million) on revenues of €1.3 billion ($1.6 billion), and as of mid-June, it had a market capitalization approaching €6 billion ($7.4 billion). And, the company notes, 3-D technology has made enormous strides. It has spread like wildfire across the industrial- and product-design landscape and has taken the entertainment world by storm as well, whether through video games such as Aura II: The Sacred Rings and Lazy Raiders or through the billion-dollar, Oscar-winning film Avatar. Dassault Systemès products were employed in some of the equipment used to make the movie, the company says.