Visions and Opportunities in the Virtual and Physical World

3DEXPERIENCE World was Dassault Systemes’ first global SOLIDWORKS event since Covid. The conference was well-attended, with 4,000 people in Nashville’s Music City and 10,000 connecting from cyberspace. The event’s theme was "Imagine", which refers to visionary leadership and the goal of imagining what we all can do together. 

The tagline for the event, “Connecting Emotion, Innovation, and Creation for a More Sustainable World,” was in line with 3DS’ culture of innovation and sustainability.

A little Background Information 

For those new to Dassault Systemes, please allow me to make some short introductions. Dassault Systemes (abbreviated to 3DS) is a global software company headquartered in France. In 2022 its revenue was almost 5.7 billion euros (9% growth), with a net income of 932 million euros. The company’s stock-market value is hovering just below 50 billion euros, making it one of the world's largest suppliers of technical software.

3DS has its roots in the aerospace industry and was spun off from Dassault Group in 1981 so that CATIA (a CAD package) could be offered to a broader set of users. 3DS acquired SolidWorks (also a CAD package) in 1997 as a lightweight and easy-to-use sibling of CATIA. IQMS (an MES and ERP solution) was acquired in 2018 and rebranded as DELMIAWorks. 


3DS is on a journey to a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform based on cloud infrastructure. The SaaS cloud business model benefits 3DS with annual recurring revenues, managed software applications, and greater customer loyalty. The platform also offers users advantages such as increased collaboration, flexible software usage, reduced system administration, and reliable model storage. 3DS refers to this new offering as the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. 3DEXPERIENCE is positioned as one platform for the entire 3DS software portfolio. 3DS has created an integrated platform with a strong focus on interoperability between 3DS products. So far, there seems to be less focus on third-party integration. The platform is cloud technology agnostic; however, the software is usually deployed on 3DS-owned data centers at Outscale.3DExperience Works 2023: Future Proofing Manufacturing

Like most other established software companies, 3DS must bring its current users with them on their journey. This means that 3DS must deal with the actual and perceived downsides of a SaaS cloud offering, including recurring subscription charges, internet dependencies, and missing features when switching to a new platform. 

This conference is one element of the 3DEXPERIENCE journey. The underlying conference messages were: 

      • “We are close to the users of today.” 

      • “We want users to move to the cloud platform 3DEXPERIENCE Works”. 

      • “We are visionaries that create tools to enable innovators on their journey.”  

      • “We are close to the young talent of the future.” 

LNS Research’s perspectives: 

      • Cloud technology is core to the journey. While the traditional SOLIDWORKS desktop application is a rich Windows application, the new generation SOLIDWORKS Cloud is an application that runs in a browser and does not require any installation. 

      • Creating a cloud platform allows increased integration with other software packages. 3DS’ portfolio of products is broad, but it does not stand in isolation. We have heard from several 3DS customers that they are struggling with integration with their overall manufacturing infrastructure. 


Manish Kumar became CEO in February of 2022 after 23 years as a technical leader at 3DS. This was Kumar’s first in-person 3DEXPERIENCE World as a CEO. 

When Kumar took over the company’s helm, he went on a SOLIDWORKS pilgrimage to connect with some of its seven million users. He listened to what the existing users wanted and prioritized fixing issues in the desktop product. One common request was to reduce the time it takes to open large assemblies (one user told me that it takes more than an hour to open some assemblies). He connects well with 3DS users, from the 10-year-old girl helping her dad in the CNC machine shop to the Doctor of Medicine working on children’s hearts. 

LNS Research’s perspective is that the leadership choice says a lot about 3DS; they have grown talent inside the organization and found a competent leader that engages with the users and understands the market. 

Attracting Users to the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform 

3DS is determined to make the platform the place you “want to be.” The company invests heavily in this platform; about 1 billion dollars was spent on R&D in 2021. While 1 billion dollars is a lot in the industrial software space, it is dwarfed by hyper-scalers like AWS, Azure, and Alphabet, each spending over 20 billion dollars on R&D annually. 

3DEXPERIENCE is positioned as one platform for the complete 3DS portfolio. Designers can start a design using SOLIDWORKS and continue refining it using CATIA. 

Changing users’ behavior is hard. Software preferences can be more emotional than people are willing to accept. Some users need encouragement to switch away from what they have, and many have invested thousands of hours learning and extending the existing desktop product. Some features, such as Product Data Management (PDM), are still significantly more robust in the installed desktop version than on the cloud platform. We see large SOLIDWORKS users with more than 100 licenses hold on to what they have for these reasons. 

3DS seems to be aware of this customer sentiment, and they are making investments to make the customer journey as smooth as possible. We are likely to see a substantial boost in 3DEXPERIENCE platform adoption: Starting July 1, 2023, every seat of SOLIDWORKS includes cloud services. 

DELMIAWorks: Is this a Platform Conference or a CAD Conference? 

3DEXPERIENCE Works is a subset of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that includes SOLIDWORKS and DELMIAWorks. DELMIAWorks was the other significant 3DS offering at this event. DELMIAWorks (previously IQMS) is a manufacturing MES/ERP offering specialized for repetitive manufacturing; 3DS acquired IQMS in 2018.  

With all the talk about the platform and collaboration, 3DS missed the opportunity to connect to non-CAD users and inspire designers to think about manufacturing beyond CNC machining and 3D printing. While DELMIAWorks had its breakout sessions and a desk in the demo playground, there were no noteworthy mentions of the software in the main sessions. 

The event was one of the first chances for SOLIDWORKS users to see integration with DELMIAWorks in one common 3DEXPERIENCE Works platform. Work (pun intended) still needs to be done, and the digital twin story “beyond the designer’s desk” will require future investments.  

3DS states that about 60% of DELMIAWorks users are also SOLIDWORKS users; on the other hand, there are very few SOLIDWORKS users who are also DELMIAWorks users as DELMIAWorks is not an MES/ERP for Engineering & Design firms. 

However, 3DEXPERIENCE Works opens an exciting opportunity for 3DS. Many Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) need a combination of the feature sets offered by CAD and MES/ERP to integrate design and business operations. Design and engineering firms need an ERP system to track projects and engineering skill sets, and they need MES to produce prototypes and small-scale manufacturing series. Many SMB manufacturers need 3D/CAD capabilities for equipment lifecycle management and assembly operations. While the requirement sets differ for the two SMB categories, there is enough overlap between CAD/MES/ERP that it is worth looking into. 

LNS Research’s studies show opportunities to sell ERP, MES, 3D Engineering, and CAD to industrial companies with less than $500 million in revenue. This market has progressed over the last decade with an increased willingness to adopt cloud-based Software as a Service. The market is underserved by large and advanced software vendors who don’t focus on this area. Our research shows that 70% of Industrial Transformation (IX) Leaders have installed ERP compared to only 42% of IX Followers, indicating room to grow. Similar patterns where leaders are outpacing followers can be found for 3D Engineering and MES/MOM. ERP Implementations, IX Leaders vs. IX Followers

3D Engineering Implementations, IX Leaders vs. IX Followers

MES/MOM Engineering Implementations, IX Leaders vs. IX Followers
LNS Research encourages software suppliers and users to explore these opportunities. 

Visionaries, Tools, and Innovators 

While 3DS is a visionary company, 3DS is not the only one innovating; the company is enabling innovation by providing visions and tools to its users. 3DS compares their software to pencils that innovators use to sketch their creations. A “pencil” is an understated and humble analogy of their advanced software portfolio. 

3DS’ visionary thinking starts at the top of the organization. 3DS CEO and Chairman Bernard Charlès talked about Bio Imagination and how 3D-design and simulation systems can be used to make the next medical breakthroughs at a molecular level. This vision is far beyond the focus of most 3DEXPERIENCE Works users today.

3DS' CEO and Chairman, Bernard CHarles and EVP, Gian Paolo speaking at 3DExpereience World 2023

The conference presentations included a handful of users in various stages of innovation. The most mature of those innovations was Ring, which Amazon now owns. Younger-stage innovators included everything from Boston Children's Hospital, through replenishment of oxygen from the oceans, to educators training the next generation. The message from Titans of CNC on how manufacturing saves lives and gives people meaning is very relevant when many manufacturers are struggling to find talent. 

LNS Research’s perspectives: 

      • 3DS’ “visions and tools” mentality may be one of their most strategic advantages as they rally the external innovators and their creativity. 3DS will look like a winner even if only 1% of the innovators succeed. 

      • The presentations from the innovators show that 3DS’ strategy is working. While the core of the design process still lies in CAD and the associated simulation packages from 3DS, the applications they produce go far beyond those core 3DS capabilities. The innovators are using their imagination and are taking 3DS to industries and applications outside 3DS core competencies. 

      • If 3DS wants to unleash its users’ imagination and creativity, it must enable better third-party integration to its software so that the information is not locked inside the system. Open APIs will lead to a flurry of third-party tools that will take 3DS beyond their own imagination. It is impossible to create a platform without providing the interfaces that allow others to extend it. 

AI and ChatGPT were Front and Center 

The press and analyst conference track gave us direct interaction with 3DS, and customer thought leaders. Several of these sessions touched on the topic de jour: the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI), ChatGPT, and Large Language Models (LLM). The conference was just before the New York Times article “A Conversation With Bing’s Chatbot Left Me Deeply Unsettled,” which changed many people's perspectives on LLMs. 

The consensus among the thought leaders was that AI could not ideate or innovate; it is just regurgitating. Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff stated, “AI is like mechanized farming – it will make things happen faster.” 3DS EVP, Gian Paolo (GP) Bassi, described it as “AI cannot do ideation. It can create something in the style of Picasso, but it cannot create the future Picasso,” and that “Automation is about replacing tasks, not jobs, only 5% of the tasks require imagination.” Engineers spend 70% of their time tracking and organizing information; much of this time can be freed up for innovation.

Ring CEO, Jamie Siminoff speaking at 3DExpereience World 2023

One of the attendees asked, “when will AI in CAD do something useful, such as design a bracket” the answer was that AI could not do this yet, but it could make an existing bracket smoother, stronger, and lighter. This changed in a later session when 3DS VP of Strategy, Suchit Jain, demonstrated how ChatGPT could create the code necessary to parameterize and draw a spiral staircase in SOLIDWORKS. 

LNS Research’s perspectives: 

      • LNS Research strongly recommends that designers and manufacturers learn about the capabilities of AI and LLM to understand how these technologies can be used in their domain. Learning and understanding what AI and LLM can and cannot do is a time-consuming process. This technology can and will revolutionize many jobs and industries if the users understand how and where to apply them. It can also do significant damage if misused. 

      • 3DEXPERIENCE enables AI and can be directed by AI, but there is little in the platform that consumes or tightly integrates AI. So far, it looks like the AI innovation happens outside 3DS.

      • 3DS has AI visionaries, and the world has just started the AI journey. There is room for innovation to leverage AI across 3DS’ portfolio. We recommend that 3DS channels the executive and partner thought leadership into a strategy that deeply explores how AI can revolutionize the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

 The Next Generation Workers – Future-Proofing Manufacturing

LNS Research’s studies show that the shortage of skilled labor is a challenge for both IX Leaders and Followers with less than $500 million in revenue. Top Industry Challenges, IX Leaders vs. IX Followers
Perception is reality, and we all want to be part of the cool crowd. Young people choose careers based on the TV shows they like; one of the presenters says her daughter went into medicine because her favorite TV show was Grey’s Anatomy. The Titans of CNC created a TV and YouTube channel about manufacturing and how powerful it is; this is critical to attracting young talent to the industry. GP Bassi shared that 3DS engages with children as young as preschool age to get them interested in design and technology. 

LNS Research’s perspectives: 

      • We welcome 3DS’ drive to make manufacturing sexy again. However, we challenge 3DS to think about manufacturing beyond CNC machining, 3D print shop, and simple assembly. Most products we buy today are not CNC machined or 3D printed; they are cast, molded, extruded, batched, stamped, or continually processed. Our industry needs visionaries to think holistically about the manufacturing value chain, from design and material sourcing to product use.

      • Manufacturing productivity in the USA has flatlined since 2011, and we need all hands on board to ensure that manufacturing attracts the right talent.

Recommendations to Engineering and Design Firms 

While there are a lot of good CAD offerings in the market, it is still essential to bet on the right horse, as it is challenging to switch horses in the middle of the race. SOLIDWORKS users are among the most satisfied CAD users in the world, so they are in good hands. Here are LNS Research’s recommendations to Engineering and Design Firms: 

      • Understand 3DS’ journey and ensure it is directionally aligned with your goals. If it is, take steps to utilize the benefits. 

      • You have a SOLIDWORKS CEO who listens to customers; you should take advantage of this. Let 3DS know what you need from them so that you can join the 3DEXPERIENCE platform journey. 

      • Be aware that 3DS is not always the easiest software to integrate with non-3DS software. 3DS needs to hear from its users about their integration needs. 

      • If you are only using SOLIDWORKS, you should become familiar with the broader 3DS portfolio to see if there are benefits beyond the software you use today. 

      • Explore ways to bring your designs to life in manufacturing using CAD/MES/ERP integration. Evaluate DELMIAWorks and challenge yourself to find opportunities to help manufacturing in their daily operations.

Recommendations to Manufacturers 

DELMIAWorks has clear benefits for repetitive parts manufacturers, such as plastic manufacturers in the automotive industry. Broad MES functionality, tight integration between MES and ERP, combined with the “Capable to Promise” feature that allows a salesperson to answer capacity-related questions in real-time, are valuable features. DELMIAWorks MES is powerful and easy to use for repetitive manufacturers. DELMIAWorks targets manufacturers with revenue up to $50 million, but some companies using DELMIAWorks have grown their revenue to about ten times this target. 

For manufacturers that belong to DELMIAWorks’ target customer classification, we recommend that you: 

      • Reach out to your DELMIAWorks representative to ensure that you understand how the product can help you.

      • Evaluate integrated MES/ERP capabilities to look for benefits for your manufacturing process.

      • Verify that the financial and HR capabilities in DELMIAWorks are sufficient for your organization.

      • Expand your horizon: Evaluate if there are 3DEXPERIENCE Works opportunities you would not otherwise consider.

Not all manufacturers use CNC machines and 3D printers, but almost all manufacturers use equipment designed with CAD software. While only some DELMIAWorks users have implemented CAD/MES/ERP integration, we challenge manufacturers to broaden their horizons and look for opportunities that connect the gap between design and operations. There are digital twin opportunities in product and equipment lifecycle management; here are some areas to explore. 

      • 3D printing: 

          • Create parts to reduce time to repair for machine breakdown.

          • Production of low-volume components.

      • 3D equipment models:

          • Engineering changes drive manufacturing efficiencies and increase flexibility.

          • Simplify and shorten planned and unplanned downtime.

      • Engage with your engineering and manufacturing operations software vendors to learn what they have done to help manufacturers in a similar situation.

LNS Research: People in Industrial Transformation (IX) Spotlight Report

All entries in this Industrial Transformation blog represent the opinions of the authors based on their industry experience and their view of the information collected using the methods described in our Research Integrity. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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