Bernard Charlès has been with Dassault Systèmes since 1983, when he started as a team manager for graphic technology development. He has held various positions within the company, including director of the Research and Development department. Under his leadership, Dassault Systèmes developed CATIA V4, which is currently the CAD tool used for the majority of aeronautic and automotive manufacturers. He has been president of Dassault Systèmes since 1995. Charlès earned his mechanical engineering degree, with a concentration in automation and computer science engineering, from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Cachan, France.
What started out as computer assisted design (CAD), Bernard Charlès now calls 3D—the next generation of tools to enable designers to focus their time on designing, offering 3D throughout the enterprise.
DESIGN NEWS: Why do you make a difference between the terms CAD and 3D?
Charlès: We've been using the term CAD for so many years, but the tool itself has changed completely. It is much, much more than just computer assisted design. With CAD tools, there's a dependency between what the system does and what you can create. As a software developer, we need to communicate the scope of what can be done today, because it's huge. In terms of penetration of 3D, I believe it's still at less than 30% of the industry across the board. Clearly there's a long way to go yet.
Q: What are the challenges for product design engineers today?
A: In general, designers are still being asked to spend a large part of their time on administrative tasks, and there is a limited amount of sharing of their designs. They also have more design work to do because of the smaller number of physical prototypes created. While new tools can enable them to work much faster, these end users would like to have more time to do their jobs better, not just faster. So there's a challenge in management to leverage the new environment to optimize the quality of the job and the teamwork, not just reduce costs.
Q: What do you see as the major trend in the use of CAD/CAM today?
A: The big trend is to use the digital world to more than just design, but to integrate the entire chain from design to production. When we say Product Lifecycle Management or Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), in fact we're talking about changing the focus of the engineer back to design. A 3D portal workplace can give an engineer tasks from the workgroup and all the links he needs to perform those tasks, including the CATIA model, on-line consultation with other members of the team, metasearches on the company intranet or extranet, and certification for a purchase. This will completely change the way designers spend their time, allowing them to focus on the design task at hand, not on how the system is storing the information.
Q: Your company has made a number of acquisitions in the last three years. How has Dassault Systemès integrated these products into the portfolio?
A: For companies that are looking to integrate design to production processes, we have been consolidating certain products on the V5 architecture. Enovia VPM products was created in 1999 by combining resources, and today it is recognized as the backbone for the V5 tools. The DELMIA brand for manufacturing was created in 2000 from combined resources, and today just about every CATIA customer is planning to implement our products. Both GM and DaimlerChrysler are already using DELMIA, and GM isn't even a CATIA user! The V5 architecture is unifying the entire product-process chain, and not just with our own products, but also other companies' products such as MSC and LMS.
Q: Are there differences in how the U.S., Europe, and Japan are using these technologies?
A: Japan has now decided to go to 3D. They are very serious today about making this a strategic weapon for competitiveness, for companies of all sizes—and one thing they know well is how to make business processes with these kinds of things. In Europe, the market trend is to integrate all business processes. In the U.S., 3D is considered a commodity tool, because it's too often considered a given, something known. But I think this will change.