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NRF 2016 Interviews: Dassault Systèmes

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In the third of our exclusive interviews from January’s NRF show in New York City, Kilara Le, catches up with Dassault Systémes. On hand to answer our questions were Susan Olivier, VP Consumer Goods & Retail, Dwayn Catto, Director of Business Enterprise/CGR, and Hillary Forsythe, Marketing Director for 3DEXCITE, USA.

Kilara Le: Taking into account previous years – what do you think is different about NRF in 2016? Both in general, and in terms of your solution offering.

Susan Olivier (pictured centre): Some years NRF is very clear about a very few themes making a difference in Retail; for example 2 years ago the main messages were about the “customer experience”, something Dassault Systèmes (DS) has been passionate about for several years.  In 2016 there seemed to be a lot of ‘elements’ but fewer really clear themes.  We saw elements of IoT and big data but less clarity on how a retailer could apply these elements for value.  For DS, we’re focusing this year on the “connected story” and how a retailer, or brand, can connect their silos of information, and people, to bring the right products to market and engage with their consumers, in better/faster/more inspiring ways.

KL: You mention the IoT as a theme this year; what’s Dassault’s take on this as it relates to your solution offering?

SO: IoT is one way of connecting information so that it can flow between objects without needing human intervention.  We’re passionate about the Internet of Experiences and how that information can help people better connect with each other and with a retailer’s products.  One example would be leveraging smart RFID to bring product stories to life at the retail point of experience.

KL: Can you share with us some information on your specific cloud offering and future plans in this area?

SO: Our solution for 3D merchandising, what we call “My Store” is fully on Cloud allowing teams across merchandising, store display and even consumer focus groups to interact with evolving collections and create store ‘scenes’ from the perspective of their consumers.  We also leverage mobility for in-store validations of merchandising display versus plan and performance metrics of products, collections, fixtures, etc.

In the PLM space we’ve purposefully moved more slowly. Our customers and prospects like the ease-of-maintenance of a cloud offering (especially the IT teams), but the business users still demand the higher degrees of flexibility and uniqueness that comes with an on-premise or hosted solution in order to enable competitive processes.  We believe we’ve now defined the right mix of flexibility for the business and ease of maintenance for IT and will be revealing our PLM Cloud solution for retailers to the market later this year.

KL: Can you share any recent updates and elaborate on your differentiation as it relates to real-time transparent and efficient collaboration across your supply chain?

SO: A huge differentiator for DS is our 3DExperience Platform that provides a unified user experience and business dash boarding across all processes. It’s designed for Cloud, packaged by role and supports all teams within a business and across the extended supply chain.  We provide connectivity not just for DS applications but can also leverage data from legacy systems or from the web.  This is a real differentiator in bringing a single source of truth not just for PLM users but all stakeholders in the enterprise ecosystem.

KL: Using PLM on the move, via mobile devices, is another means of modern efficient communication. Can you tell our readers about what you, as a company, are doing around mobility?

SO: Our PLM solution provides elements of both mobile access and offline access. We have focused on the primary use cases for each access type and continue to extend capabilities with each release.  Although broader capability may be available, today we see the primary use cases of mobile users to quickly validate product information including images, specs and measurement chart.  They want to check the status of pending tasks and ensure alerts are reaching them for critical approvals and updates.  They want to manage light tasks on the go on various devices, but they are still working with larger screens for the product creation and management.

They also want to engage in product decisions even when they cannot be connected while still ensuring their feedback is captured for future reference, which is why we believe offline capabilities are also important.

KL: What’s new in terms of new process adoption that Dassault is focusing on? What initiatives are you working on to link retail and in-store with PLM or planning?

Dwayn Catto (pictured right): If you compare and contrast our solution offering with some of our competitors you notice that we are really focusing on 3D and using our 3D Experience Platform to really tell a connected story. At a high level, one of the traditional problems in PLM, as well as offering solutions to the industry at large, is how do you connect design, product development, manufacturing to the in-store customer experience?  That’s an area where we are really focused on. We believe 3D is a large part of that solution.

A lot of the value surrounding PLM in the past has been about speed to market, reducing cycle time, etc. We see 3D in that same arena as really being able to cut cost and time out of the product development lifecycle but also leveraging the same assets as PLM across product development, marketing, merchandising and as something that can create that true connection between ideation through make-built through to sell-through. Our solution offering starts at the visual stage with our 3D software being used as an alternative to traditional physical sampling.

Another thing that we are focused on, and that a lot of our customers see a lot of value surrounding the 3D proposition, is creating new customer in-store experiences. In this area we are focused on our “My Retail Theater” offering and trying to bring a new visual component to those areas and allowing people to plan, and make decisions based on that visual content.  A large push for us is a visual component and using virtual twins of products (A.K.A 3D versions). As a natural process of developing a line, using a visual tool that will allow merchandisers and designers to collaborate to decide on that initial assortment or a global assortment and once that has been decided visually we can push that, still using very limited physical sampling, into the in-store environment and in-store design, planograms in 3D. All of this is breaking the reliance on physical samples in order to replicate not only product assortments but also customer in-store experiences.

We are marrying the visual with the data, which has a huge impact on the process. So now, instead of flying merchants across the world into a room for a 3-4 week period to review product, they review it in region in real-time without the need for a full assortment of physical samples in the same room. Another thing really transforming that in-store experience is that the physical dimensions of a store, to be able to show a full product assortment, now no longer limit you. Depending on how mature your 3D development is, you could show your entire brand archive in a store environment. It could be a simple kiosk in an airport. We are investigating with My Retail Theater how you transfer signage and digital messaging that is currently in-store into an interactive experience. The goal is the design and ideation process to flow through the entire process and we leverage it across platforms.  What you create in ideation you can utilize in-store.

KL: Sounds interesting. Tell me about your 3D design programs.  Are those the ones you are leveraging or are you partnering with other 3D design companies as well?

DC: We are leveraging our own tools as well as trying to really bridge with existing products, because the 3D value proposition is bigger than the individual modeling tools. So we see it as having multiple insertion points into this process. It doesn’t have to be confined to an individual modeling tool, although we strongly believe that our tools, CATIA and SOLIDWORKS, are applicable directly to accessories, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, and hard goods in conjunction with fashion accessories.

If it’s a standard file format, we can leverage that format and carry it though.  That breaks the dependence on being confined to a given modeling tool and any one product offering from a given vendor. It’s utilizing those common formats.

For us, in hard goods and furniture the whole 3D mindset is huge for us. CATIA and SOLDWORKS are natural products for these industries – it’s an engineering based tool, which is where a lot of these industries originate so it’s well suited for them. These are industries where there isn’t need to drape fabric but they are a great example of where we see potential in the fashion industry to follow in this mindset and carry that proposition from ideation to in-store.

Within the 17,000 customers, the majority is using CATIA and SOLIDWORKS and mainly in hard goods.  SOLIDWORKS is also widely used for hardware and parts of accessories, such as for handbags, and is widely used for designing watches as well. Dassault currently has 35 PLM fashion customers who are using PLM.

KL: And finally, is there anything else you’ve been working on (or in the pipeline) that you haven’t already mentioned that our readers might be interested to learn?

SO: I mentioned in the beginning our focus on the ‘connected story’ and that includes big data, smart data, IoT and wearables.   But it’s also about connecting the entire process from concept to consumer in ways that are more visual and interactive both for designers and for consumers, and ultimately much faster.  One example would be configurable product – designed in 3D from the beginning, shown to consumers in photo-realistic quality early in the process to leverage social ideation and product validation before committing to production runs or even before making physical samples …allowing brand owners to really tune their assortments and bring the products to market that consumers really want.

Hillary Forsythe (pictured left): My Retail Theater is a high-end visualization product tool that provides high end product configurators for in store and omnichannel. A great example of the capabilities is a project we did with a large shoe company. We created a configurator with 46 quadrillion options to customize a shoe which was also linked to the manufacturing process. So if, for example, one of the fabrics is no longer in stock, it gets removed from the configurator. In this case, the customer didn’t know that they were missing anything and their custom shoes could still arrive within 10 days because all of the materials were available.

The other element that is exciting about this is that originally there was a kiosk in the store with the physical fabrics and even the stitching options available, bridging the in-store and online experience. In this type of scenario we’ve found that customers are more likely to purchase because they are in essence ‘designing’ their own shoe. They also spend more on an experience like this because they have a greater say in what the final product will look like.  The brand can also track this information, for example to understand what colorways are popular. In the store the customer would design their shoes, the kiosk would print a receipt and they would be rung up at the register and their shoes would arrive in 10 days.

We’ve also taken another approach that’s connected to mobile, in this case a traditional print medium, and made that into a 3D experience as well.  Using a mobile device’s camera, by scanning a QR code and holding the camera over the paper, a 3D object appears. You can look around the shoe, inside the shoe. Now a handbag or shoe company can better utilize their 3D models and share their product data more easily with the consumer. They are getting free marketing, free brand ambassadorship and even data on what products are most popular.  This could be an app or connected to their website. Imagine this in a subway ad, billboard, on a tee shirt, or in a magazine. A brand could start the buying process, literally anywhere the consumer is.

Check back soon for more interviews in this series. 

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for over six years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like the Annual Review, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.