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Dassault Systèmes Aims to Tap More of ASEAN Potential

May 19, 2014

The software giant wants to spread the '3D experience' as much as possible

AS an aerospace engineer in the 1970s, Philippe Forestier often had to work with wooden prototypes of planes on his drafting board. The simulation process was a long-drawn-out event, barely resembling what engineers can do today in a split second, thanks to 3D technology, says the executive VP of global affairs and communities with French 3D software giant Dassault Systèmes. As one of the founding members of Dassault Systèmes, Mr Forestier has had the privilege of a front-row seat over the past three decades of 3D software's evolution.

Dassault Systèmes was a subsidiary of the Dassault Group spun out in 1981 to develop the company's computer-aided design (CAD) software called CATIA. Short for computer-aided three-dimensional interactive application, CATIA started as an in-house project in 1977 to design fighter jets. Later, it won big-name clients like Boeing, which adopted CATIA in the 1980s as its main CAD tool.

From the initial team of 10, today Dassault Systèmes is 12,000-people strong, said Mr Forestier. The company had 2.1 billion euros (S$3.6 billion) in earnings in 2013, making it the largest French software publisher in terms of revenue. Its cash allows it to acquire, on average, one company per month. Its latest acquisitions point to new verticals that the company is eyeing, away from the aviation and manufacturing industry where it has already established a foothold, Mr Forestier revealed. 

The life sciences, banking and retail verticals are particularly hot right now, and companies are incorporating 3D technology within their processes to gain an edge on the competition, he said. Last December, Dassault Systèmes acquired Munich-based Realtime Technology AG (RTT), which produces marketing and branding-oriented 3D software for companies like Audi, Electrolux, General Motors and Harley-Davidson. Earlier this year, it acquired Accelerys, which made software for the chemical and life sciences industry. And in 2012, it bought Silicon Valley dotcom Netvibes, which made social media and Web-based applications.