The Dassault Systemes Success Story – Part 8

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In 1986 we had a great success: Boeing made the decision to use CATIA. And this success reflects my earlier comments. As long as I was selling functions and features of CATIA with IBM, I lost the battle in 1984 and 1985. My main competitor was an internally developed product. But when I sold the business transformation, with all its benefits, I had a meeting with the CEO of Boeing. And he said to me: “Tell us how we can design an airplane in 3D”. CATIA was in the background and I used my experience from Dassault Aviation to convince the CEO. Also, frankly speaking, he told me: “I am buying CATIA and having a relationship with you because you are with IBM”. As a matter of fact Boeing could not implement a huge business transformation without a big name like IBM in the loop. This was one of the values of the partnership with IBM.

The deal with Boeing generated a lot of attention in the world. I was invited to speak at the main radio channel in France. And Boeing, a strong competitor of the French Airbus, bought half pages, during one full week, of the most important national newspapers to advertise “Boeing is more French than ever!”

The Boeing advertisement

In the early 80’s, we had a very poor knowledge of the automotive industry. We did not know enough about their internal processes to sell anything else than function and features in 3D. Luckily, Honda, Mercedes and BMW had set up internal teams to study the values of 3D and the ways to implement it. Working with these teams, they learned the value of 3D from us and we learned about their internal processes of body design, a domain where the automotive industry could use CATIA nearly “as is”. As we progressively built confidence, they started to deploy CATIA in body design and we influenced the CATIA development plan to be more competitive in this domain. Later we extended our partnership to progressively address all the automotive processes. The benefits have been incredible, reducing the cycle time to produce a new car, from 1980 to 2000, by a factor 10.

This was the step by step approach that we used to progressively address all the other industries such as consumer goods, machinery and shipbuilding. Even IBM became a customer in the mid 80’s and deployed CATIA in its engineering and manufacturing plants.

Progressively, CATIA became the de facto standard in the aerospace industry, and by far the leader in the automotive and the other industries. Since 1995 we have been number one in our market.

CATIA evolved not only to add features needed to address all the industry markets, but also to benefit from the new hardware and software platforms: from the mainframes to the UNIX based workstations in the late 80’s, then from the workstations to the PCs with Windows in the late 90’s. And now the internet again extends the potential. Most of our competitors in 1980 disappeared, either because they did not implement the 3D business transformation, such as CADAM that we acquired in 1992, either because they choose to keep their own proprietary hardware platform, like Computer Vision, when the market requested standard platforms.

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