By the end of the 20th century, CAD/CAM had become too restrictive to be identified with Dassault Systèmes products. Then, in the early 2000s, it was replaced by PLM, the acronym for Product Lifecycle Management. New brand names were added to address the full PLM spectrum: DELMIA to support manufacturing, ENOVIA to support internal and external collaboration, SIMULIA for Analysis and Simulation, SolidWorks for 3D modeling and 3DVIA for 3D visualization.
In 2007, along with the creation of the new brand 3DVIA, Dassault Systèmes started to get into online applications. PLM 2.0 was released, linked to the Web 2.0 “network as a platform” concept. The company used the advantages of the Internet and introduced online PLM with its Version 6 platform.
Dassault Systèmes was incorporated in 1981 but in fact started in 1977 with 15 engineers from Avions Marcel Dassault – led by Francis Bernard, aircraft design engineer – who were in charge of providing support for the aircraft building process. While they were initially supposed to develop a 3D Computer-aided Design software (CATIA, then called CATI) just to help create designs, the engineers broadened the mission’s scope to providing help to other industrial sectors.
At the end of 1980, the rumours surrounding CATIA reached the very top of the company and Marcel Dassault, then aged 88, asked for a demonstration of the software capabilities. The company management understood the engineers’ vision and started to discuss how to leverage their innovation. They quickly realised they could not afford to keep and develop this invention internally and decided to create a new company – led by Francis Bernard – to explore the Computer-aided Design and Computer-aided Manufacturing market (CAD/CAM).
Dassault Systèmes thus got started in 1981 with only one customer (Avions Marcel Dassault) and 25 engineers who didn’t know how to sell or commercialize their product.Since Dassault was one of the major clients of IBM in France, an agreement was negotiated for IBM to sell CATIA. It was a non-exclusive licence with 50/50 revenue sharing where CATIA would be sold by IBM as an IBM product. This agreement was extremely successful for both companies and it is considered “one of the fundamental success factors in the history of Dassault Systèmes”.
CATIA started getting noticed in other sectors outside of aeronautical design, notably in the automotive industry (BMW, Mercedes and Honda). The company used a step-by-step approach to get a start in other industries such as consumer goods, machinery, and shipbuilding. IBM itself became a customer in the mid-1980s and deployed CATIA in its engineering and manufacturing plants.
Over the years, Dassault Systèmes improved its software and expanded to the US, Japan and Germany. This rapid growth triggered a chain of products, acquisitions, and partnerships beyond the company’s core 3D CAD/CAM software and led to what is known today as Dassault Systèmes.