The sense of viewing anything compares greater than most other forms of experience, and this fact holds good for the sake of automotive marketing, engineering and development as well
3DEXCITE is a company that offers solutions around visualisation for various automotive and related industries. It is a company that was acquired by Dassault Systemes about six years back and provides tools in combination with some of its parent company’s flagship offerings.
In a conversation with Massimo Prando, Director, Asia Pacific, 3DExcite, we understand the role of visualisation in the automotive sector, with regards to various business cases. Prando is a member of the management team of 3DEXCITE, and managing director 3DEXCITE Asia Pacific. His main current duties cover the related execution and operational business aspects of China, Japan, India, and Korea. In late 2007, he joined RTT - now 3DEXCITE - as Director of Asia - to and built a team across multiple countries to provide a new solution for design, strategic innovation processes; and new holistic product communication practices in marketing and communication, for the 3DEXCITE Asia clients.
Prando gained his Master's Degree from Coventry University, (England), majoring in Automotive Design - Business Industry. Before that, he obtained a BA in Transportation - Car Design from IED Turin, (Italy). His career began as an Automotive and Car Designer, with the Leader role of Benchmark, Perceived Quality, and Customer Clinic of Exterior & Interior Design at Pininfarina. During this time he was involved in many automotive OEM’s global projects. With growing experiences, he joined Altran Group, one of the leaders in innovation consulting as Manager of Automotive Design Division.
ATR _ Please talk to us about 3DEXCITE and the solutions it offers.
Massimo Prando _ 3DEXCITE is ultimately about bringing empowerment, understanding, know-how and the decision-making process in a very unique way, which is through visualisation. Generally speaking, when a human being sees something they immediately understand it since it probably one of the most important senses that we have.
So 3DEXCITE is a scientific company that was acquired by Dassault Systemes six years ago, that focuses all its R&D development and effort to create the best-in-class, real-time visualisation tools. We package those R&D efforts into literally two products; with the first being the rendering engine that provides this visualisation. While this rendering engine is not too different from others that are now popular in the market, there is a key differentiation with our product. It is that the specific tools that 3DEXCITE develops are focused on enterprise, which means it can be used to create visualisation rendering for complex CAD, like that for airplanes, cars, and ships. It can create renderings for designs that go into 10s, or sometimes even 100s of gigabytes of data.
Since we are in the business of enterprise, we focus on creating a rendering engine that is capable of handling large datasets with variants, as well as with the complexity of multi-CAD. What we have created is a tool that is a change data management engine, before being a rendering or visualisation engine. It takes these large datasets and effectively shrinks in down that data to about 5-7 % depending on the type of data. It enables rendering that amount of data in real-time and realistically, which takes a lot of computing power and algorithms.
Secondly, together with the rendering tools, we also created a toolset that enables data extraction in a semi-automated manner. It is not fully-automated but once it is plugged into a PLM of any kind, it is capable of extracting data that can then be processed further.
How do customers benefit from using solutions of 3DEXCITE?
From the business side, 3DEXCITE is a company that wants to enable its customers, who include both OEMs and product manufacturers, to achieve three goals. These include increasing brand awareness; enabling product discovery; and offering the capability of customisation. Especially in the case of a car, a customer can go to a dealership and pick a model of their choice to further individualise it to their taste and preference.
An OEM can work with 3DEXCITE to increase brand awareness, as the software offers realistic, high-end visualisation, with which the manufacturer can create digital marketing. In terms of product discovery, the customer can use the software to both do internal or external presentation and even PR communications.
On the other end, for sales of the product, an OEM dealership can configure the product using the software, which allows end-customers to customise the vehicle according to their liking. This creates a link between the customer and the brand, which is effectively brand identity. When an OEM enables customisation, it enables identification, which is really the most important link between an end-user customer and the OEM with the products sitting in between.
Customisation should not only be about exterior or interior design, wheels, materials, and colour, but it should ultimately be about being able to personalise even the user interface. This is really what we are allowing with our software, and where we stand from a business point of view. 3DEXCITE is achieving this by creating a series of digital marketing outputs from Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), movies, print, web configurators, and mobile apps, where the digital product can be brought across every channel required for marketing.
A trend starting to take place in India is that of digital showrooms. How does this completely drive the change in vehicle retail?
OEMs nowadays have a very large number of vehicle models across their product portfolio, which cannot be accommodated into a single physical space such as a showroom. This requires OEMs to rethink the idea of what a showroom is about. Digitalisation enables you to bring in a company’s entire product portfolio along with models, variants, and options, in one showroom, on a single screen or on a Smartphone. They may not sure about which model they may sell, but it offers a customer the potential to configure any of those variants to their liking.
The topic of digital showrooms is understood well in America, the West, Japan, and Korea. The showroom is not anymore the place where you go literally to buy a car, but a place where you go to customise your vehicle after linking to a brand or choosing an apt model. There is definitely potential in the idea of digital showrooms in India, especially with high-end models, which anyway offer customers with high-levels of configurability. This may not be suitable for mass segment vehicles, which are bought for their economic value and are just regarded as a means of transportation from one point to another.
How does customisation relate to a company’s manufacturing and supply chain verticals?
Customisation and individualisation of products, which can be digitally visualised with the help of 3DEXCITE software, is also connected with something deep in an OEM’s operations, which is manufacturing. If the manufacturing plant of a company does not enable the production of different vehicles with multiple levels of configuration in each variant, there is no point in offering these options to customers in the first place. Companies need to change their supply chain and enable their plants to undertake lean manufacturing to be able to offer an enormous range of personalisation options to the end-customers.
While talking about visualisation, marketing and linking customers with a brand via product, these are all emotional aspects. However, there are key engineering and manufacturing activities that OEMs need to achieve in order to offer the front-end, emotional aspects of marketing and brand identification. Enhanced manufacturing needs to be put in place before high levels of customisation options can be offered to customers.
India will need to invest in improving manufacturing, which has nothing to do with marketing or visualisation, and yet enables such factors. In addition, companies in the country also have to invest in the creation of ‘competitive exportable products,’ which will play an important role in customising. Once Indian OEMs invest in manufacturing, as well as increases exportable quality products, they will have a more opportunity of increasing brand awareness, enabling more product discovery and ultimately allowing customer individualisation.
Could you talk to us about how visualisation helps back with R&D?
3DEXCITE offers visualisation tools across the full product lifecycle, which also includes development. Designers use visualisation tools to sell their ideas to internal teams of engineering or simulation. Renderings offer non-engineering members of the board improved forms of multimedia for them to easily understand new designs and concepts. The key point is that in an equal way, we are still talking about end-customer but some time now those end-customers are internal stakeholders.
Our tools can be used to create a presentation to top management so that the designers and engineers can communicate better about the products they are creating. In addition, management knows and understands better about the product of the company and how it would look and perform.
What does the future entail for 3DEXCITE?
We are part of Dassault Systemes, where we are multi-brand, and investments into these brands will certainly help our own brand to flourish. We have a plan of engaging more with OEMs in order to begin implementing the technologies offered by 3DEXCITE on their side so that they themselves can have an understanding of what the possibilities are with our products.
Another focus is to enable an ecosystem of local partners, which includes service engineering provides present in the market. This ecosystem connects will also enable us to take visualisation tools and technologies to minor manufacturers or Tier II manufacturers. A final plan is to engage with OEM in services projects so that 3DEXCITE can use its tools as an effective showcase to the country and the industries present, and thereby create market relevance. This would include not selling our technology directly, but rather using the technology by selling our services and create a buzz across the Indian market.
TEXT: Naveen Arul