CloudMay 15, 2020

Innovation During a Crisis: A Conversation with Olivier Sappin

How do we make the most of a crisis? The losses that…
Avatar Alaric Moras

How do we make the most of a crisis? The losses that COVID-19 has brought are still to be accounted for. However, numerous enterprising individuals decided to try to make the most out of a challenging situation. We sat down with Olivier Sappin, CEO CATIA, Dassault Systèmes, to talk about some of them and what role innovation had to play during the pandemic.

What initiatives have impressed you during this period?

OS: If there’s ever a time to learn a new approach to doing things, it is during a crisis. Our teams have continued to collaborate, despite the lack of physical interaction. And the sheer scale of the response to the COVID-19 crisis from both internal and external stakeholders has given me hope. Through our Open COVID-19 community, for instance, many leveraged our ecosystems and used collective knowledge to support their business to contribute to social issues.

For instance, when India faced an acute shortage of ventilators, which are also costly for many hospitals, Inali, a company that usually focuses on bionics, used CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE on the cloud to invent new, safe and cost-effective ventilators. CATIA’s modeling and system capabilities were key to converging quickly on the right concept. To me, looking at ventilators with a system approach is the only way for a good design from the get go.

There’s another story that comes to mind. All sectors of the economy are currently purchasing single-use masks en masse. However, Michelin in France and a few local entrepreneurs have begun producing reusable masks. Using their existing local production, infrastructure and capacity, these masks are making a big change. One needs to change the filter within them, but in and of themselves, they are completely reusable. This was broadcast on French news channels, and I was thrilled to see CATIA making headlines for supporting a social good project!

What role do you see designers, makers and engineers playing in times like this?

OS: A crisis can act as a powerful leveler, allowing anyone to join the innovation bandwagon. The urgent need for solutions in very short turnover time means that the stranglehold of structured and monopolized innovation is broken. Designers and engineers can play a crucial role because they suddenly become the main actors in the innovation process. What’s more, ideas can immediately be tested and executed as new solutions. All of this can only happen when you need rapid mobility of collective knowledge in the face of a crisis.

An example of this is our CATIA team in the US. They recently worked on a project to make a ventilator operate on 2-4 patients, where normally, a ventilator works for just one. So several engineers including some from our teams agreed to make 4-way splitter valves in order to get one ventilator to feed several masks. And again, CATIA and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform was used to quickly design and check solutions. People were inspired to work in record time, often on weekends, to create innovative solutions. Chapeau!

Lastly, how did you help customers maintain business continuity in this time?

OS: We’ve received much positive feedback from customers during calls or through testimonials on social media, explaining how they have switched to working from home with ease. Two customers are coming to mind in particular. Canoo is a California based startup that develops electric vehicles and Skydio, a drone developer. They are both using CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE on the cloud, which, for them, was a critical way to sustain their business because without changing much, they can use the system at home. These two examples show us the path to follow. There will be a before and an after the crisis, and future company competitiveness will depend on their capacity to change their working methods.

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