Simulation first step to sustainable innovation

Virtual settings allow companies to be more sustainable by creating products "right at the first time" and designing optimal work environments for employees, says Dassault Systems exec.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Journalist on

SINGAPORE--The virtual world is "very powerful" for sustainable innovation as companies are able not only to create products with minimal waste, but also to design and simulate optimal work environments for their employees.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia here Thursday, Philippe Forestier, executive vice president of global affairs and communities at Dassault Systems, said companies can design and create products in a virtual setting, allowing them to get the specs "right at the first time". Before PLM (product lifecycle management) software emerged in the market, companies had to design products on drafting table and create prototypes using real materials which caused more waste, Forestier noted.

He explained that sustainable innovation encompasses the use of technology, including virtual environments, to create sustainable products. With the adoption of technology in the 21st century surpassing any other in the history of mankind, technology now plays a critical role in creating a sustainable future, he noted.

For a small country like Singapore, controlling waste and recycling materials are important issues, Forestier said. While everyone including consumers has a part to play in sustainability, he noted that manufacturers involved in the beginning stage of the product chain can make sure their products create minimal waste.

In the past, many countries were not incentivized to be sustainable, he said, but noted that this was changing.

Asian economic giant China, for instance, now sees sustainability as a growth opportunity rather than an inhibitor. In his recent trip to Beijing, China, he observed several ministers talking about sustainability not as a constraint for growth but as way to create new markets such as wind turbines and solar panels.

France-based Forestier, who was in town to meet customers, noted that the 3D and PLM software company currently has 150,000 customers worldwide with 25 percent in the Asia region. He highlighted China, Korea and Southeast Asia as some of the regional growth markets as companies in these countries begin to be more concerned about sustainability.

Better working conditions with simulation
Commenting on recent reports regarding poor work conditions at manufacturing facilities, Forestier said companies could deploy virtual simulation to create an environment that was more sustainable. For example, they could design more automation to raise the quality of working condition, he said.

The executive believes companies that have been focused on lowering costs at the expense of their employees cannot work on such a model for long. He pointed to pressures from the government and unrest from employees as factors that will force these companies to be more sustainable.

Organizations can also ensure the safety and security of their employees who work in dangerous environments by creating simulations to train their employees, before sending them off to work in hazardous locations such as nuclear power plants.

Forestier said the technology can also be used to prepare for emergencies so each employee knows what they need to do. In the case of Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant which was severely damaged by the earthquake in Japan last year, he said employees could have saved minutes and hours to recover the plant if they had gone through simulated training.

He shared that Dassault has been working with the French police to train the law enforcement team in responding to terrorist attacks at important locations.

Virtual simulations can also be used in knowledge management to better support an aging workforce, he noted. As older employees retire, they will be able to transfer experience "in their head" into the virtual world by creating simulation of best practices, he added.


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