More than once, in fact.
The former Areva executive who joined Dassault Systèmes in 2016 sees parallels between mining's acceleration into a ‘smart mining' era of automation and digitalisation, and what he has seen unfold in the nuclear and oil and gas industries in the past decade.
"Nuclear and oil and gas are two other segments we've been working heavily with the past few years," Grand says.
"Nuclear was extremely conservative even five years ago. We heard senior executives saying things like, we've been working like this forever, things have been just fine and there is no reason why we would change; and certainly no reason to embark on a futuristic, funky digital path.
"But the industry reached a cliff-edge with a steep and rapid increase in workforce retirements, which has been very visible in a number of countries. The situation between five years ago and now has dramatically changed, and those same CEOs who were considering digital as mere gadgetry five years ago, today view it very differently.
"One of the things that keeps them awake at night is really the fact that if they want to continue to attract the younger generation - and of course it helps that they do have some excellent challenges to solve, which is good to attract top talent - they do need to change the image of the industry and also change the way those key challenges are addressed.
"We at Dassault Systèmes do not make those challenges easier to solve, by the way. We just transform the way they are solved.
"But I've been able to witness, having spent many years in the nuclear industry, how fast this change has happened. If the tipping point was 3-4 years ago, the mindset has completely changed since then.
"And the oil and gas industry has, in a similar vein, seen the concept of product lifecycle management spreading extremely fast from a very recent tipping point. PLM is becoming part of the new normal in the thinking process of the oil and gas companies because they realise it is delivering to them something they've been missing for years."
Mining in the 21st century
For Grand, the journey along this transformational path is well signposted, and miners get to choose a vehicle to suit them for all or part of the journey.
Already the company has been working with large and smaller mining organisations around the world to plug into ‘platform' collaboration opportunities with its range of mine planning, modelling and optimisation tools via the cloud-based Power'By offering. Power'By gives companies the chance to tap benefits of Dassault Systèmes' 3DEXPERIENCE Platform without migrating data or disrupting existing processes.
That can, and has, come later for users.
Grand says major implementations of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and its unified PLM environment in the nuclear, and oil and gas, industries have been transformational not only for customers but also the supplier. He sees more significant mining-sector collaborations taking shape.
No way back
"I'm convinced there is no way back," he says. "There is no way back and implementing large enterprise-scale business transformation in the mining industry is something that is happening now.
"Last year we signed our second longest contractual framework globally - after the one signed with Boeing in 2017 - over 20 years with EDF [Électricité de France, the major European power utility]. This contractual framework will see us to roll out the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to transform and standardise their engineering methodologies in the nuclear engineering field.
"In 2018 we also won a number of high profile contracts for the 3DEXPERIENCE platform in the oil and gas sector. So for us the year was a turning point when interest in the platform started to pick up really seriously in oil and gas.
"And then also we commercially deployed the first GEOVIA Power'By customers. Our objective in 2019 is to continue to expand this 3DEXPERIENCE footprint with this Power'By approach.
"Mining investment has definitely rebounded significantly since the downturn [in 2012-2016] and the sector is number two in our Energy & Materials business, but even if the industry does not come back to the same level as 10 years ago we see that the types of investments have shifted and typically our kind of company is benefiting from those investments.
"Miners today are striving for more efficiency, and safety, which means typically more automation, more digital and for that a key enabler is the software capability that they will deploy. So we now see a number of our customers considering very large investments in digital, very large investments in software, precisely because they can link those enablers directly to their strategic business drivers and objectives.
"Already we have seen in oil and gas, even during the downturn, strong investments in software and digital. The industry has seen demonstrated the leverage effect of $1 invested in software was greater than $1 invested in new hardware or in developing new fields. And the same thing is happening now in mining.
"Both of those industries are back with better macro-economic environments, [including] better demand, and this is just accelerating further the trend where even in the middle of the downturn we saw some visionary companies who decided to invest in technology."
Other vital accelerators of mining's 4.0 transition to ‘lean' production - eliminating waste and potentially shrinking the environmental footprint of future operations - and digital twins that drive real efficiency optimisation endeavours, are the "huge commoditisation" of sensors of all forms, and data management via the cloud.
"Previously in mining we had what was happening in the real world, where the dust is and you have to have the hard hat and safety boots, and what was happening in the digital or software world, which happened in offices nearby or very remotely," Grand says.
"There was a challenge bridging this gap between real and virtual and even if the software was good it was very difficult to reconcile the very promising things you could do with the reality on the ground.
"Today we have low-cost sensors in all different shapes and forms - from the sensors embedded in automated trucks, to the drones surveying the mines, and the detectors on shovels and conveyor belts - providing critical information in near real time to inform better short-term decision making.
"Those sensors are the real pilots that exist between the virtual and the real and they are in my view what will unleash the full power of the software.
"The sensors are more now a commodity; the telecommunications will become a commodity. They produce the bridge between the real mine and the virtual mine - which can be hosted at the other end of the world by the way - that in turn unlocks the full benefits of automation.
"More automation means more safety and more productivity, and more productivity in my opinion is always synonymous with a lower environmental footprint."
Grand says Dassault Systèmes' unique four-quadrant integrated enterprise collaboration platform, built on its collaboration, modelling, simulation and analytics product portfolio, is an essential differential.
"Our concept of the 3DEXPERIENCE mine, which is basically a very high-fidelity digital twin of the mine, can only exist if we are able to position the building blocks in collaboration, modelling, simulation and analytics," he says.
"If we miss any one of those building blocks we will not have an exhaustive twin of the mine, be it at the mine level or the plant level.
"We are certainly still selling legacy software solutions by site and by company, but we are talking less now about the technology and much more about the business drivers, and we are assessing more in a process the value that can be unlocked by helping customers address their challenges, and their pain points. This is a significant shift in the conversation.
"It is not surprising that in industries where investment levels run into the billions that [mining] contracts for products that sell for five digits and six digits are also evolving. I do see the day when we move to nine-digit contracts because we are solving mission critical business problems at the enterprise level.
"GEOVIA Power'by has been a stepping stone in mining and now we see with larger customers we have an opportunity to position 3DEXPERIENCE and to further change the type of the discussion and the scope of the discussion, and take it beyond the pits to the plants, and logistics, and business operations.
"And that's really where we want to go this year."
Download the document - The Future of Mining with Dassault Systemes