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INTERVIEW - Cristel de Rouvray, CEO, ESI Group

News International-French

1 Apr 2019

On February 1, 2019, the trail-blazing developer of virtual prototyping solutions ESI group announced the arrival of Cristel de Rouvray, 42, as CEO. Ms de Rouvray is taking over from Alain de Rouvray, the company’s founder, who will continue as the non-executive Chairman of the Board. When she was appointed, we asked her about the place and role of the composite sector for the company.

Cristel de Rouvray, CEO, ESI Group
JEC Composites Magazine: How has your career led you to this new position?
Cristel de Rouvray: I have already had a lot of experience with the group through my activity as a member of the Board of Directors since 1999, where I have been Board Leader, Chairwoman of the Compensation, Nomination and Governance Committee, Coordinator for the succession plan, and president of an operational committee in charge of human resources. My role in the shaping and support of developmental decisions and in managing ESI Group’s talents has been fundamental. These experiences have enabled me to forge strong links with the industrial ecosystem, the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, and to create the interactions between governance, strategy and operations that are necessary for the group’s transformation. Consequently, I am extremely familiar with ESI’s expertise and its market, and with ESI Group’s employees and culture.

JEC Composites Magazine: In what frame of mind are you approaching this new mission?
Cristel de Rouvray: I am especially enthusiastic and honoured to accept this term of office as managing director, in particular given this transformational context as we pursue a position as the go-to partner for manufacturers in their quest to achieve [what we call] “zero real test” and “zero real prototype”. Over the decades, ESI Group has built up a unique pool of talents and a strong commercial credibility to support innovative technological solutions that are recognized by our peers and our customers. My role and that of our new generation of managers is to free up that potential, with the support of our Board of Directors and its Chairman, in order to pursue our socially responsible strategic mission, which is to enable the industry to innovate in response to the rising expectations for their products’ safety, durability and suitability.

JEC Composites Magazine: Have you had any other parallel activities?
Cristel de Rouvray: Yes, over the past fourteen years, I have held management positions in College Track, an American non-profit organization (I have dual French-American nationality) that was founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, well-known for excellence at helping young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods to obtain college degrees (more than 3000 so far). By working closely with the College Track CEO and management board on the strategy and its implementation, she has acted as a catalyst for greatly increased growth over the past decade.

JEC Composites Magazine: What is your general background?
Cristel de Rouvray: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Master’s in International Policy Studies from Stanford University, where I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and a PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics (LSE), where I was awarded for the best thesis in my field.

JEC Composites Magazine: ESI Group has been a partner of the composite industry for many years. What do you think about the development of composite materials in so many application sectors?
Cristel de Rouvray: The usage of composite materials (continuous, long and short fibers, thermoplastic or thermoset resins) in the industry has amazingly increased over the last decade. However, while a few years ago we were thinking about a total replacement of metallic components by composites materials, much lighter with good mechanical characteristics, financial considerations (mostly the price of the material) slowed down this development for mass industrial applications. These cost constraints pushed for research and development teams for more creativity and ESI Group with its expertise in physics of materials became a key partner to support these innovations.
Two main outcomes of these R&D investigations are now applied in the industry. First a multi-material approach, not one by one, composites by metals, but more by having composites materials used in the right place in combination with metals can be seen to maintain price while still reducing weight. Second, new materials such as SMC HP (Sheet Molding Compound High Performance) that are much cheaper than continuous fibers and with still good mechanical performances because of the density and length of the fibers are now in expansion.
The two approaches, multi-materials and/or new materials will allow an additional consequent step in the usage of composites by the mass industry. These approaches also bring a few new challenges (assembly, control of the process) for which simulation comes as a great support.

ESI Group: Smart Virtual Prototyping, Engineering Solutions

JEC Composites Magazine: What is your offer to support this development?
Cristel de Rouvray: Composite materials in engineering are gaining popularity with manufacturers due, in part, to their lightweight properties, strength, and durability. As with any industrial part or product, composite components must meet quality requirements and go through extensive testing to meet certification requirements. This usually happens late in the development cycle. When defects are found at this stage, they lead to additional time and costs and a delay in getting the product to market.
> ESI PAM-COMPOSITES simulation software helps you target defects early in your composite product’s development cycle, when it’s easier to fine-tune the manufacturing process.
With this software, you can:
- analyse and optimize individual manufacturing operations
- link these operations by transferring material history from one operation to the next (change in fibre orientations, curing degree, temperature distribution)
- correct, optimize or validate processes like draping, thermoforming, RTM, infusion or curing, to minimize manufacturing defects, insure reproducibility, and decrease development costs
> PAM-COMPOSITES addresses a wide range of composite materials, with a focus on continuous fibres. It can model carbon or glass fibres, thermoset or thermoplastic matrix, dry textiles or prepregs.

JEC Composites Magazine: Do you have other products and services for the composite industry?
Cristel de Rouvray: ESI PAM-COMPOSITES is a unique solution on the market for the manufacturing of composites structural components and it covers most of the industrial processes. But once built, composites or multi-materials components must be assembled and then tested under working conditions (loading, crash…). ESI portfolio allows the entire virtual prototyping of composites components, from A to Z, from manufacturing to testing in life conditions.

JEC Composites Magazine: Are you planning any specific developments for this business sector? What role can composites play in the growth of ESI Group?
Cristel de Rouvray: ESI Group remains on the head of innovation by an intensive involvement in innovation projects with key industrial partners worldwide. Just to list few, ESI has taken an active role in several composite European projects such as LAY2FORM, SIMUTOOL, MAESTRIA, INNOFAB and COMMUNION to maintain our alignment with new upcoming processes, materials…
The next extensive growth of ESI composite activity will be linked to the adoption of composites material for structural component in the automotive mass production. Consequently, for the last three years we worked on the entire chain of fabrication perfecting our modelling techniques: Compression-RTM (Resin Transfer Molding), High Pressure RTM and later SMC process that respond to mass production needs. In parallel we have been preparing the arrival of real time modelling computing with intelligent controllers as well as sufficient IoT (sensors) to pilot best in class advanced composite solutions.

About ESI Group:
ESI Group is a leading innovator in Virtual Prototyping software and services. Specialist in material physics, ESI has developed a unique proficiency in helping industrial manufacturers replace physical prototypes by virtual prototypes, allowing them to virtually manufacture, assemble, test and pre-certify their future products. Coupled with the latest technologies, Virtual Prototyping is now anchored in the wider concept of the Product Performance LifecycleTM, which addresses the operational performance of a product during its entire lifecycle, from launch to disposal. The creation of Hybrid Twin™, leveraging simulation, physics and data analysis enables manufacturers to deliver smarter and connected products, to predict product performance, and to anticipate maintenance needs. ESI is a French company listed in Compartment B of Euronext Paris. Present in more than 40 countries, and addressing every major industrial sector, ESI Group employs about 1200 high-level specialists around the world and reported annual sales of €135 million in 2017.