Ai Partnership

Artificial intelligence enters automation world to design control systems

Oct. 30, 2023
Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service added to Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk Design Studio to leverage generative AI capabilities

More than 75% of companies are looking to adopt artificial intelligence (AI), big data and cloud computing in the next five years, according to the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report 2023."

Employers estimate that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in that same five-year span, with cognitive skills and technology literacy topping the report’s list. Industry finds itself caught between a dwindling pool of skilled employees and increasing demand for technical expertise.

“One of the biggest challenges manufacturers and processors face today continues to be how to help their workforces, which are often smaller in number and less experienced, to assume multiple roles and responsibilities and simultaneously become more productive and efficient,” notes Craig Resnick, vice president, ARC Advisory Group. “This challenge can be addressed by adding AI capabilities that help workers accelerate their productivity.”

Rockwell Automation and Microsoft have joined forces to address this by extending their longstanding relationship to accelerate industrial automation design and development through generative AI. The companies are combining technologies to speed up the building of industrial automation systems by augmenting workers’ capabilities. The first outcome of this collaboration will add Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service into FactoryTalk Design Studio.

“The combination of Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service along with Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk Design Studio will accelerate users’ productivity and efficiency for designing and deploying solutions for design, visualization, digital twin, storage and remote access,” explains Resnick. “Artificial intelligence will become a critical productivity tool that workers will require and request for all their tasks, providing them with a virtual digital assist that will become ubiquitous regardless of role.”

The skilled labor shortage and ensuing lost productivity is the biggest challenge facing industrial organizations and their service providers, adds Matthew Littlefield, president of LNS Research. “These shortages are increasing the need, value and complexity of automation projects when the ecosystem of service providers is less equipped to deliver on time, quality and budget,” he says. “Generative AI has already proven its ability to capture the imagination and enhance the productivity of workers in a range of IT and business scenarios. Rockwell Automation and Microsoft’s strategic partnership is an exciting and high-potential step forward in addressing these long-term structural challenges.”

Rockwell and Microsoft recognize that using AI to enhance automation across various roles, from decision makers to controls engineers and operators, is a key area where they can come together to help customers streamline their processes and drive worker productivity.

“Rockwell’s decade-long relationship with Microsoft illustrates our ongoing commitment to providing best-of-breed solutions that empower customers and support our shared vision of driving industries forward through innovation and collaboration,” said Blake Moret, chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation. “Together, we're not just addressing current market needs; we're shaping the future of technology in industrial automation.”

Adding Azure OpenAI Service into FactoryTalk Design Studio is designed to help engineers generate code using natural language prompts, automating routine tasks and improving design efficiency. Rockwell also foresees that it could also empower seasoned engineers to accelerate development and mentor newcomers on a learning path more efficiently and effectively.

Additionally, it could assist in finding relevant help from vast collections of information to further educate developers. Rockwell and Microsoft see a bright future in extending this integrated technology to solve other challenges, including quality management and improvement, failure mode analysis and training frontline workers to execute manufacturing processes through chat-based collaboration with experienced human workers as well as Azure Open AI Service-based chatbots.

“The explosive growth and interest in artificial intelligence is driving organizations to partner with Microsoft as a trusted cloud and AI provider,” said Judson Althoff, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Microsoft. “I am pleased to further strengthen our longstanding relationship with Rockwell by combining its expertise in industrial automation with Microsoft’s generative-AI technology to help industrial professionals expedite the creation of complex control systems, optimize the efficiency of their operations and spur greater innovation across industrial organizations.”

The work between Rockwell and Microsoft will be showcased during Rockwell’s 2023 Automation Fair, November 6-9, 2023, in Boston.

Both companies are using their respective Internet-of-Things (IoT) capabilities, cloud datasets, simulations and AI to design and build products.

About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected]