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Rockwell Automation, Microsoft, and the Capabilities of Generative AI

By Alex Passett
November 02, 2023

Last month, Rockwell Automation – a provider of smart IIoT manufacturing – acquired Verve Industrial Protection. (That news can be found here.) We covered a ton of important IIoT-centric topics in that article, but one that wasn’t covered quite as thoroughly was Rockwell’s strategic partnerships.

In addition to its PartnerNetwork Program (on top of its Digital, Distributor, and System Integrator Partners, to name a few), Rockwell has maintained a longstanding partnership with none other than Microsoft.

This Rockwell-Microsoft partnership benefits customers looking to both upgrade and simplify their digital transformations. Together, the two have been co-developing edge and cloud computing solutions, leveraging Rockwell’s OT know-how with Microsoft’s IT expertise. It’s a best-of-both-worlds sort of combo as both companies harness their respective capabilities, cloud datasets, simulations, AI and more to build solutions for IIoT and beyond that prove to be effective, efficient and sustainable.

Let’s home in on the AI part of that, as it is most pertinent to recent Rockwell-Microsoft developments.

Specifically, Rockwell and Microsoft – as part of an extension of their established relationship – will be accelerating industrial automation design and development through collaboration on generative AI. They aim to empower workforces, innovate further in IoT/IIoT, and smartly accelerate time-to-market for customers building their own industrial automation systems.

According to the official announcement, the first part of this involves adding Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service into Rockwell’s FactoryTalk Design Studio.

This is big. Adding Azure OpenAI Service into FactoryTalk Design Studio will help engineers generate code using natural language prompts, while automating routine (and importantly, previously manual) tasks and improving overall design efficiency. This will hit a dual-purpose target, too; empowering seasoned engineers while also assisting new team members via automation. In this vein, the two companies, quote, “see a bright future ahead, involving Quality Management and Improvement, Failure Mode Analysis, and the training of frontline workers to execute manufacturing processes through chat-based collaboration alongside experienced human workers, as well as Azure Open AI Service-based chatbots.” This touches on the current skilled labor shortage, necessary gains in productivity, advancing the automation of projects within service ecosystems, and addressing other structural challenges. (Needless to say, generative AI has opened the door for quite a lot, and both companies aim to make the most of that.)

Per Blake Moret, Chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation:

“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. Together, we're not just addressing current market needs; we're shaping the future of technology in industrial automation.”

And per Judson Althoff, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Microsoft:

“The explosive growth and interest in AI is driving organizations to partner with Microsoft as a trusted cloud and AI provider. 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.”

More is expected to be showcased at Rockwell Automation's 2023 Automation Fair, which takes place next week in Boston, Massachusetts.

Be part of the discussion about the latest trends and developments in the Generative AI space at Generative AI Expo, taking place February 13-15, 2024 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Generative AI Expo discusses the evolution of GenAI and feature conversations focused on the potential for GenAI across industries and how the technology is already being used to create new opportunities for businesses to improve operations, enhance customer experiences, and create new growth opportunities.

Edited by Alex Passett
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