Azure OpenAI Service Added to FactoryTalk Design Studio

Microsoft/Rockwell Collab Brings GenAI to industrial automation.

Microsoft and Rockwell Automation today announced an extension of a long-standing collaboration that will bring Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service capabilities into Rockwell's FactoryTalk Design Studio.

Rockwell is a provider of industrial automation and digital transformation technologies primarily for the automotive and tire industries. Its FactoryTalk Design Studio is a cloud-based, software-defined industrial automation design environment. Microsoft's Azure OpenAI Service is a fully managed service designed to allow developers to easily integrate OpenAI models into their applications. Integrating the two will enable engineers to generate code using natural language prompts, which, Rockwell says, will "empower experienced engineers to accelerate development and guide newcomers along a more efficient and effective learning path."

The integration will also make it easier to pull relevant information from extensive collections to further educate developers. Rockwell and Microsoft envision extending this integrated technology to tackle other challenges, too, 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 OpenAI Service-based chatbots.

The collaboration is meant to expedite the design and development of industrial automation through generative AI, Rockwell said in a statement. "The partnership sees the integration of technologies to empower the workforce and accelerate the time-to-market for customers involved in building industrial automation systems," the company said.

Among other things, this use of generative AI addresses a shortage of skilled labor and the subsequent loss of productivity, which Matthew Littlefield, President of LNS Research, says constitutes "the most significant challenges confronting industrial organizations and their service providers today."

"These shortages are increasing the demand, value, and complexity of automation projects at a time when the service provider ecosystem is ill-equipped to meet deadlines, maintain quality, and stay within budget," Littlefield said in a statement. "Generative AI has already demonstrated its capacity to stimulate creativity and enhance worker productivity across various IT and business scenarios. Rockwell Automation and Microsoft's strategic partnership mark an exciting and highly promising step in addressing these enduring structural challenges."

Rockwell and Microsoft say that employing AI to enhance automation across diverse roles, from decision-makers to control engineers and operators, allows them to jointly assist customers in streamlining processes and enhancing worker productivity.

"Our decade-long association with Microsoft underscores our ongoing dedication to offering top-tier solutions that empower customers and align with our shared vision of driving industries forward through innovation and collaboration," said Blake Moret, Chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation, in a statement. "Together, we are not merely addressing current market needs; we are shaping the future of technology in industrial automation."

Microsoft sees the rapid growth and interest in artificial intelligence as a trend that's driving organizations to collaborate with Redmond as a trusted cloud and AI provider.

"I am delighted to strengthen our long-standing partnership 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 operational efficiency, and foster greater innovation throughout industrial organizations," Judson Althoff, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Microsoft, said in a statement.

Additionally, Rockwell and Microsoft are actively exploring avenues to advance innovation in the "industrial metaverse," which is a kind of fusion of the digital and physical worlds meant to accelerate efficiency through engineering, manufacturing, and field service. Both companies are leveraging their respective IoT capabilities, cloud datasets, simulations, and AI to design and construct products in a more effective, efficient, and sustainable manner.

The collaborative efforts of Rockwell and Microsoft will be on display during Rockwell's 2023 Automation Fair, scheduled for November 6-9, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at