When the machines speak our language – B&R and Microsoft bring generative AI to automation engineering

B&R is collaborating with Microsoft to bring artificial intelligence to its industrial automation software. With the integration of Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service into B&R’s Automation Studio engineering workflows, developers of machine applications will be able to generate, optimize and annotate code using intuitive natural-language prompts. As a concept study in AI-enhanced innovation, the new Automation Studio Copilot aims to help machine builders get to market faster with solutions that are more innovative and more reliable.

Today’s factories are a far cry from the greasy cogs and clanking steel that may linger in our imagination. In these masterpieces of orchestrated complexity, camera-guided robots and magnetically levitating shuttles maneuver products through tightly choreographed processes, while terabytes of data are streamed to the cloud for analysis. Behind the scenes, the entire symphony is conducted by sophisticated software applications created with engineering tools like B&R’s Automation Studio.

A generational shift in intuitive engineering

Traditional automation engineering requires many lines of code to be written and annotated manually by experts in high-level programming languages – but a collaboration between B&R and Microsoft is poised to change that. Automation Studio Copilot incorporates the powerful generative AI capabilities of Microsoft Azure OpenAI into B&R’s universal engineering platform. This artificially intelligent programming companion translates prompts and questions entered in natural language into machine code and helpful tips for developers.

“Microsoft’s commitment to making people more efficient and work more rewarding is as valuable in the world of manufacturing as it is in any other workplace,” says B&R Chief Technology Officer Florian Schneeberger. Noting how the shift toward low-code and no-code engineering makes development teams faster and more innovative, he explains: “Rather than forcing humans to learn the language of the machine, we’re exploring ways to give machines the ability to understand human language.”

Empowering innovation and unlocking potential

AI-enhanced automaton helps businesses unlock flexibility, agility and resilience as they address today’s biggest manufacturing challenges – from market uncertainty and labor shortages to increasing demand for product personalization and efforts to make smarter use of energy and raw materials. By easing access for non-experts and organizations without large teams of specialists, Automation Studio Copilot opens up the benefits of intelligent automation to more companies than ever before. 

“With this solution based on Azure OpenAI Service, B&R customers can now spend less time on coding and troubleshooting and more time focusing on creative and rewarding tasks that add value to the business,” says Dominik Wee, Corporate Vice President of Manufacturing and Mobility at Microsoft.

Improving quality and streamlining collaboration

In the competitive world of manufacturing, rapid time-to-market is key. As innovative technologies emerge at ever shorter intervals, increasing complexity makes fast and agile development a formidable challenge. The generative AI features in Automation Studio Copilot offer machine builders and integrators enhanced ability to master multiple disciplines within tight timelines, all while meeting the non-negotiable requirements of reliable performance and high quality.

The tool’s AI-driven code generation is optimized for IEC 61131-3 Structured Text programming and provides responses based on B&R’s existing libraries and conventions. By replacing manual coding with natural-language prompting, it gives developers more time to focus on creative problem solving and rapid prototyping and deliver more competitive solutions fast.

For existing code, Automation Studio Copilot offers AI-driven optimization and annotation. Lean code with clear structure and helpful comments improves readability and streamlines collaboration across teams. These same qualities also make applications easier and cheaper to maintain long-term. With the ability to pose questions in natural language, users also have intuitive access to helpful guidance on how to implement their ideas quickly and effectively.

Making machines better at everything they do

Applications for AI in manufacturing extend far beyond development. During production, deep learning algorithms give cameras new superpowers in defect detection. Cloud-based AI tools reveal insights hidden in production data, helping B&R and its customers extend equipment life, create smarter designs and optimize energy efficiency.

And whatever phase of their project they are working on, B&R users around the world can get 24/7 support from the AI chatbot in the B&R Community – in addition to lively human interaction in the community forum, where they can harness a wealth of diverse technical experience from a global network of experts and peers.

 


Concept study in AI-enhanced innovation

Automation Studio is the universal engineering environment for the entire B&R portfolio, designed to simplify and accelerate tasks throughout every phase of the machine lifecycle. By incorporating the Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service into Automation Studio Copilot, the companies aim to make software development faster and easier than ever – empowering engineers to focus on innovation.

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