Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning , Governance & Risk Management , Next-Generation Technologies & Secure Development

How Microsoft, Rockwell Deploy AI for Faster, Cleaner Design

Microsoft Boosts Productivity, Accelerates Learning, Drives Collaboration With AI
How Microsoft, Rockwell Deploy AI for Faster, Cleaner Design
Judson Althoff, chief commercial officer, Microsoft (Image: Microsoft)

Microsoft spent the past year testing how generative AI can increase productivity, accelerate learning curves and drive collaboration for itself, its partners and its customers.

See Also: Close the Gapz in Your Security Strategy

The Redmond computing giant is infusing generative AI into every product it builds and now uses generative AI to build generative AI capabilities, according to Chief Commercial Officer Judson Althoff.

Althoff told attendees of a Boston operational technology conference Wednesday that GitHub Copilot is now responsible for writing 30% of the code in all of Microsoft's other Copilots (see: Programming, Self-Learning Crucial for Autonomous Operations).

"It's what has given us a time-to-market advantage in delivering a lot of capabilities across our portfolio," Althoff said during a keynote Q&A with Rockwell Automation Chairman and CEO Blake Moret.

Althoff said Microsoft has seen huge gains from a "digital feedback loop" where the generative AI model and the human in the loop continuously learn from one another. From there, Althoff said, the company helped partners such as Rockwell Automation develop Copilots of their own in areas where Microsoft would never do so itself and worked with members of its ecosystem to help them unlock the potential of AI.

Introducing natural language to any business environment levels the playing field and democratizes the experience from the frontline to the boardroom since everybody's chatting about their work through a universal common frame, he said. Rockwell embedded Microsoft Azure's OpenAI service to accelerate industrial automation design and development, which Althoff said will fuel user productivity and efficiency gains.

How Microsoft's Customer Support Team Benefited From AI

Going forward, Althoff predicted, workers will describe on their resumes how they use artificial intelligence to make themselves more productive and will avoid joining companies where they have to do things the old-fashioned way. At the organizational level, Althoff expects AI personae to join design reviews and other team meetings to facilitate a move away from PowerPoints and white papers to knowledge on demand.

"AI transformation is the new call to action for everyone," he said. "And everybody should be thinking, 'How can generative AI change my employee experiences? How can it change how I engage with customers? How can it reshape business processes? And how can it bend the curve on innovation?'"

Althoff said Microsoft has used AI to bring efficiency to the company's customer support organization, which employs 40,000 people and handles 75 million incidents a year. He said the company has taken its expert resources, put them on the frontlines and had them answer the most complicated questions Microsoft gets from customers (see: Rockwell Takes on Cyber Challenges in Industrial Facilities).

Those responses have been fed into an AI knowledge base that's used by Microsoft's early-in-career people as well as lower-cost personnel serving customers around the world. As a result, he said, Microsoft took $100 million of costs out of its support organization while improving client satisfaction.

"If you look at the customer engagement pillar of AI transformation, that is the inflection point," Althoff said. "You need to be taking action in your business."

The Perks of the Industrial Metaverse

Althoff said Rockwell and Microsoft have joined forces to effectively simulate any type of manufacturing environment, supply chain or logistics network to help drive efficiencies. The two organizations did so by marrying IoT capabilities with cloud-scale data stores, AI, mixed reality visualization capabilities and 3D digital twins - all of which come together to form the industrial metaverse, according to Althoff.

Microsoft and Rockwell have enjoyed massive success with the industrial metaverse since making or moving anything in the physical world creates a carbon footprint, according to Althoff. Simulating new consumer goods, energy or manufacturing products in the cloud before anything is actually made or moved allows a better product to be built more effectively, efficiently and sustainably than before (see: Verve Purchase Gives Rockwell Leg Up on Asset Identification).

In just a 13-week engagement, Althoff said, Microsoft and Rockwell can move into a factory environment that's a mix of brownfield and greenfield technologies and help clients understand how to derive energy savings and water reduction while driving more efficiencies and having a cleaner footprint. Althoff said the combination of AI and industrial metaverse technology delivers massive gains for customers quickly.

"It's a 'here and now' thing," Althoff said. "It's not just a hype cycle that you'll read about and hope that somehow, 10 years from now, it's something you should be seeing gains from. If you're not engaging in these types of projects now, you're probably falling behind your industry peers."

About the Author

Michael Novinson

Michael Novinson

Managing Editor, Business, ISMG

Novinson is responsible for covering the vendor and technology landscape. Prior to joining ISMG, he spent four and a half years covering all the major cybersecurity vendors at CRN, with a focus on their programs and offerings for IT service providers. He was recognized for his breaking news coverage of the August 2019 coordinated ransomware attack against local governments in Texas as well as for his continued reporting around the SolarWinds hack in late 2020 and early 2021.

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