Industrial Strength Language Model Siemens and Microsoft launch GPT-powered Copilot for manufacturing machinery.

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Sequence of industrial machines working

ChatGPT is pitching in on the assembly line.

What’s new: Siemens and Microsoft launched a joint pilot program of a GPT-powered model for controlling manufacturing machinery. German automotive parts manufacturer Schaeffler is testing the system in its factories, as is Siemens itself. 

How it works: Industrial Copilot (distinct from similarly named Microsoft products such as GitHub Copilot and Microsoft 365 Copilot) enables users to interact with software that drives industrial machines using natural language. At an unspecified near-future date, Siemens plans to make it more widely available via Xcelerator, an online hub that connects Siemens customers to tools and partners.

  • Given natural-language instructions, Industrial Copilot can write code for the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that drive assembly lines. 
  • It can translate instructions written in other programming languages into PLC code, allowing developers to more easily build new software. It can also run simulations, for example, to check a machine’s performance in a new task without setting it in motion.
  • The system can troubleshoot malfunctioning machines. It identifies bug locations and suggests fixes, responding in natural language.

Behind the news: Microsoft is betting that specialized large language models can boost productivity (and expand its market) in a variety of industries. The company announced its intention to develop Copilot models for infrastructure, transportation, and healthcare. 

Why it matters: Industrial Copilot promises to reduce the time it takes factory technicians to operate and maintain machinery, and it may help less-technical workers get a stalled assembly line back up and running. This may be especially timely as older workers retire, since the software that runs manufacturing equipment can be decades old, and PLC coding can be difficult to learn without prior manufacturing experience.

We’re thinking: For programming languages like PLC, the pool of coders is diminishing even as valuable applications still need to be maintained and built. Generative AI can play an important role in helping developers who are less familiar with these languages to write and maintain important programs.


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