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A new tool to help Italian companies grow with AI

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Saccheria Franceschetti, a family business based in Brescia, Italy, has seen a lot of change in the 80 years since it was founded. Originally set up to produce bags from old fabric, it has now adopted 21st-century solutions like artificial intelligence to keep its competitive edge. As the third largest distributor of flexible packaging in Europe today, the 50-employee business uses AI to optimize its warehouses and logistics, and to monitor business processes in real time.

At Google, we’re inspired by the tech savvy of companies like Saccheria Franceschetti, and we think there are thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses in Italy that could benefit from the same knowledge. That’s why Google has collaborated with the School of Management of the Politecnico University of Milan to develop Machine Learning Checkup, a free tool that enables companies to evaluate their readiness for artificial intelligence, and to understand how to make the most of the solutions offered by this technology.

For Saccheria Franceschetti, adopting AI solutions has been well worth the effort. Its revenues have grown from €16 million in 2015 to almost €20 million in 2019, and its profit margins have doubled. And, as an unexpected bonus, it’s getting substantially fewer customer complaints.

Artificial intelligence is also an important tool for Agrintesa, a farming cooperative in Faenza serving 4,000 small- and medium-sized farms. AI-powered image recognition helps the business sort part of their 440,000 tons of produce a year, quickly categorizing fruits by size, quality, shape and imperfections. In the two years since introducing AI, Agrintesa has sped up its processes and improved product quality. People at the company say the changes have made customers happier, and Agrintesa expects to see a 10 percent increase in profit margins within two years.

Agrintesa uses visual recognition to sort its fruit production.

Agrintesa uses visual recognition to sort its fruit production.

Companies that use the new Machine Learning Checkup will receive a customized report laying out the potential benefits and best applications of AI. The tool also helps businesses take practical next steps toward implementation: Along with the report, it points them to free dedicated consultant services through their local chambers of commerce, and financial incentives to invest in their businesses from the Ministry of Economic Development.

We’ve focused on the industries with the greatest potential for AI in Italy: agriculture, livestock farming, textiles, furniture, mechanics and iron and steel. The most effective applications come from the areas of sound and image recognition—like what Agrintesa is doing to sort produce—and predictive analytics, which can help with things like optimizing planting and harvesting times. For some areas of agriculture and farming, the research we commissioned has identified potential savings of up to 80 percent.

There are many areas of business where AI can bring important benefits—from packaging logistics to produce selection—and we’re proud to be able to partner with Italian companies to help figure out what works for them. It’s part of our commitment to developing tools to ensure that everyone can access artificial intelligence.

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