Saccheria Franceschetti: Adapting a business with AI and innovation
Everything has changed since the day grandad Luigi started the company in 1939. But there’s been a guiding principle for Saccheria Franceschetti over these past 80 years: a commitment to innovation.
As a result of their innovation, the business has grown to be the third largest distributor of flexible packaging in Europe. Along the way, they have proven that they can react quickly to new and challenging scenarios, particularly when it came to facing the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We adapted to smart working in next to no time”, explained CEO, Luisa Franceschetti. This was because “we are a technologically advanced company and already had the technology, mindset and working approach to do it. We started using Google Suite 5 years ago and our offices were already using Google Meet. We use Google tools only and Chromebook has already improved security significantly”. The company’s e-commerce site was launched on 7 November 2019, and immediately proved to be invaluable: “The increase in orders is currently making a big contribution to company results”.
Until just a few years ago, digitalisation had a marginal role at the company’s premises in Provaglio d'Iseo (Brescia). Warehouse and office management were inefficient, bogged down with packing slips, invoices and paperwork. Then, the new generation at the helm of the company brought some major changes that are much more than e-commerce and smart working.
Saccheria Franceschetti has been using AI technology since 2017, integrating various AI Google tools for both the back office and warehouse. This experience led to a startup, ELI WMS, which developed and designed an all-innovative cloud system for warehouse management. “Thanks to our startup’s algorithm, the whole procedure – from the moment the goods come in until they are delivered – is automated and monitored, minimizing the risk of errors”. No more paper: everything is done via tablet. A voice assistant directs workers to the quickest route and the algorithm modulates the price based on the buyer’s punctuality in collecting orders.
“Artificial intelligence assisted and stepped up our warehouse system and logistics”, explained Luisa Franceschetti. “Given the exceptional nature of the COVID situation, some disruption was contemplated. It therefore became fundamental for human and artificial intelligence to work together. This is when human intervention is needed to make better forecasts in a sudden and out-of-the-ordinary situation for which there is no historical data. This is how people can enhance artificial intelligence and drive it”. And this is what will happen as we move towards a new normality.
The epidemic hasn’t managed to sever that 80-year-long guiding principle. “Our business spirit is still there and it’s getting stronger”. Our digitisation projects have attracted investors and the company has earmarked an important entry in the balance sheet for warehouse handling systems and logistics.
Luisa Franceschetti knows that “at this difficult moment, innovating and dealing with the crisis at the same time, can be complex for some companies”. But she is convinced that the right approach is ongoing innovation: “Our motto is 'I don’t want to be overwhelmed by innovation, I want to guide it'. In this way, I can take advantage of the opportunities beforehand and decide when and how to develop these, so as to create a competitive edge for my company”. It’s not about age or resources, but mindset. Franceschetti said, “After a radio interview on how vitally important innovation is, a businessman found my number and called me. He wanted to know how I was moving forward with the projects and wanted some suggestions. He was 81. This approach is what makes Italian companies strong”.