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Companies Are Rushing to Use AI—But Few See a Payoff


November 2, 2021

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At some DHL shipping centers, artificial intelligence now helps employees make sure pallets will load safely into cargo planes. A computer vision system captures each pallet, and an algorithm judges whether it can be stacked with other pallets or may be too awkward to fit on the next flight.

DHL is one of a growing number of companies using AI. Besides the pallet scanning system, AI helps route deliveries, control robots that ferry packages around warehouses, and control an experimental robot arm that picks and sorts parcels. DHL is also among a small minority of companies using AI—just 11 percent—that say they've reaped a significant return on investment from using the technology, according to a new report.

The report, from Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review, is one of the first to explore whether companies are benefiting from AI. Its sobering finding offers a dose of realism amid recent AI hype. The report also offers some clues as to why some companies are profiting from AI and others appear to be pouring money down the drain.

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