Walmart will open four next-generation fulfillment centers over the next four years as it seeks to reach 95% of the U.S. population with next-day or two-day shipping. The retailer will utilize technology developed by Knapp and tested in a Pedricktown, N.J. fulfillment center to create an environment that is more comfortable for associates, has double the storage capacity and can fulfill twice as many orders per day.
The first facility will open in summer 2022 in Joliet, Ill., and will use a combination of people, robotics and machine learning to achieve greater speed and efficiency than older models. Once open, the four facilities will be able to reach 75% of the U.S. population.
Traditional Walmart fulfillment centers follow a twelve-step fulfillment process, but the new technology will condense it down to five steps:
- Unload: Sellers and suppliers send merchandise in cases to the fulfillment center, where associates unload the trailers and place cases onto a conveyor belt, where they’re routed to receiving;
- Receive: Associates break the cases apart and place the individual items into a tote, then an automated storage system transports it to one of millions of designated locations;
- Pick: When a customer places an online order the needed items are sent to an associate at a picking station, which cuts down on the amount of travel associates need to handle — they can walk up to nine miles per day at traditional fulfillment centers;
- Pack: A custom box is created to fit the exact measurements of the order and sent to an associate, who can assemble up to four orders at once, for packing; and
- Ship: The completed order is automatically taped, labeled and routed to its designated zone in less than 30 minutes since the customer placed there order, then shipped to its final destination.
The four next-generation facilities will collectively employ more than 4,000 associates while introducing new tech-focused jobs like control technicians, quality audit analysts and flow managers.
Walmart operates a total of 31 dedicated ecommerce fulfillment centers and 4,700 stores that are located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. This combination allows the retailer to offer same-day shipping to 80% of the people in the U.S.
“We’re on an exciting journey to completely transform the way our supply chain operates, and it’s amazingly rewarding to see our associates and customers reap the benefits,” said David Guggina, SVP of Innovation and Automation at Walmart U.S. in a statement.