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06/03/2022

Walmart to Build 4 Next-Gen Fulfillment Centers

The first of their kind for Walmart, the new fulfillment centers will tap people, robotics, and machine learning, to set a new precedent on the speed of fulfillment.
Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor
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Walmart has unveiled its next generation fulfillment center (FC) plans, which it said will set an “entirely new precedent” on the speed of fulfillment.

The mega retailer plans to build four new FCs over the next three years and the facilities will be the "first of their kind" for Walmart, tapping people, robotics, and machine learning.

These four next generation FCs alone could provide 75% of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping on millions of items, including marketplace items shipped by Walmart Fulfillment Services, according to the retailer. When combined with their traditional fulfillment centers, Walmart will be able to provide 95% of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping on millions of items, the retail said, and by making use of stores, it will be able to offer same-day delivery to 80% of the U.S. population. Currently the retailer has 31 dedicated e-commerce fulfillment centers.

The first next-gen FC will open this summer in Joliet, IL, and the four facilities will collectively employ more than 4,000 associates and add new tech-focused jobs such as control technicians, quality audit analysts, and flow managers. Walmart said it plans to strategically locate the FCs to pair them most effectively with the retailer’s 4,700 stores and 210 distribution centers.

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knapp

Walmart partnered with Knapp, a tech company for intelligent fulfillment solutions, to develop an automated, high-density storage system for the next-gen FCs that streamlines a manual, twelve-step process into just five steps.

“We’ve been perfecting this system in our fulfillment center in Pedricktown, NJ, and have seen how the benefits of this technology are wide-ranging and include: more comfort for associates, double the storage capacity, and double the number of customer orders we’re able to fulfill in a day,” Dave Guggina, SVP, innovation and automation, Walmart U.S. said in blog.

Walmart said its ability to test, embed and scale automation rapidly is powered by Walmart Control Services, a technology platform developed by Walmart Global Technology that gives it the flexibility to plug automated solutions from partners like Knapp, Symbotic and Witron, into its supply chain network.   

    Walmart’s Patent-Pending, 5-Step Process

    Unload: Sellers and suppliers send merchandise in cases to an FC. As the cases arrive, associates unload the trailers and place cases onto a conveyor belt where they’re routed to receiving.   

    Receive: At receiving, an associate breaks the case apart and places the individual items into a tote. The tote is whisked away into a massive, automated storage system where a shuttle transports it to one of millions of designated locations. The storage system is designed to account for every square-inch, spanning from floor to ceiling in a custom-built structure designed to hold the inventory.  

    Pick: When a customer places an online order, the system goes into action, retrieving their items and shuttling the needed totes to an associate at a picking station. This is a huge win for our associates, who traditionally would have walked up to nine miles per day, picking items from multiple floors of shelving spread out over hundreds of thousands of square feet of space.   

    Pack: Simultaneously, a custom box is created to fit the exact measurements of the order and sent to an associate for packing. In the pack area, we estimate associates can assemble up to four orders at once and send packages to be shipped in less than 30 minutes after the customer clicks to order.   

    Ship: The completed order is then automatically taped, labeled, and routed to its designated zone where it’s then shipped to its final destination.