By Elizabeth Walker, Walmart Corporate Affairs
In the coming weeks, Walmart will be breaking ground on a new project, and the result will be, well, groundbreaking.
Shafter, Calif., will be the home of Walmart’s first high-tech distribution center for fresh and frozen groceries. What does that mean exactly?
A traditional distribution center, or DC, is the hub where products like eggs and strawberries are received. From there, associates load goods onto trucks and deliver them to your local Walmart store or Sam’s Club. DCs are a key part of Walmart’s supply chain. As Walmart transforms to better serve customers, the question is, what does the distribution center of the future look like?
Simply put, it looks more efficient, with forward-looking technology and engaging tech-focused jobs. Set to open fall 2020, this innovative DC in Shafter will use WITRON technology to process grocery perishables – produce, eggs, dairy, flowers and frozen goods. Here’s what else you need to know:
The new high-tech distribution center will move 40 percent more product than a traditional DC – and result in fewer crushed strawberries.
The high-tech DC in Shafter will allow us to move product to stores and clubs faster so that we can better serve customers.
– Tim Cooper, senior vice president of supply chain for Walmart
How? Rather than manually stacking boxes and building pallets, the new DC will allow associates to use the new technology to do the (literal) heavy lifting. Cool story, but what if those machines put a watermelon on top of a case of tender, beautifully ripened strawberries?
Shayne Wahlmeier, one of the engineers on the project, described the plan to keep this from happening.
“Every product is measured and documented so that we know how to handle it,” he explained. “A computer algorithm shows all the cases ordered for a given store and determines how to palletize them to maximize the space on a pallet or trailer. It also takes into account density – what’s crushable, what’s not.”
Sort of like the game of Tetris, but with apples and ice cream.
This DC will result in savings that can then be passed on to customers.
Because the technology is helping associates build a more flexible, dense pallet, more products will be able to fit onto a truck. This will reduce transportation costs, and those savings can be passed on to customers.
And remember those strawberries that aren’t getting crushed? Fewer damages mean a reduction in food waste. Customers can be more confident that a product is in stores when they come to fill up their carts.
The DC in Shafter will create hundreds of new jobs.
And these are jobs people can get excited about. Many of the new positions will be technology-focused or STEM jobs.
“The order-filling position is an arduous one,” Tim explained. He went on to say that while the supply chain is the backbone of Walmart’s business, the jobs of the future might be less physically demanding.
From Online Grocery Pickup, powered by Alphabot, to an automated floor scrubber, Walmart is investing in technology to empower associates to do their jobs better and more efficiently. The high-tech Shafter distribution center is just one example of Walmart making big bets when it comes to the future of retail.