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A New Era of Fulfillment: Introducing Walmart’s Next Generation Fulfillment Centers

By David Guggina, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Automation, Walmart U.S.

June 3, 2022

“Trust” is a common word that carries uncommon weight at Walmart. While there are countless ways we strive to earn customers’ trust, delivering on our promise of fast shipping and delivery has never been more important to us. Today we use our 31 dedicated eCommerce fulfillment centers and 4,700 stores located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population to fulfill online orders at exceptional speed. But we’re not stopping there.

We know we must constantly exceed our customers’ expectations, which is why I’m thrilled to announce we’re building four next generation fulfillment centers (FCs) over the next three years, with the first opening this summer in Joliet, Illinois. These FCs will be the first of their kind for Walmart, using the powerful combination of people, robotics, and machine learning to set an entirely new precedent for us on the speed of fulfillment while continuing to create a positive work environment for our associates.

What makes these buildings a first-of-their-kind? For starters, we’ve partnered with Knapp, a tech company for intelligent fulfillment solutions, to develop an automated, high-density storage system that streamlines a manual, twelve-step process into just five steps. We’ve been perfecting this system in our fulfillment center in Pedricktown, New Jersey, 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.

Most impressively, 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. Combined with our traditional FCs, we can reach 95% of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping, and by making use of the expansive reach of our stores, we can offer same-day delivery to 80% of the U.S. population. These four next generation facilities will also collectively employ more than 4,000 associates while introducing brand new tech-focused jobs like control technicians, quality audit analysts and flow managers.

Here’s how our patent-pending, five-step process works:

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. 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.

At this point you may be wondering, “Why only four FCs?” Our priority is to strategically locate our FCs to pair most effectively with our 4,700 stores and 210 distribution centers. Together, this system of fulfillment assets is optimized to get orders to customers fast and efficiently. In this way we show our customers they need to look no further than Walmart to get what they need, when they need it.

From building new, high-tech fulfillment centers to retrofitting our regional distribution centers, we continue to modernize and transform our supply chain by adding game-changing automation technology to our facilities. Our ability to test, embed and scale automation rapidly is powered by Walmart Control Services, a technology platform developed by Walmart Global Technology that gives us the flexibility to plug automated solutions from partners like Knapp, Symbotic and Witron, into our vast supply chain network.

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. We’re proud of our commitment to earn the trust of our customers and Walmart+ members, and we’ll never stop innovating to keep it.

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