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03/08/2022

As e-commerce grows, Walmart plans more fulfillment centers

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart Pennsylvania DC

Walmart’s latest new piece of e-commerce infrastructure will be a facility in Pennsylvania.

The discount giant is opening a new 1.8 million-plus-sq.-ft. fulfillment center in Shippensburg, Penn. Slated to open in spring 2022, the facility is expected to create up to 600 permanent, full-time jobs in the southern Pennsylvania region.

Unlike distribution centers, which are focused on receiving, storing, and distributing product to Walmart stores, the company’s fulfillment centers are focused on storing millions of items that are picked, packed and shipped directly to customers as soon as the next day.

The facility is part of a broader initiative to add more capacity into Walmart’s supply chain as the retailer prepares for growth. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022, Walmart U.S. e-commerce cited 70% growth during a two-year period. According to Walmart, six times the number of customers placed delivery orders in the fourth quarter of 2021 as did pre-pandemic.

In response, Walmart has been ramping up its supply chain infrastructure, from expanding its successful pilot of store-based, high-tech “local fulfillment centers” to applying artificial intelligence to the palletizing of products in its regional distribution centers. More recently, the discount giant said it will fulfill online orders placed on Walmart.com from a hub in Salt Lake City, scheduled to open in summer 2022.

The company also plans to build a high-tech distribution center for fresh and frozen groceries in Spartanburg County, S.C., as well as two high-tech supply chain hubs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a high-tech center in Lebanon, Tenn. where human associates, artificial intelligence (AI) software, and automated robots working together to ship orders to customers as efficiently as possible.

Walmart has also begun using multi-temperature autonomous box trucks from Gatik to move online grocery orders from a fulfillment-only dark store to a nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market store in its headquarters city of Bentonville, Ark. 

In addition, Walmart has built a tech platform that powers its last-mile delivery ecosystem. Agnostic to supply and demand, and built around its own marketplace, the platform uses automation and machine learning to turn a near-infinite number of factors into usable data.

Through the second half of 2021, Walmart took a variety of steps  to ensure it could meet holiday demand in the face of widespread supply chain disruption. Some of these steps included a push for hiring 20,000 new supply chain positions to help move products through its facilities as quickly as possible, as well as adding storage capacity in its fulfillment and distribution network through new facilities.

“We are proud to open a new state-of-the-art fulfillment center in Shippensburg, which will be instrumental in providing our customers with increased access and faster shipping on millions of every-day low priced items,” said Steve Miller, senior VP supply chain operations, Walmart U.S. “In addition to faster shipping, our investment in Shippensburg will bring a positive impact to the community by bringing even more employment opportunities to a growing local economy.”

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to invest in our associates through job promotion and growth while providing new career opportunities to job-seekers in the Southern Pennsylvania region,” said Karisa Sprague, senior VP, U.S. supply chain people. “In addition to competitive compensation and benefits, Walmart also offers industry leading training and development opportunities, such as a college degree 100% paid for by Walmart’s Live Better U. There’s never been a better time to be a Walmart supply chain associate.”

Walmart operates seven distribution centers, 160 retail stores, and employs more than 60,000 associates in the state of Pennsylvania. Worldwide, the company operates approximately 10,500 stores and warehouse club locations under 46 banners in 24 countries, as well as e-commerce websites.