OPERATIONS

Supply chain first for Walmart

BY Marianne Wilson

A Walmart supply chain first — a high-tech consolidation center — will make its debut this summer.

In July, the discounter will unveil its newly built, 340,000-sq.-ft. high-tech consolidation center in Colton, Calif., which will be the first in Walmart’s supply chain to receive, sort and ship freight. Its automated technology will enable three times more volume to flow throughout the center and helps Walmart deliver the right product to the right store, so customers can find the products they need, the retailer said.

The Walmart-owned center will open in July with 150 full-time associates, and will grow to employ more than 600 associates by 2021. (In October, Walmart announced that it had broken ground on a tech-enabled perishable grocery distribution center in Shafter, California.)

“With the combined might of people and world-class logistic technology, this facility will be the most efficient consolidation center in Walmart’s supply chain,” the retailer stated.

Walmart’s consolidation centers play a very specialized role in the company’s supply chain. Such facilities receive less than a truckload of general merchandise items like toys and kitchen appliances from suppliers, consolidate quantities of this freight in a full truckload and them ship it to regional distribution centers. This allows Walmart’s 42 regional centers to focus on the next step – distributing products to stores.

Currently, the process in place at Walmart’s existing consolidation centers is manual. Merchandise suppliers create and ship 42 separate orders through the same consolidation center that then forwards the orders on to each of the 42 regional distribution centers where they are officially received and counted. This makes reacting to order inaccuracies a challenge, because associates may not discover them until the orders are planned to be at the store.

But the new system which will be in place in Colton center will enable suppliers to fill one massive order instead of 42. The software automatically will scans and count the product immediately when it arrives and documents the information in Walmart’s systems, allowing it to react faster to order-filling issues.

Automating the receiving upstream in the consolidation center allows supply chain teams to group products based on how they are stocked, making unloading simpler.

“We’re going to make the regional distribution centers more efficient,” said Geno Bell, senior director of the consolidation center network.

The new center will also be a warehouse. Having products separated and stored further upstream will allow Walmart’s supply chain to react even faster to unexpected events, such as a blizzard in the Northeast, and get the right products to the right places, the company explained.

“With this new technology, we can be surgical and responsive in getting merchandise into stores,” Bell said.

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