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03/28/2022

Walmart to transform Wisconsin hub into next-gen distribution center

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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(Above: An example of Walmart’s new automated RDC technology platform.)

Walmart is continuing with its plan to renovate existing distribution centers with automated technology.

The discount giant is making a multi-million-dollar investment in high-tech automation for its regional distribution center (RDC) in Menomonie, Wis. The investment is part of a broader initiative the retailer announced in July 2021 to renovate 25 of its 42 regional distribution centers with automated technology. The retailer hopes to support a broader digital transformation in its supply chain aimed at increasing the speed, efficiency, and safety at which products are distributed. The first phase of the renovation will be completed by the end of the year. 

Since 2017, Walmart has worked with Symbotic to optimize an automated technology solution to sort, store, retrieve and pack freight onto pallets in its Brooksville, Fla., distribution center. Under Walmart’s existing system, product arrives at one of its RDCs and is either cross-docked or warehoused, while being moved or stored manually. When it’s time for the product to go to a store, a 53-foot trailer is manually packed for transit. After the truck arrives at a store, associates unload it manually and place the items in the appropriate places.

Leveraging the Symbotic solution, a complex algorithm determines how to store cases like puzzle pieces using high-speed mobile robots that operate with a precision that speeds the intake process and increases the accuracy of freight being stored for future orders. This new technology investment uses a combination of AI-powered software systems, robotics and automation to sort, store, retrieve and pack merchandise onto pallets which are then shipped to stores. The solution is designed to get products onto shelves quicker.

According to Walmart, the system transforms existing RDCs into high-density, automated facilities that provide faster product intake, increased inventory accuracy and a 2X increase in building capacity. The RDC transformation model is designed to save store associates time by creating store- and aisle-ready pallets, which take the guesswork out of unloading trucks.

“Our regional distribution center in Menomonie is a high-volume facility that works hard to ensure stores in the surrounding areas are stocked with the items customers need,” said David Guggina, senior VP of innovation & automation, Walmart U.S. “Adding game-changing robotics, automation and AI-powered software systems to this facility will revolutionize an already impressive operation, fundamentally changing the way we distribute products to stores, and we’re just getting started.” 

Walmart’s Menomonie distribution center has been a pillar in our community for the last 29 years, and we’re honored to transform our building into an industry-leading, high-tech distribution center,” said Marcea Weiss, GM, Regional Distribution Center #6025, Walmart U.S. “This isn’t just an investment in our facility, but also in our associates, our community and our future. I couldn’t be prouder to be at the forefront of Walmart’s supply chain transformation.” 

Walmart operates three distribution centers, 99 retail stores and employs 33,000 associates in the state of Wisconsin.