These fulfillment centers are where online orders will be packed and shipped. They are the first of a new breed of logistics for Walmart. The technology-heavy investments they are making involve robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Walmart said they were working with Knapp, an international logistics provider, to replace their current 12-step manual process with a new 5 steps and doubling the number of orders a location can fulfill in a day. Instead of moving product with people, the new approach will have robots shuttle skiffs to stagers directly, eliminating the need for floor personnel to walk up to nine miles or more a day.
"These four next-generation [fulfillment centers] alone could provide 75% of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping on millions of items," David Guggina, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Automation at Walmart U.S., wrote in a blog post.
When the four new centers join the company’s existing 31 dedicated e-commerce fulfillment centers, Walmart believes it will be able to reach 95% of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping. And with its 4,700 physical stores, the company could offer same-day delivery to about 80% of the U.S.
Both Walmart and Amazon are focusing on their weaknesses as compared to each other. Walmart is spending billions on logistics and automation and Amazon is spending billions on new physical stores, particularly for groceries (where Walmart dominates.)
Walmart’s new fulfillment centers will be located in Joliet, Illinois; McCordsville, Indiana; Lancaster, Texas; and Greencastle, Pennsylvania—with each planning to hire over 1,000 new workers.
Amazon currently has 253 fulfillment centers, 110 sortation centers, and 467 delivery stations in North America, not to mention hundreds of thousands of drivers and over 100 Amazon Air cargo aircraft at the end of 2021.