Walmart is constructing high-tech warehouses in order to deliver things to customers faster and expand its online business.
Automation has also been used by Amazon, Kroger, and others to increase capacity and speed. Amazon bought Kiva Systems, a company that made wheeled robots for its warehouses, a decade ago. It has experimented with robots to decrease labor-intensive tasks and formed a $1 billion fund in April to invest in firms developing supply chain solutions.
Through a cooperation with British online grocer Ocado, Kroger began opening massive robot-powered distribution centres in the United States last year.
Walmart’s first new fulfilment center will open in Joliet, Illinois, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, and ship to customers across Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Three more will follow in McCordsville, Indiana; Lancaster, Texas; and Greencastle, Pennsylvania in the next three years, the company said.
Walmart said it will hire 4,000 people to work at the new facilities. The current starting pay at existing warehouses is $16 to $28 per hour and wages at the new ones will be at the higher end of that range, the company said. The retailer declined to share construction costs.
Walmart will open its first new fulfilment centre in Joliet, Illinois, and will ship to consumers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. In the next three years, the business plans to open three more in McCordsville, Indiana, Lancaster, Texas, and Greencastle, Pennsylvania.
According to Prince, Walmart shops will continue to play a role in the company’s supply chain, handling online orders for popular items as well as chilled and frozen groceries. Orders with a broader range of products, such as pantry basics and other dry groceries, will be handled by fulfilment centres.
Other parts of Walmart’s supply chain are also being revamped. Hundreds of businesses are becoming into mini-automated warehouses for online grocery deliveries. Walmart also said this week that it will add robotics to its 42 regional distribution centres, which replenish store shelves, in the coming years.