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Walmart’s Local Fulfillment Centers Staffed by Robots

Walmart’s Local Fulfillment Centers Staffed by Robots

Feb. 18, 2021
Rather than an associate walking the store to fulfill an order from the shelves, automated bots retrieve the items from within the fulfillment center.

In an effort to increase both the speed and convenience of pickup and delivery, Walmart is planning to scale a number of its stores, so that can serve as local fulfillment centers.

The company describes these centers as compact, modular warehouses built within, or added to, a store.

The company will use these centers to store both fresh and frozen items,  as well as consumables and electronics.

But you won’t see people in these centers.  Rather than an associate walking the store to fulfill an order from our shelves, automated bots retrieve the items from within the fulfillment center. Items are then brought to a picking workstation for the order to be assembled. Once the order is collected the system stores it until it's ready for a customer or delivery driver to collect.

“We’ve always said personal shoppers are the secret to our pickup and delivery success, and that remains true,” explained. Tom Ward, senior vice president of Customer Product, Walmart U.S in an announcement on  Jan. 27, 2021. “So, while the system retrieves the order for assembly, a personal shopper handpicks fresh items like produce, meat and seafood, and large general merchandise from the sales floor.

The first center was piloted in 2019 in Salem, New Hampshire, and Ward says the company was happy with the results which included being able to pick more orders quickly. That in turn allowed orders to be picked up or delivered within an hour. Also, one local center can fill orders for many stores, not just the one where it is located.

Work to ensure optimate efficiency will be done with Walmart’s technology partners Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric.  

We’ll be building local fulfillment centers with various technology partners, including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric. “With these partners, we’ll be testing different orientations and add-on innovations to understand what works best in different environments,” says Ward in the statement. “For example, in some locations, we’ll be adding on to our stores. In others, the fulfillment centers will sit inside the existing store footprint. Finally, in some stores, we’ll be adding automated pickup points. Think of it as the ultimate convenience that allows customers and delivery drivers to drive up, scan a code, grab their order and go!”

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