The progressive press had a field day with "woke" Walmart highly publicized February decision to hikes wages for 425,000 workers to an average above $15 an hour. We doubt the obvious follow up - the ongoing stealthy replacement of many of its minimum wage workers with machines - will get the same amount of airtime.
As Chain Store Age reports, Walmart is applying artificial intelligence to the palletizing of products in its regional distribution centers. I.e., it is replacing thousands of workers with robots.
Since 2017, the discount giant 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 Symbiotic 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. By using dense modular storage, the solution also expands building capacity.
In addition, by using palletizing robotics to organize and optimize freight, the Symbiotic solution creates custom store- and aisle-ready pallets.
Why is Walmart doing this? Simple: According to CSA, "Walmart expects to save time, limit out-of-stocks and increasing the speed of stocking and unloading." More importantly, the company hopes to further cut expenses and remove even more unskilled labor from its supply chain.
This solution follows tests of similar automated warehouse solutions at a Walmart consolidation center in Colton, Calif., and perishable grocery distribution center in Shafter, Calif.
Walmart plans to implement this technology in 25 of its 42 RDCs.
“Though very few Walmart customers will ever see into our warehouses, they’ll still be able to witness an industry-leading change, each time they find a product on shelves,” said Joe Metzger, executive VP of supply chain operations at Walmart U.S. “There may be no way to solve all the complexities of a global supply chain, but we plan to keep changing the game as we use technology to transform the way we work and lead our business into the future.”