It's no secret that Walmart is gearing up for a lengthy fight against rival Amazon.
Walmart's competitive advantages are their stores - and to complete last-mile deliveries, they must create local fulfillment centers (LFC) with extensive automation to keep up with a surge in online orders.
Walmart's Tom Ward, SVP of Customer Product, published a blog post on the company's website outlining how LFCs, a modular warehouse added to an existing store, will be automated and stocked with additional items that are popular with customers.
Ward explains how LFCs work:
"Instead of an associate walking the store to fulfill an order from our shelves, automated bots retrieve the items from within the fulfillment center. The items are then brought to a picking workstation, where the order can be assembled with speed.
We've always said personal shoppers are the secret to our pickup and delivery success, and that remains true. 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.
Once the order is collected, the system stores it until it's ready for pickup. This whole process can take just a few minutes from the time the order is placed to the time it's ready for a customer or delivery driver to collect," he wrote.
LFCs can store thousands of popular items, from consumables to electronics to fresh and frozen items.
In Salem, New Hampshire, a Walmart store began an LFC pilot test in late 2019. Ward explained the "technology is impressive."
He lists several reasons why LFCs are game-changing technology and will give Amazon a run for its money:
- More availability: We are able to pick more orders and do it quicker, creating more availability for customers.
- Faster fulfillment: The system's speed can allow orders to be picked up or delivered within the hour.
- Greater efficiency: One local fulfillment center can fulfill orders for many stores, which means its benefits can be felt by customers in stores nearby.
Ward adds some stores will be outfitted with automated drive-throughs. He said, "think of it as the ultimate convenience that allows customers and delivery drivers to drive up, scan a code, grab their order and go!"
In another redesign, this time within stores, Walmart reformated the inside layout to appear more like airports to make the shopping experiencing easier.
This decade will decide who comes out on top if that is Amazon or Walmart.