Late last month, Walmart Inc. announced the completion of renovations at its retrofitted regional distribution center (RDC) in Palestine, Texas.
This multi-million-dollar investment to the 1.2 million sq. ft. facility is part of a broader initiative that the retailer announced last year to renovate all 42 regional distribution centers with automated technology. The company said the technology will help it modernize its supply chain network to increase the speed, efficiency and safety at which products are distributed.
“Walmart’s Palestine distribution center has been a pillar in the community for the last 42 years, and we’re excited to transform our building into an industry-leading, high-tech distribution center. This isn’t just an investment in our facility, but also our associates, our community, and our future. I couldn't be more proud to be at the forefront of Walmart’s supply chain transformation,” said Marty Denney, general manager, regional distribution center at Walmart U.S.
Walmart uses AI, robotics to speed up distribution
Walmart’s supply chain is undergoing a digital transformation to ensure customers can get the items they want, when and how they want them, it said. Regional distribution centers are a strategic part of Walmart’s broader supply chain network and exist to keep its more than 4,700 stores stocked with food items, home goods and tech gadgets.
The centers use AI-powered software systems, robotics and automation to sort, store, retrieve and pack merchandise onto pallets which are then shipped to stores. For customers, this means they will find that products get onto shelves even faster, it said.
“Adding game-changing automation and AI-powered software systems to this facility will revolutionize an already impressive operation, changing the way we distribute products to stores, and we’re just getting started,” said Mike Gray, senior vice president, supply chain operations at Walmart.
Altogether, the technology transforms existing RDCs into high-density, automated facilities that provide faster product intake, increased inventory accuracy and increased building capacity. It saves store associates time by creating store- and aisle-ready pallets which take the guesswork out of unloading trucks and provide them with more time to serve customers, it said.
Finally, the technology also works to increase associate safety while evolving jobs into those that offer new skills in robotics and technology, are more fulfilling and result in longer term employment. New jobs include that of cell operator and maintenance technician, among others.
Continued investment in Texas community
During the grand opening ceremony, Walmart celebrated its commitment to the community by presenting two $2,000 donations to local independent school districts, Grapeland and Palestine, along with a $3,000 donation to the East Texas Food Bank.
Since 2015, Walmart has averaged more than $1 billion in annual donations each year to a variety of local causes and organizations.
The facility employs nearly 1,000 associates with more positions becoming available as operations continue to grow.
Walmart associates are provided a path of opportunity beginning on their first day. Associates may participate in Walmart’s Live Better U program, where they can earn a college degree in business, technology, supply chain management or more without the burden of debt, with Walmart paying 100% of college tuition and books.
Other career advancement opportunities include Walmart Supply Chain Academies, which pay associates to learn through immersive teaching that combines technology, classroom training, and ongoing coaching in role.