Walmart brings automation to regional distribution centers

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture

Walmart is applying artificial intelligence to the palletizing of products in its regional distribution centers.

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 Symbotic 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 Symbotic solution creates custom store- and aisle-ready pallets. Walmart expects to save time, limit out-of-stocks, and increasing the speed of stocking and unloading.

This solution follows tests of similar automated warehouse solutions at a Walmart consolidation center in Colton, Calif., and a perishable grocery distribution center in Shafter, Calif. 

[Read More: Supply chain first for Walmart]

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.”