This July, a newly built, 340,000-square-foot high-tech consolidation center in Colton, California, will be the first in Walmart’s supply chain to receive, sort and ship freight. This automated technology will enable three times more volume to flow throughout the center and helps Walmart deliver the right product to the right store.
This massive Walmart-owned center, which will open in July with 150 full-time associates, can move three times as many cases. It will grow to employ more than 600 associates by 2021. With the combined might of people and world-class logistic technology, this facility will be the most efficient consolidation center in Walmart’s supply chain.
Expanding its portfolio of high-tech distribution centers, last October Walmart announced that it had broken ground on a tech-enabled perishable grocery distribution center in Shafter, California.
What is a Consolidation Center?
Consolidation centers have a specialized role in moving products quickly on their journey to the customer.
These centers receive less than a truckload (known in the industry as LTL) of general merchandise items like toys and kitchen appliances from suppliers, consolidate quantities of this freight in a full truckload (TL) and ship it to regional distribution centers.
This allows Walmart’s 42 regional centers to focus on the next step – distributing products to stores.
The consolidation centers take multiple orders and consolidate them to make the process more efficient for distribution centers across the country.
How Technology Creates Simplicity
Walmart has consolidation centers today, but the process is manual. Right now, merchandise suppliers create and ship 42 separate orders through the same consolidation center that then forwards the orders on to each of the 42 regional distribution centers where they are officially received and counted.
This makes reacting to order inaccuracies a challenge, because associates may not discover them until the orders are planned to be at the store.
The new system enables suppliers to fill one massive order instead of 42. New software automatically scans and counts the product immediately when it arrives and documents the information in the systems, so Walmart will be able to react faster to order-filling issues.
Suppliers are doing all the work to sort, separate and keep track of all 42 orders. Most of the time, they ship the orders as soon as they are ready, which can result in trucks that are not full delivering products.
This additional work adds shipping cost to the products. It also means additional trucks on the road, resulting in more carbon emissions and traffic. The technology at Colton solves these problems and creates savings we can pass on to the customer in the form of lower prices.
Responding at the Speed of Retail
Automating the receiving upstream in the consolidation center allows supply chain teams to group products based on how they are stocked, making unloading simpler. “We’re going to make the regional distribution centers more efficient,” said Geno Bell, senior director of the consolidation center network.
This new center is also a warehouse. When it comes to reacting to unexpected events such as sudden changes in weather, having products separated and stored further upstream allows Walmart’s supply chain to react even faster to get the right products to the right places. “With this new technology, we can be surgical and responsive in getting merchandise into stores,” Bell continued.