Walmart plans to break ground on a new high-tech efficient grocery distribution center in Shafter, California. Computer algorithms deployed at the facility are expected to improve efficiency, lower transportation costs, and reduce food waste, the retailer says.
In a traditional distribution center, workers manually stack boxes and build pallets. At the new facility in California, Walmart associates will use technology from global automated logistics system solutions company WITRON to manage how boxes of perishable groceries such as produce, eggs, and flowers get packed onto pallets for shipping.
“Every product is measured and documented so that we know how to handle it,” said Shayne Wahlmeier, one of the engineers on Walmart’s new distribution center project. “A computer algorithm shows all the cases ordered for a given store and determines how to palletize them to maximize the space on a pallet or trailer. It also takes into account density — what’s crushable, what’s not.”
The new distribution center can move 40% more product than a traditional one because WITRON’s computer technology helps warehouse employees build more flexible and dense pallets, Walmart says. This allows more products to fit onto a single truck, which should lower transportation costs, according to the retailer.
In addition, fewer perishable products getting crushed during the palletizing process means a reduction in food waste. Addressing food waste is one of the goals outlined in Walmart’s 2018 sustainability report. The company is targeting zero waste in their Canada, Japan, UK, and US operations by 2025.
Last year, Walmart stores in Japan established partnerships with vendors nationwide to recycle fish traces. A total 1.1 million pounds of fish waste got recycled through the program, the company reported.
Earlier this month, Walmart Canada signed a deal with Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD) to use their food delivery platform in Vancouver. The platform helps Walmart fulfill last mile home delivery and reduces waste, truck trips, and greenhouse gas emissions through shared warehousing and consolidated orders, the two companies say.
Walmart’s 2018 sustainability report says that by the end of 2017, the company had diverted 78% of its waste from landfills globally. In the United States, the diversion rate reached 81%. Their new distribution center in Shafter is set to open in the fall of 2020.