BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is adding small local fulfillment centers to more stores as it seeks to fill pickup and delivery orders faster and more efficiently.
“Our customers love the speed and convenience of pickup and delivery, and we’re committed to finding faster ways to serve them, which is why we’re scaling the number of stores that will also serve as local fulfillment centers,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product for Walmart U.S., wrote Wednesday on the company’s web site. “We’re already planning dozens of locations, with many more to come.”
A local fulfillment center (LFC) is a compact, modular warehouse built within, or added to, a store, Ward explained.
“In addition to fresh and frozen items, LFCs can store thousands of the items we know customers want most, from consumables to electronics. 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.”
Walmart still relies on the human touch, Ward pointed out.
“We’ve always said personal shoppers are the secret to our pickup and delivery success, and that remains true,” he said. “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.”
Walmart is working with technology partners — including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric — on the LFCs, allowing the retailer to try out different approaches.
“For example, in some locations, we’ll be adding on to our stores,” Ward said. “In others, the fulfillment centers will sit inside the existing store footprint.”
Walmart also plans to add automated pickup points at some stores that will allow customers and delivery drivers to drive up, scan a code, grab their order and go.