Walmart opens its 1st ‘next generation’ fulfillment center

The 1.1 million-square-foot, high-tech facility in Joliet, Illinois, will help boost shipping speeds across the Midwest, the retailer said.
Walmart fulfillment center
Walmart opened a massive fulfillment center in Joliet, Illinois, Wednesday. / Photo courtesy Walmart

Walmart on Wednesday opened the first of four planned fulfillment centers, a more than 1 million-square-foot, high-tech facility in Joliet, Illinois.

The massive fulfillment center, which the retailer refers to as its “next generation” facility, stores millions of items from that are picked, packed and efficiently shipped to consumers. Future fulfillment centers are slated to open over the next three years in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Texas, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said in June.

The first-of-its-kind facility uses a patent-pending process that combines human workers, robotics and machine learning to transform a 12-step fulfillment operation into five steps.

“Customers continue to expect faster delivery times and we are excited to be able to meet those needs with these new high-tech facilities,” Karissa Sprague, Walmart’s SVP of fulfillment network operations, said in a statement. “With the holidays around the corner, we’re excited to provide a more seamless experience for our customers.”

The Joliet facility, combined with 31 Walmart e-commerce facilities, will boost the shipping speed for and Walmart+ customers in the Midwest to bring next- or two-day shipping to shoppers in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, the company said.

Once all four fulfillment centers are built, Walmart could offer next- or two-day shipping to 75% of the country, the retailer said.

In Joliet, Walmart hopes to hire more than 1,000 workers at the facility by the end of the year.

Walmart has 184 retail locations in Illinois and more than 56,000 workers in the state, the company said.

As the pandemic pushed shoppers to order groceries and other items online, a number of retailers are investing heavily in large-scale, high-tech fulfillment centers to handle the deluge of digital orders.

Kroger has been steadily building robot-powered spoke facilities to act as last-mile, cross-dock locations for the grocer’s regional fulfillment centers. And Texas grocer H-E-B opened its fifth e-commerce fulfillment center in July.





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