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Walmart reported plans to open four new automated fulfillment centers, including in Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, over the next three years. Published reports said the fourth facility is slated for Texas.

Walmart plans four new high-tech fulfillment centers

Automated facilities to enable boost in online order volume and speed

Continuing the ramp-up of its supply chain capabilities, Walmart plans to build four new high-tech fulfillment centers, including in Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Plans call for a 1.1 million-square-foot automated fulfillment center to open in Joliet, Ill. (45 miles southeast of Chicago), this summer; a 2.2 million-square-foot facility to open in McCordsville, Ind. (20 miles northeast of Indianapolis), in spring 2023; and a 1.5 million-square-foot center to open in Greencastle, Pa. (south-central Pennsylvania), in 2024, Walmart said Friday.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant didn’t disclose the location of the fourth high-tech fulfillment center, but Bloomberg reported that the facility is slated for Texas.

Walmart said the new fulfillment centers will use the latest automation technology to provide online consumers — including members of the Walmart+ customer benefits program — with access to next- or two-day shipping on “more items than ever before” while bringing the company’s speed of fulfillment to a higher level. The Joliet facility will serve customers in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio; the McCordsville facility customers in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio; and the Greenscastle facility customers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

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According to Walmart, the new high-tech fulfillment centers will double the storage capacity and double the number of customer orders that can be filled in a day.

In addition, the four new fulfillment centers will employ more than 4,000 associates combined and introduce tech-focused jobs such as control technicians, quality audit analysts and flow managers, the company said.

“We’re building four next-generation fulfillment centers over the next three years, with the first opening this summer in Joliet, Ill.,” David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation for Walmart U.S., said in a blog post on Friday. “These FCs will be the first of their kind for Walmart, using the powerful combination of people, robotics and machine learning to set an entirely new precedent for us on the speed of fulfillment while continuing to create a positive work environment for our associates.”

Walmart’s fulfillment centers (FCs) differ in function from its distribution centers (DCs). FCs are used to store millions of items ordered via to be picked, packed and shipped directly to customers as soon as the next day. Meanwhile, the retailer’s DCs focus on receiving, storing and distributing product to Walmart stores.

“What makes these buildings a first-of-their-kind?” Guggina said of the four upcoming fulfillment centers. “For starters, we’ve partnered with Knapp, a tech company for intelligent fulfillment solutions, to develop an automated, high-density storage system that streamlines a manual, 12-step process into just five steps. We’ve been perfecting this system in our fulfillment center in Pedricktown, N.J., and have seen how the benefits of this technology are wide-ranging and include more comfort for associates, double the storage capacity and double the number of customer orders we’re able to fulfill in a day.”

The four upcoming FCs alone could provide 75% of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping on millions of items, including Marketplace items shipped by Walmart Fulfillment Services, according to Walmart. In tandem with the retailer’s traditional FCs, the new facilities can reach 95% of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping and, leveraging the fulfillment capabilities of stores, can offer same-day delivery to 80% of the population. Currently, Walmart uses its 31 dedicated e-commerce fulfillment centers and 4,700 stores, located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population, to fulfill online orders.

“We continue to modernize our supply chain network and prepare for growth in our digital business,” Karisa Sprague, senior vice president of supply chain e-commerce fulfillment at Walmart, said in a statement. “And [these new facilities] will play an integral role in helping us serve even more customers and Walmart+ members with access to fast shipping on millions of items.”

Guggina noted that Walmart strategically locates the FCs to pair most effectively with its 210 DCs and 4,700 stores.

“Together, this system of fulfillment assets is optimized to get orders to customers fast and efficiently. In this way, we show our customers they need to look no further than Walmart to get what they need, when they need it,” he explained in the blog. “From building new, high-tech fulfillment centers to retrofitting our regional distribution centers, we continue to modernize and transform our supply chain by adding game-changing automation technology to our facilities. Our ability to test, embed and scale automation rapidly is powered by Walmart Control Services, a technology platform developed by Walmart Global Technology that gives us the flexibility to plug automated solutions from partners like Knapp, Symbotic and Witron into our vast supply chain network.”

Early last week, Walmart unveiled plans to automate all its regional DCs under an expanded partnership with artificial intelligence and robotics specialist Symbotic. The retailer is slated to deploy Symbotic’s robotics and software automation platform at all 42 of its regional DCs. Last July, Walmart announced that Symbotic’s technology would be implemented in 25 regional DCs.

In November, Walmart announced plans to construct two high-tech DCs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The project in Lancaster, Texas, includes a 1.5 million-square-foot automated fulfillment center expected to open in 2023 and a 730,000-square-foot automated grocery DC slated to open in 2024. Walmart said the facilities will be among the largest automated fulfillment and distribution centers in its network.

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