Disrupting the Supply Chain Game – The Walmart Way

A smiling ginger haired female picking up a brown carton with Walmart logo from an orange locker

In 1999, one of the biggest chocolate manufacturers in the world had a supply chain crisis. The company couldn't deliver $100 million worth of products to the stores in time for Halloween – the peak of the candy-buying season when the orders were pouring in left, right, and center.

This incident led to the company losing 8% of its stocks in just one day.

The two-decade-old incident now dwells in the past. Today, continuous technology disruptions have taken the supply chain to the next level.

Until the COVID-19 crisis hit. 

The pandemic posed some significant challenges in supply chains for various firms. Nationwide and international lockdowns brought everything to a halt, including the flow of raw materials and finished goods. Staff shortage was another unforeseen challenge that organizations faced, magnifying some of the already existing problems in their supply chain. 

How did Walmart Global Tech pivot to the evolving supply chain needs during the pandemic?

As the world's number one retail company, Walmart Inc. helps people save money and live better – anywhere and anytime. The company has over 275 million customers and members, who visit approximately 10,500 stores and clubs under 48 banners within 24 countries and eCommerce websites. 

Supply chain is our forte. 

At Walmart Global Tech, we've been pioneering new technologies to minimize spending on repetitive tasks. We aim to ensure that the customers receive their orders at lightning speed in a frictionless, predictable manner. 

We enable this by building reusable, scalable, agile, and flexible SaaS-based solutions to power our distribution and fulfillment centers. 

Over the past year, we've adopted several new systems to comply with supply chain trends across business functions. 

Our team provides our drivers and partners with the tools they need to get the right items, on time, in the right packaging to customers with end-to-end inventory management. 

The Global Marketplace platform, for instance, is a multi-tenant automated workflow-driven platform. It has accelerated the acquisition of sellers and supplier-driven cross-channel (ISAM/Item360) to drastically reduce the time taken for the item set up and better omni-channel assortment. 

In a similar vein, the fulfillment function at Walmart worked towards increasing store slot capacity, providing forward and reverse logistic capabilities for our sellers and profitable sourcing by rebalancing the network using AI/ML technologies

How are supply chain trends fueling our business?

A Walmart driverless delivery truck parked at an empty parking lot

Supply chain trends in technology are transforming the way business is conducted, and they will continue to evolve well into the future. As a result, emerging technologies are making a significant impact on our approach to finding apt supply chain solutions. 

Blockchain, for example, enables a consumer and seller to directly transact with each other without passing through any form of transaction medium or third-party handler. It significantly enhances supply chain traceability. 

In 2019, Walmart Global Tech piloted a Blockchain technology for end-to-end traceability of shrimp sourced in Andhra Pradesh, and shipped to select Sam's Club locations in the USA. This was the first-ever known use of Blockchain supply chain technology to track shrimp exports from local farms to overseas retailers. 

In mid-2021, Walmart introduced GoLocal

The back profile of a male associate wearing a yellow vest with text Walmart Go Local

The commercialized delivery platform offers a service where Walmart gets notified whenever a customer places an order using GoLocal. Then, a driver is dispatched to fulfill the same order as the next step. The "white-label" service gives precedence to clients' branding. 

The Home Depot, one of the world's biggest home improvement retailers, is relying on GoLocal for its same-day and next-day deliveries for various products, including but not limited to – tools, paint,  and similar supplies that can easily fit in a car. Additionally, the services will be extended to a select few markets. According to Stephanie Smith, the Senior Vice President of the supply chain, "This partnership brings us even closer to our goal of offering same-day or next-day delivery to 90 percent of the US population.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) now creates countless opportunities to predict demand, manage stock levels, optimize the supply chain, and free up time for associates so that they can serve customers. In addition, Internet of Things (IoT) allows retailers to provide a curated purchase experience, informed service engagements, and drive efficiency to transform the retail industry. 

Even immersive technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have come a long way from their nascent stage to creating a massive impact, especially in areas like customer experience. As a result, retailers are using them to fundamentally change the way consumers shop by creating a deeper, more interactive engagement.

Cloud computing is another critical technology currently being scaled up across the supply chain. According to industry estimates, over 50% of businesses expect their operations to be in the cloud over the next three years. In addition to cloud, innovative use of AI across the supply chain lifecycle is poised to benefit organizations significantly in improving efficiency and profitability through better-managed operations. 

Big Data, too, is a frontrunner in helping organizations transform their supply chain performances manifold. The analytics from the data is helping them deliver maximum benefits by assisting them to take a systematic approach. 

All these technologies are becoming highly pervasive. As technology evolves, it provides opportunities to find new and innovative solutions. 

What’s the future of supply chains?

A drone in flight holding a carton for delivery over a Walmart storefront

Digital autonomy is all set to be the future of supply chains in the future. In a survey by E&Y, 52% of executives say that the autonomous supply chain (e.g., robots in warehouses and stores, driverless forklifts and trucks, delivery drones, and fully automated planning) is either here or will be here by 2025.

There's also an acute need for connected tech across departments to help make predictive decisions. 

Keep watching this space to learn how Walmart Global Tech is helping shape the next-gen supply chain tech, powering the world's largest retail company.