Robots are about to invade Lancaster, a suburb just south of Dallas. Not in the cities’ streets, but in two new sprawling Walmart facilities that will be so high-tech, 400 new employees will require STEM skills to work there.
A 1.5 million-square-foot automated fulfillment center is slated to open in Lancaster in 2023, followed by a 730,000 square-foot automated grocery distribution center in 2024. Among the largest such Walmart centers in the U.S., the new facilities will create around 1,000 full-time jobs across the region, the company says. Forty percent of those new hires will require the STEM skills to perform their work.
“These high-tech facilities will include game-changing innovations that are radically disrupting the supply chain,” Joe Metzger, EVP of supply chain operations at Walmart U.S., said in a statement, “getting products onto store shelves and items shipped to our customers even faster, while saving time for our associates.”
Walmart is implementing Symbiotic robotics systems in 25 centers
In July, Walmart announced it is partnering with Symbiotic to implement robotics-based automation systems in 25 of Walmart’s 42 regional distribution centers. Symbiotic’s new tech system uses robots to sort, store, retrieve, and pack freight onto pallets.
In a July post, Metzger called the Symbiotic systems “a game changer.”
“Along with saving time, limiting out-of-stocks, and increasing the speed of stocking and unloading, we’ll also have the chance to train associates on how to use the new equipment, creating new skills and preparing them for jobs in the future,” Metzger wrote. “And because the technology decreases the need for our associates to handle freight, it removes one of the toughest aspects of supply chain work in material handling.”
High-speed mobile bots store cases like puzzle pieces
“This system uses a complex algorithm to store cases like puzzle pieces using high-speed mobile bots—operating with a precision that speeds the intake process and increases the accuracy of freight being stored for future orders,” Metzger wrote in his July post.
“By using dense modular storage, it also expands building capacity. And by using high-speed palletizing robotics to organize and optimize freight, it creates custom store- and aisle-ready pallets, which take the guesswork out of unloading trucks,” he added.
Moving more than twice the volume of traditional centers
The new Lancaster facilities will play a critical role in Walmart’s supply chain moving forward, the company says. “Through the combination of Walmart associates and automation technology, the high-tech facilities will move more than two times the volume of a traditional fulfillment and grocery distribution center all while improving the accuracy, quality and speed of the fulfillment and distribution of products.”
Walmart chose Lancaster for the area’s ‘pipeline of talent’
“We’re making a significant investment in this region because of the inclusive, diverse, and qualified pipeline of local talent that reflect Walmart’s values,” said Karissa Sprague, SVP of supply chain human resources at Walmart U.S., in the statement. “Our investment in technologies and high-tech facilities today pave the way for jobs of the future that are supported by automation and will allow opportunities for an upskilled workforce.”
Local politicos welcome Walmart’s move
Lancaster Mayor Clyde Hairston looks forward to the two centers’ impact on his local, growing economy.
“This is a true example of my philosophy that ‘Positive, progressive partnerships produce prosperity for all,’ Hairston said. “Working together in a collaborative atmosphere always benefits the whole.”
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price sees the new facilities as anchoring a key Dallas County industrial base.
“Walmart continues to bring economic viability to the fastest-growing industrial area in the country. We are glad that this new facility will anchor in the Dallas County Inland Port area,”Price said in the statement. “This investment is a boon for both Southern Dallas County and Northern Ellis County.”
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