Walmart Expects Fully Automated Warehouse to Double Its Capacity

At the facility that is becoming Walmart’s first warehouse to handle most products with automation, workers are getting a view of how their jobs will change.

Part of the building has been automated while the other part remains manual until the conversion is completed by the end of the year, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Friday (July 28).

Together with this facility located in central Florida, more than 100 other Walmart warehouses in the United States will be fitted with automation in the coming years, according to the report.

In the part of the 1-million-square-foot facility in Florida that has been completed, an autonomous forklift unloads trucks, scanners determine where boxes should be sent, robotic arms load or unload boxes from pallets, and bots move boxes to their places on shelves that stretch from floor to ceiling, the report said.

Workers who used to lift boxes and steer pallet jacks and forklifts now keep an eye on the software controlling the automated tools, monitor those tools, watch for damaged boxes and ensure the accuracy of inventory, per the report.

Among the 900 workers at the facility, some enjoy having less manual labor and more mental stimulation, while others prefer the simplicity and physicality of moving boxes manually, according to the report.

Companywide, as it implements automation at additional warehouse facilities, Walmart said it expects that its workforce won’t shrink but will grow more slowly than it did in the past, the report said.

The company has found at the Florida warehouse that automation increases the facility’s capacity, accuracy and speed, while reducing costs, per the report. When fully automated, it will handle twice as many boxes.

Across the logistics industry, a new generation of autonomous robots is transforming fulfillment operations. At some companies, humanoid robots are being deployed to join the disembodied arms, automated storage, moving trays and other machines already being used to modernize back-end operations.

Walmart competitor Amazon currently operates over half a million robotic drive units and other robotic systems in its facilities around the world. In September, Amazon continued its move to automation by acquiring Belgian mechatronics business Cloostermans.

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