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How Walmart Warehouse Employees Work Hand In Hand With Automation

FoxBot autonomous forklifts will be rolled out at 4 of the retailer’s high-tech distribution centers
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
Walmart autonomous forklift
Associates at four of Walmart's high-tech distribution centers can now utilize autonomous forklifts to more effectively move products.

Walmart’s first high-tech distribution center, located in Brooksville, Fla., has been testing and pioneering new technologies for the company for many years. Distribution center 6020 was most recently the testing ground for a new autonomous forklift system that promises to improve associate skills and better their jobs while also building the retailer’s business.

Following a 16-month proof of concept with the machines, which were developed by Fox Robotics, Walmart will now introduce 19 of the autonomous forklifts across four of its high-tech distribution centers. 

“Associates are being trained to operate the FoxBot autonomous forklift, designed to fully automate the warehouse loading dock. And so far, it’s working,” wrote Maurice Gray, general manager of DC 6020. “That’s why Walmart invested growth capital for a minority stake in Fox Robotics, demonstrating a multi-year commitment to the company and its technology.”

According to Gray, associates can employ the FoxBot forklifts’ AI-powered machine vision and dynamic planning to safely and accurately unload pallets from incoming trucks. Pallets are then moved and inducted into the automated storage and retrieval system. From there, instead of unloading the pallets manually, associates using the forklifts are able to consider the best, most efficient way to unload trailers based on their own experience. 

[RELATED: Inside Walmart’s ‘Adaptive Retail’ Era]

“Sort of like playing Tetris, our associates’ new role is becoming more like a game owner,” wrote Gray. He also explains that where associates used to unload manually, they can now direct a FoxBot autonomous forklift to three times the same output. 

“Our new autonomous forklift program with Fox Robotics is proof positive that when you empower associates, embrace innovation and welcome new opportunities, you’ll see growth for the business and its people,” said Shayne Wahlmeier, Walmart’s VP of innovation and automation. 

Want to learn more about this trending industry topic? The top retailers (like Walmart) and solution providers in grocery will be talking about all of these innovations and so much more at Progressive Grocer's annual GroceryTech event in Dallas on June 5-7. Click here for more information and to register now. 

Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while its Sam’s Club division is No. 8. PG also named Walmart one of its Retailers of the Century.

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