Walmart is taking a major step forward with its supply chain and order fulfillment operations thanks to its acquisition of Boston-based robotics automation company Alert Innovation. The retailer has been working with Alert Innovation since 2016 to customize technology for its market fulfillment centers.
Alert Innovation’s technology will allow Walmart to leverage its 4,700-store footprint for storage and fulfillment, meaning orders can be fulfilled quickly and conveniently through pickup and delivery. Walmart piloted its first market fulfillment center in New Hampshire in late 2019 with Alert’s fully autonomous Alphabot System technology that stores, retrieves and dispenses orders by moving horizontally, laterally and vertically across three temperature zones.
“We are committed to exceeding customer expectations and serving them in new ways, whether it’s in a store, curbside, or at their home,” said David Guggina, SVP of innovation and automation at Walmart U.S. “Bringing the best of Alert’s technology and capabilities in-house will enable us to reach more customers quicker by deploying MFCs with greater speed, providing both an unmatched shopping experience and a competitive advantage in omnichannel fulfillment.”
Alert Innovation will continue to operate under its own brand based in the Boston area. “We will continue leveraging our development, manufacturing and deployment expertise to enable Walmart to build and scale MFC technology in its stores,” said Fritz Morgan, Alert Innovation CEO. “With Walmart, we have the opportunity to positively impact millions of lives through the Alphabot System.”
According to Guggina, bringing Alert’s technology and capabilities in-house will enable Walmart to reach customers quicker and provide both an unmatched shopping experience and a competitive advantage in omnichannel fulfillment. The acquisition is part of the retailer’s broader goal to bring next-generation fulfillment centers to its supply chain.
“Looking ahead, we will continue to modernize our supply chain operations through investments in robotics and automation in our stores and distribution and fulfillment centers, creating exciting new experiences for customers that are unique to Walmart,” wrote Guggina in a company blog post.
Last month, Walmart officially opened its first “next-gen” fulfillment center in Joliet, Ill., southwest of Chicago. The 1.1-million-square-foot site is set up for maximum efficiency, using advanced robotics and machine learning to cut down a manual 12-step process to a patent-pending five-step process. It's the first of four planned fulfillment centers.
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 The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Sam’s Club is No. 8 on the list.