Wal-Mart: The world’s largest company. If Wal-Mart were a country, it would have the 27th largest GDP in the world. A total of over 11,000 stores worldwide, each of which measures, on average, the size of about 8 of the largest versions of Consum. The distribution centers to supply such large stores can measure up to about 3 million square feet (or about 280,000 square meters). It then should be no surprise that Wal-Mart has undisputed recognition for being the most logistically sophisticated company in the world.
Wal-Mart has state-of-the-art warehousing systems, nearing full-automation, miniscule amounts of inventory, leading cross-docking practices (in which product is taken directly to the shipping dock, instead of receiving, to avoid stocking expense, in cases where orders for that item are received), route optimization, and many other practices that many companies are already struggling to replicate.
However, Wal-Mart continues pushing harder to decrease waste, and optimize value. One instance is through the Electronic On-Board Recorder units, which not only tracks routes and positioning, but is being adapted to monitor driver’s foot movement, gear selection, and other driving decisions, with plans to retrain drivers with more efficient driving practices. Wal-Mart’s load-optimization software is some of the most sophisticated, optimizing truck-space. But the company goes beyond organizing boxes, to managing their content’s “value density.” Studies and research is conducted to reduce packaging, and even alter the design and chemistry of products, such as detergent formulas that reduce the water content, to make the product more value-dense.
The inventory system not only tracks stocking units perfectly, sending requests not just to the warehouse, but to the supplier as well, giving the entire supply chain real-time information on the products that need to be restocked. However, this software is beginning to retrieve this information before the product has even been bought, using shopping apps which consumers use to organize their shopping lists, and which links up to the supply chain’s demand information.
A book could be written about Wal-Mart’s logistics. The supermarket giant is going beyond standard practices, and has even set even less realistic goals of being supplied by 100% renewable energy, creating 0 waste, and sell products that sustain the environment. Perhaps 10 years ago, Wal-Mart was doing was many retailers are now only beginning to do. Hopefully in the near future, these seemingly insurmountable goals will be shared world-wide.