New Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, who took over for Michael Duke earlier this year, told the audience at the Code Conference a couple of weeks ago that Walmart had to do a better job in the wide ranging digital world, and that one key to that is likely to be 3D printing capabilities in its stores and DCs.
That news came as Walmart continues to struggle a bit in the sales area, especially in the US. In its recently ended Q1, sales at US stores open at least a year slipped 0.2 percent in the quarter, the fifth consecutive quarter of decline the metric, considered a key gauge of a retailer's financial performance.
Walmart US store traffic also fell 1.4% during the first quarter, building on a 1.8% decline from the year before.
Walmart primarily attributed the poor results to bad weather in much of the US during the quarter, mentioning "weather' some 18 times during the earnings call with analysts. That said, the company expects flat US results in the second quarter in now better weather.
Meanwhile, on stage at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, McMillon was asked about what he finds most interesting right now.
His response: "3D Printing is interesting to me. We have had some tests in this country and a couple of others, just bringing 3D printers into the store to show them to customers and create a mini-me, a statue of you, and we can't keep them in stock."
He believes that relatively soon, 3D printers will be used to create products for customers at Walmart retail stores around the world. He also thinks that such technology will eventually play a key role in speeding up shipments by producing products at the company's distribution centers.
One might infer from that thinking that simpler products would be produced in stores, using less expensive and sophisticated printers, and higher volume and/or more sophisticated items at the DC-level made with more capable machines.
It should be noted that Amazon has launched its own pilot program to sell 3-D printed objects on its website. The site offers such products as 3-D printed jewelry, toys, games and home décor.
Earlier this year, office products retail Staples announced a partnership with a company called 3D Systems to offer 3-D printing services in two Staples stores in New York City and Los Angeles.
(Supply Chain Trends and Issues Article - Continued Below)