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Supply Chain News: Walmart acquires Micro-Fulfillment Center Technology Provider Alert Innovation



Comes after Company announced Plans in May to Roll Out Technology from Symbotic at its Distribution Centers

Oct. 11, 2022


SCDigest Editorial Staff

Walmart announced late last week in was acquiring Alert Innovation a provider of so-called micro-fulfillment technology to power largely in-store ecommerce order picking.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Walmart has previously announced plans to automated distribution centers with technology from a company called Symbotic, vaguely described as based on robotics and artificial intelligence.

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The world’s largest retailer has been working with the Boston area-based Alert Innovation since 2016, and first began the first pilot of the company’s Alphabot System in a Walmart store backroom in Salem, NH, in 2019.

The news, coming in a blog post from David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation at Walmart, also reminds us we have another new term to enter into our vocabularies, and that is “market fulfillment centers” or MFCs, which refer to store-based fulfillment operations, and which replaces for some the older term “local fulfillment centers” (LFCs).

Though coming in different flavors, micro-fulfillment systems in general are characterized by high density SKU storage in a relatively small space – maybe 10,000 square feet - and use of a shuttle system that put away and selects products for customer orders at high speed, delivering them to work stations where humans assemble the items into grocery bags.

In February of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart plans to build around 100 automated small fulfillment centers attached to existing stores in the next few years that will use the Alert Innovation system.

“For years, we have been making big investments in technology and infrastructure across our supply chain to test and learn where we can make the biggest difference in fulfilling customer orders. In recent years, we’ve announced investments in technology for our regional distribution centers and next-generation fulfillment centers. Our market fulfillment centers, or MFCs, are a continuation of these efforts,” Guggina said in the blog. “Today, we are announcing a step forward in the evolution of our supply chain and MFCs.”

Guggina said the Alphabot system was specifically built for Walmart.

Financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed. It appears that Alert Innovation will keep its name and continue to sell to at least some other companies.

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In announcing its MFC strategy this past March, Walmart reported that in 2021 it boosted pickup and delivery capacity by 20% to meet digital demand, and the company plans to add another 35% capacity in 2022. The retailer said at the time that, over the past year, it has increased the number of orders coming from its stores by 170%, which came atop growth of over 500% the year before.


Walmart has previously announced plans to automated distribution centers with technology from a company called Symbotic, vaguely described as based on robotics and artificial intelligence.

Walmart plans to deploy Symbotic’s technology platform at all 42 of its regional DCs, the company said in May.

Meanwhile, Walmart rival Kroger is partnering with UK-based Ocado (also an on-line grocer) on robotic order fulfillment, with plans for automating order picking for ecommerce in at least 20 fulfillment centers, some built from scratch.

Do you have any thoughts on Walmarts efulfillment automation plans? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below (email) or in the Feedback section.




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