Contact Us

Walmart Bringing Robotics To All Of Its Regional Distribution Centers

One of the Symbotic robots installed in a Walmart distribution center

Walmart is expanding its use of robotics and software automation to all 42 of its regional distribution centers in the U.S.

The retail behemoth is planning to make further use of automation technology company Symbotic's platforms over the next eight years or so, an expansion of Walmart's previous commitment to use the tech in 25 of its regional centers, a subset of its larger portfolio of distribution centers.

Symbotic software orchestrates a team of robots to receive, store and retrieve products in a fulfillment center. The system differs from more conventional automation in that in most warehouses, robots are anchored in place, limiting their flexibility, while Symbotic specializes in robots that can move on their own as part of a warehouse system, knowing where to go via AI software.

"This system uses a complex algorithm to store cases like puzzle pieces using high-speed mobile bots," Walmart U.S. Executive Vice President of Supply Chain Operations Joe Metzger wrote in 2021

By using dense modular storage, the system also expands building capacity, Metzger said. And by using the high-speed robotics to organize and optimize freight, it creates custom store- and aisle-ready pallets, "which take the guesswork out of unloading trucks," he wrote.

Walmart has already begun embedding Symbotic technology in some of its regional distribution centers, a process that began last year. Since 2017, the retail giant has been testing Symbotic tech at its Brooksville, Florida, distribution center. 

Walmart's increased automation comes as the cost of human labor has risen, as has the pressure to deliver goods to stores — or directly to consumers — faster. Other major retailers, such as Kroger and Albertsons, are similarly upping the automation in their fulfillment centers, Pymnts reports.

Massachusetts-based Symbotic was founded by Rick Cohen, owner of C&S Wholesale Grocers, the nation’s largest grocery wholesaler. Symbotic is preparing to go public in a $5.5B deal with a special-purpose acquisition company sponsored by venture capital giant SoftBank.