Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Wal-Mart on the move

June 5, 2009

bentonvilledistributioncenterMoving goods quickly and efficiently is key to Wal-Mart’s low-price strategy. On Thursday, Reuters got a first-hand look at the discounter’s Bentonville, Arkansas, distribution center that serves as a prototype for any new general merchandise distribution centers the company will add.

“Logistics is the lifeblood of Wal-Mart,” said Kevin Jones, a Wal-Mart regional vice president, who underscored that several of the world’s biggest retailer’s chief executives, including Mike Duke, Lee Scott and David Glass, led logistics operations earlier in their careers.

The facility, which is among more than 140 Wal-Mart distribution centers in the United States, has 1.2 million square feet under its roof and services 120 stores in four states.

Twelve miles of conveyor belts snake through the facility, which combined receives and ships 400,000 to 500,000 cases of product each day. To put that into perspective, one of the roughly 400 trucks that come in or out daily can carry 1,500 to 1,800 cases per trip.

Here is a quick view of the conveyor system.

Sixty percent of the goods that come into the facility are processed and put on trucks enroute to stores in less than one hour.

“It takes a box about 45 minutes to traverse this distribution center,” Jones said.  “Our goal is not to have stuff sitting here because that is not efficient.”

(Photo: Wal-Mart/Video: Lisa Baertlein)

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