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Walmart Bets On New High-Tech Consolidation Center To Win At ‘Inventory Flow’

Jason Lockard, Senior Vice President of Enterprise at BlueGrace Logistics sits down with Supply Chain Dive in a recent interview about Walmart’s high-tech consolidation centers and the “opportunity upstream in the supply chain to receive goods.”

AUTHOR:  | Feb. 26, 2019

For big retailers with a lot of suppliers, it doesn’t make much sense — for retailers or their vendors — to ship items directly from vendors to each individual store. It may not even make sense for vendors to ship to each regional distribution center.

That’s where consolidation centers come in.

“It’s an opportunity upstream in the supply chain to receive goods,” Jason Lockard, Senior Vice President of Enterprise for BlueGrace Logistics, told Supply Chain Dive in an interview. It allows companies to “receive these goods and get them in a more organized manner to consolidate into modes of transportation that are more cost-efficient.”

Challenges with the ‘old model’ of inbound logistics

Home Depot has been able to eliminate 4,000 inbound truckloads by using what it calls inbound freight consolidation centers. Last summer, the retailer announced it will spend $1.2 billion on 170 distribution centers by 2023.

Walmart also recently announced that this July, it will open a 340,000-square-foot high-tech consolidation center in Colton, California, that will receive, sort and ship freight from suppliers before sending them to a distribution center.

Consolidation centers themselves aren’t exactly new, Rob Montgomery, senior director of inventory flow and supply chain for Walmart, told Supply Chain Dive in an interview. “We’ve been running our own internal network for consolidation centers for over 20 years.”

“We’re having two chances to decide where to move the inventory in real time based on consumer demand.” – Rob Montgomery | Senior Director of Inventory Flow and Supply Chain, Walmart

The new Colton facility “is the first of its kind to leverage best-in-class inventory management and automated inventory receiving and sortation. The result is more efficient orders for our supplies and better in-stock for our customers,” he said.

While big suppliers could bring a truckload of inventory to a store, smaller suppliers can’t. Right now, Walmart’s small suppliers (who they define as suppliers who send less than a truckload to distribution centers) may receive up to 42 purchase orders (POs) — one for every Walmart distribution center.

Often, said Montgomery, suppliers hire less than truckload (LTL) carriers, who combine their orders with those of other smaller suppliers, then deliver them to distribution centers.

“There’s a lot of so-called inefficiencies in the old model, especially for suppliers that are shipping LTL directly into those regional distribution centers,” Lockard said.

Moving inventory based on real time demand

Consolidation centers seek to solve these inefficiencies. Items from vendors whose POs are smaller than what would fill an entire truck are consolidated with other similar shipments so that half-empty trucks aren’t showing up at stores… continue reading 

> Read the full article by Jen A. Miller | Supply Chain Dive