Wal-Mart’s Supply Chain

A Business Success


Wal-Mart is the World’s Largest Retail Company




Ranked first in the Global Fortune 500 list in 2001-2002 financial year


History of Wal-Mart

The company‟s founder is Sam Walton. He was born in 1918 at Oklahoma. In 1940, he worked for the famous retailer, J C Penney.


History of Wal-Mart…
 Walton

gave up the job and decided to set up his own retail store. He purchased a store franchise in Arkansas. Offering significant discounts on prices, he became successful and acquired a second store in 3 years.

History of Wal-Mart…

By 1969, Walton had established 18 WalMart stores.
By late 1970s, the retail chain had established a pharmacy and an auto service center. In 1980s, Wal-Mart continued to grow due to huge customer demands in small towns.

History of Wal-Mart…

Wal-Mart was offering low prices, customer satisfaction guaranteed, and hours that were realistic for the way people wanted to shop.
– Open all night, for university students

 By

1984, there were 640 Wal-Mart stores in U.S.

History of Wal-Mart…

Wal-Mart suffered a setback in 1992, when Walton died. But it continued its growth in the 1990s, focusing on overseas stores.
– 1992, Mexico (joint venture with Cifra) – 1994, Canada (acquired 122 Woolco stores from Woolworth) – 1997, Germany (acquired 21 store of Wertkauf) – Korea, Brazil, and so on.

The Diffusion of Wal-Mart



History of Wal-Mart…

This phenomenal growth of WalMart is attributed to its continued focus on customer needs and reducing cost through efficient supply chain management practices.


Hub and Spoke System

In the early 1970s, Wal-Mart became one of the first retailing companies in the world to centralize its distribution system, pioneering the retail hub-and-spoke system. Under the system, goods were centrally ordered, assembled at a massive warehouse, known as „distribution center‟ (hub), from where they were dispatched to the individual stores (spoke).

Hub and Spoke System…
 The

hub and spoke system enabled Wal-Mart to achieve significant cost advantages by the centralized purchasing of goods in huge quantities..
– and distributing them through its own logistics infrastructure to the retail stores spread across the U.S.


Wal-Mart’s Procurement
 Wal-Mart

emphasized the need to reduce purchasing costs and offer the best price to the customer. company directly procured from manufacturers, by passing all intermediaries.

 The


Wal-Mart’s Procurement…
 Wal-Mart

finalizes a purchase deal only when it is fully confident that the products being bought is not available else where at a lower price.


Wal-Mart’s Procurement…
 Wal-Mart

spends a significant amount of time meeting vendors and understanding their cost structure. making the process transparent, the retailer can be certain that the manufacturers are doing their best to cut down costs.

 By

Using EDI for Procurement

The computer systems of Wal-Mart were connected to those of its suppliers. EDI enabled the suppliers to download purchase orders along with store-to-store sales information relating to their products sold. On receiving information about the sales of various products, the suppliers shipped the required goods to Wal-Mart‟s distribution centers.

Wal-Mart and China



Logistics Management
 An

important feature of Wal-Mart‟s logistics infrastructure was its fast and responsive transportation system. distribution centers were serviced by more than 3500 company owned trucks.

 The

Logistics Management…
 Wal-Mart

believed that it needed drivers who were committed and dedicated to customer service. company hired only experienced drivers who had driven more than 300,000 accident-free miles, with no major traffic violation.

 The


To make its distribution process more efficient, Wal-Mart also made use of a logistics technique called “cross-docking.”

In this system, the finished goods were directly picked up from the manufacturing plant, sorted out and then directly supplied to the customers.



The system reduced the handling and storage of finished goods, virtually eliminating the role of the distribution centers and stores.

The manufacturer directly forwarded the goods to a place called the “staging area.”
The goods were packed here according to the orders received from different stores and then directly sent to the respective customers.

Inventory Management

Wal-Mart invested heavily in IT and communication systems to effectively track sales and merchandise inventories in stores across the country. With the rapid expansion, it was essential to have a good communication system.

Hence, Wal-Mart set up its own satellite communication system in 1983.

Inventory Management…

Wal-Mart was able to reduce unproductive inventory by allowing stores to manage their own stocks, reducing pack sizes across many product categories, and timely price markdowns. Instead of cutting the inventory across the board, Wal-Mart made full use of its IT capabilities to make more inventories available in the case of items that customers wanted most, while reducing the overall inventory levels.

Inventory Management…

Employees at the stores had the “Magic Wand,” a hand-held computer which was linked to in-store terminals through a radio frequency network. These helped them to keep track of the inventory in stores, deliveries, and backup merchandise in stock at the distribution centers.

Inventory Management…

The order management and store replenishment of goods were entirely executed with the help of computers through the Point-of-Sales (POS) system. Through this system, it was possible to monitor and track the sales and merchandise stock levels on the store shelves.

Voice-based Order Filling (VOF)

In 1998, Wal-Mart installed a voice-based order filling (VOF) system in all its grocery distribution centers. Each person responsible for order picking was provided with a microphone/speaker headset, connected to the portable (VOF) system that could be worn on waist belt.

They were guided by the voice to item locations in the distribution centers.

Voice-based Order Filling (VOF)…

The VOF system also verified quantities picked, and could respond to a variety of requests such as providing product detail (type, price, barcode number, etc.) By installing the VOF system, Wal-Mart eliminated mispicks and product labeling costs since the system did not require paper lists and labels to be affixed on the goods.

Inventory Management… (quick replenishment)

Since the floor area of any Wal-Mart store varied between 40,000 to 200,000 square feet, movement of goods within the store was an important part of logistics operations. Wal-Mart made significant investments in IT to quickly locate and replenish goods at the stores.

Inventory Management… (pretty darn quick displays)

The company asked its suppliers to ship goods in store-ready displays called pretty darn quick (PDQ) displays. Goods were packed in PDQ displays that arrived at the stores ready to be boarded on the racks. Wal-Mart‟s employees could directly replace the empty racks at the stores with fully packed racks, instead of refilling each and every item at the racks.

Inventory Management… (retail link system)

In 1991, Wal-Mart had invested approximately $4 billion to build a retail link system. More than 10,000 Wal-Mart retail suppliers used the retail link system to monitor the sales of their goods at stores and replenish inventories.

Details of daily transactions (~10 million per day) were processed through this system.

Inventory Management… (retail link system)
 Retail

Link connected Wal-Mart‟s EDI network with an extranet, accessible to Wal-Mart‟s thousands of suppliers. suppliers could find out how their product was performing vis-avis competitors‟ products in a particular product category.

 The

Inventory Management… (retail link system)

Wal-Mart owned the largest and most sophisticated computer system in the private sector. The company used Massively Parallel Processor (MPP) computer system to track the movement of goods and stock levels. All information related to sales and inventories was passed on through an advanced satellite communication system.

 By

the mid 1990s, Retail Link had emerged into an Internet-enabled SCM system whose functions were not confined to inventory management alone, but also covered collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment (CPFR).



In CPFR, Wal-Mart worked together with its key suppliers on a real-time basis by using the Internet to jointly determine product-wise demand forecast. CPFR is defined as a business practice for business partners to share forecasts and results data through the Internet, in order to reduce inventory costs while at the same time, enhancing product availability across the supply chain.

CPFR: Hard to implement

Though CPFR was a promising supply chain initiative aimed at a mutually beneficial collaboration between Wal-Mart and its suppliers, its actual implementation required huge investments in time and money. A few suppliers with whom Wal-Mart tried to implement CPFR complained that a significant amount of time had to be spent on developing forecasts and analyzing sales data.


In October 2002, Wal-Mart asked its 14,000 suppliers to switch over from the existing Value Added Networks (VAN) EDI to web enabled EDI.

VANs route and manage EDI messages for their customers.
By implementing web-EDI, Wal-Mart can save millions of dollars in the form of license fees to the private VANs.



RFID Technology
(Radio Frequency Identification)

In efforts to implement new technologies to reduce costs and increase the efficiency, in July 2003, Wal-Mart asked its top 100 suppliers to be RFID compliant by January, 2005. Wal-Mart planned to replace bar-code technology with RFID technology.

The company believed that this replacement would reduce its supply chain management costs and enhance efficiency.

RFID Technology
(Radio Frequency Identification)

Because of the implementation of RFID, employees were no longer required to physically scan the bar codes of goods entering the stores and distribution centers, saving labor cost and time. Wal-Mart expected that RFID would reduce the instances of stock-outs at the stores.

RFID Technology
(Radio Frequency Identification)

Although Wal-Mart was optimistic about the benefits of RFID, analysts felt that it would impose a heavy burden on its suppliers.

To make themselves RFID compliant, the suppliers needed to incur an estimated $20 Million. Of this, an estimated %50 would be spent on integrating the system and making modifications in the supply chain software.

RFID Applications for Tracking Inventory



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