Walmart Launches High-Tech Market Fulfillment Center in Katy

Walmart Launches High-Tech Market Fulfillment Center in Katy Main Photo

2 Jan 2024

By: Katy Times

On Dec. 4, Walmart unveiled its latest Market Fulfillment Center (MFC) at the Katy Supercenter at 25108 Market Place Drive in Katy, near Katy Mills Mall. The high-tech center is the first fulfillment center to open in Texas and one of five nationally. A second Texas location will open in Wichita Falls later in December.

Store manager Robert Smith said that the MFC, which opened in October, has pivoted slightly from the original concept. The original plans called for more automation; Smith said that the company has since learned that there are some functions that are better performed by humans than by the company’s fleet of sophisticated robots. That realization resulted in the addition of about 15 full-time employees to the large warehouse, which is adjacent to an existing conventional Walmart store. Anna Mearidy, a 12-year Walmart veteran, was brought in as “store lead” for the fulfillment center and she works closely with Smith and his team.

Stocking the MFC is done by hand by Walmart associates; robots then carry stocked items to their designated location in the warehouse. There is a separate area for refrigerated items. Order fulfillment is a mix of manual and automated processes; robots can pull most items from their assigned spots in the warehouse. However, some items, such as produce, meats and household chemicals are handled by Walmart associates rather than the robots. Oversize items which would not fit in the robot carts – such as big screen TVs and bicycles – are also handled by associates. Associates use the system to begin preparing orders for customer pick-up about two hours ahead of time.

Smith said that online shopping for groceries is increasing exponentially and has continued to grow since the beginning of the pandemic. Walmart currently leverages stores to fulfill more than 50% of digital orders and local delivery networks to get product to customers faster and at lower cost, according to an advance press release from the company. Using advanced robotic technology, Walmart’s network of MFCs allows associates to manage larger volumes of online orders and minimize fulfillment times - resulting in fewer out-of-stock items and substitutions and better experiences for Walmart shoppers, the press release said.

As part of its continuous efforts to innovate and improve its supply chain, Walmart started its journey into MFCs with a successful proof-of-concept store in Salem, NM, in 2019. Since then, it has opened MFCs in Arkansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, and plans to continue opening market fulfillment centers in select stores throughout the nation in the coming years.

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