Community

From Katrina to Flint, Using Our Strengths to Help

The day Hurricane Katrina made landfall, I found myself being pulled into a meeting with one of the early responders: Walmart.

As a Red Cross employee, I had the opportunity to serve as a liaison between the Red Cross and Walmart and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had it set in my mind that the conversation would probably focus on the disaster’s impact on the stores or the impact it was going to have on the bottom line. I could not have been more wrong.

Those in the room had one thing on their minds: helping their associates and their families. They asked questions like, “Is our Walmart family safe? Are we doing what we need to do to make sure they have access to their benefits and paychecks? How can we ensure they keep their jobs?” Seeing this play out in person, I jumped at the chance to join Walmart the following year, and just over 10 years later I’m now helping to lead global disaster response and preparedness initiatives for Walmart and the Walmart Foundation.

I remember it clearly. A fleet of Walmart trucks lined the highway, each filled with the supplies that would eventually stock “pop-up” stores that sprung up throughout New Orleans. Food and water, even hygiene products, were all made readily available to anyone who needed it. The experience of Katrina showed us that we had an incredible opportunity to draw on our strengths – our presence in thousands of communities; our associates’ compassion and expertise; the ability to source life-sustaining products such as food and water; our logistics and operations capabilities; our philanthropy; and our relationships with other community leaders – to help out our neighbors when they needed it most.

Fast forward 10 years and enter Flint, Michigan, Store Manager Beth Harris. Beth was calling about a rising issue that Flint was facing – a water crisis like no other – and she saw a way that we could lend a helping hand. With help from other companies, we set out to help make sure Flint’s kids had constant access to safe drinking water by committing millions of bottles of water to Flint’s school systems. Turns out the rest of the country felt the same way, as Flint schools were overwhelmed by similar donations. So much that they were forced to convert classrooms into makeshift storage rooms.

Given Walmart’s large logistics and warehousing network, we saw a new opportunity for us to assist. Over a period of months, we researched the workable options and found a partner in the state of Michigan to secure nearby storage warehouses and worked out a delivery system to individual schools. This allowed the schools to get kids back in their classrooms and learning. But we didn’t stop there.

Literally millions of plastic bottles were flowing into the community, so without a recycling program in place in Flint, all those bottles would soon convert into waste. So again, we worked with a coalition of partners to ensure all Flint schools had access to a recycling program that will help alleviate the burden of waste and engage a new generation of recyclers.

While the circumstances of every disaster are unique, we are uniquely positioned to meet the evolving needs of the communities impacted. It truly is wonderful that we are able to do so much, but it’s not just Walmart. We have countless partners that play just as an important a role in serving our communities when they need it most.

Ten years ago, I learned about Walmart’s culture. Today, I’m proud to be a part of it.

Learn more about how Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have given back by checking out our recently released 2016 giving report.

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Business

Why Smarter Inventory Means Better Customer Service

When you’re getting ready to head to Walmart, you expect everything on your list will be ready and waiting on our shelves.

With millions of items for sale, ensuring that happens – for everything, every time – is quite a complex process behind the scenes.

Managing back room inventory – products that are stored in back rooms for days, sometimes weeks, before they reach shelves – can be a challenge. It requires constant monitoring, and can sometimes take associates away from the sales floor where they would otherwise be helping customers. So recently we’ve been experimenting with new and better ways to improve the process for everyone.

Top Stock is one of these new systems that we’re testing in stores. With it, we’ve moved a great deal of our back stock inventory to somewhere else very simple: the top shelves on our sales floor. By keeping additional merchandise closer to where it’s sold, we can maintain fuller shelves while keeping a better in-the-moment read on inventory.

I spent the first 12 years of my three decades with Walmart in replenishment and supply chain roles, so I understand the significance firsthand of how this makes storage and stocking so much easier. But there’s also quite a bit more that directly benefits customers:

  • All the extra space we’re opening up in our back rooms is making it easier for us to integrate services like online grocery pickup. While the demand for grocery pickup is obvious, finding adequate space within our existing stores had sometimes been a challenge.
  • Need something you don’t immediately see on the shelf? Waiting for an associate to check our back room during peak holiday shopping periods could soon be a thing of the past. By improving our inventory management processes, we’re bringing the products and services that customers need one step closer. In fact, the implementation of Top Stock has helped reduce our rental of temporary inventory trailers to a small fraction of what it was just a few years ago.
  • Our improvements in inventory management are getting more associates out of the back room and onto the sales floor, where they can help and interact with customers.
  • Perhaps best of all, our associates can use open back room space for career-building education. When one store in Morrisville, North Carolina, implemented Top Stock inventory management, they reduced back room inventory by 75% in two months, allowing enough new space to open an Academy for associate training.

What’s worked for our business in the past isn’t always what’s best for today’s shopper. When we commit to coming up with unexpected ways to do the small things better, we not only become smarter and more efficient, but create a big win for our customers at the same time.

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Community

Why This Associate Wants You to Start With #HelloMyNameIs

“Hello, my name is….” It’s a phrase made up of only four words.

It takes very little time to say – it’s an easy way to begin a conversation. Yet, when people say these words, they can have such a big impact.

My late wife, Kate, started the #HelloMyNameIs campaign in 2013 while living with terminal cancer. As a medic herself, she had become frustrated with nurses and doctors who never introduced themselves to her before providing medical care.

Kate had already been speaking to hospitals and conferences about her experience as both a medical provider and a patient, but through the campaign she hoped to share some key values that resonate beyond people working in healthcare: communication, small acts of kindness, putting the patient at the center of every decision and seeing each person as an individual.

Kate was one of the most determined, resilient people I have ever known. I firmly believe that through adversity, comes legacy. July 23 is International “Hello My Name Is” Day – both the anniversary of Kate’s passing and what would have been our 12th wedding anniversary. We invite everyone – from people to corporations – to join us in celebrating Kate’s legacy by introducing yourself and using #HelloMyNameIs.

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Innovation

Uncovering How We’ll Shop in the Future

As new technology brings new possibilities, there’s been an explosion of ways to shop – smartphone apps, online grocery shopping and Scan & Go for easier checkout, to name just a few. To serve customers better, we need to stay ahead of the research that helps form the ideas that will continue to revolutionize how we shop.

I’m part of a small team that’s delving deep into research to improve the shopping experience for everyone. I’m a data scientist for Sam’s Club Technology, and I like to compare what we do to building a car: You have to start with the engine.

My day-to-day work is all about staying on top of new methods to build that engine. I look at ways we can incorporate emerging research in object recognition, detection and segmentation – technology that can make things like our Scan & Go app even smarter. For instance, instead of scanning a bar code, the app will be able to recognize products using photos taken by your phone’s camera.

Because this is such a fast-moving field, the research I work with is in its earliest stages. I might work with one algorithm today, and a couple months from now use a completely new model that’s even better than what we had before.

Tech is constantly evolving, which makes innovation essential for retailers. We have to continually adapt our business to our shoppers’ lifestyles. There’s a lot of coding, engineering and algorithm testing that goes into building something that works better than what people are used to. It’s challenging, but that’s why I’m lucky to work with such talented people.

Until I joined the team last year, I never realized the strong sense of pride that associates in the Walmart and Sam’s Club family have in what our business does. After studying at Yale, I worked in financial engineering in New York – I didn’t expect to find an opportunity to do such innovative work in Bentonville, Arkansas.

I’ve found that in the corporate world, it’s rare for a business to invest in cutting-edge research. But, from the start, Walmart has chosen to invent some of our own solutions instead of waiting for someone else to come up with them. In this new age of tech, we’re still evolving and inventing better ways to get from Point A to Point C.

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Innovation

5 Ways Walmart Uses Big Data to Help Customers

In many industries, big data provides a way for companies to gain a better understanding of their customers and make better business decisions.

Walmart relies on big data to get a real-time view of the workflow in the pharmacy, distribution centers and throughout our stores and e-commerce.

Check out the infographic below to see how Walmart uses big data to make the company’s operations more efficient and improve the lives of customers.

Whether it’s analyzing the transportation route for a supply chain or using data to optimize pricing, big data analytics will continue to be a key way for Walmart to enhance the customer experience.

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