Creating big change doesn’t just happen in one big step. It
does, however, require many big thinkers – the bright minds who can develop new
processes and ideas to tackle every detail and slowly bring a massive
transformation to life.
Expanding U.S. manufacturing is a big change we at Walmart
have been focused on for nearly two years now, and since then, we’ve taken many
smaller steps to make it a reality. Today is one of those. At our second U.S.
Manufacturing Summit, we not only brought together government leaders, suppliers
and our own leadership – we joined the Walmart Foundation and U.S. Conference
of Mayors in announcing the first grant recipients of the Walmart U.S.
Manufacturing Innovation Fund, an investment in the intelligence we need to shape
a better future.
One example of a process that could use a forward-thinking
re-examination is the manufacturing of blue jeans. This relaxed wardrobe staple
may seem pretty simple, but making a pair is actually quite complicated – and
not that efficient. The current method typically involves chemical washes and
several dips into a vat of dye. It also consumes a good deal of water.
Researchers at Texas Tech University, one of today’s fund recipients, have
proposed an alternative wherein foam is used to apply the indigo dye, allowing
jean manufacturers to finish three times as many pairs during the dyeing stage
and reduce water usage by 50% to 70%.
Three other institutions received grants toward textile
processes today – Georgia Tech Research Corporation and North Carolina State
University at Raleigh have both created concepts for new sewing technology, and
the University of Georgia Research Foundation developed an additional approach
to more sustainable dyeing. Other recipients included Indiana University and
Oregon State University for injection molding innovations and the University of
Texas at Arlington for new systems in small motor assembly.
Innovation has long been part of the culture at
Walmart, and I was proud to be a part of this announcement. Thinking creatively
paid off today for these institutions, but the bigger payoff will be in
changing the landscape of U.S. manufacturing and thus our collective future.
Have you ever heard of tooth wipes? If you’ve never brought home a baby, then probably not – unless you’ve shopped for a gift for a first-time mom and noticed such a lesser-known item on her gift registry.
New parents tend to over-prepare because they’re nervous to get
everything right. I know this firsthand because two years ago, I had my first
son. And I thought I needed every possible item to take care of him – including
So many of us are familiar with this feeling, and for me, it’s a life
experience that translates well to my day job overseeing baby merchandise at
Walmart. My team takes care of people in the happiest, but also the most
stressful time of their lives. We’re constantly asking ourselves, how can we
make that easier? One key – but coincidental – way is that many of the
associates on the baby team have intuition from parenting babies and young
These perspectives have helped us make simple, but important changes to
our assortment – like ensuring our customers can find popular brands like Britax and Plum Organics, and launching Urbini
exclusively at Walmart. (It also applies to items like tooth wipes. When I
needed them two years ago, Walmart didn’t carry them. Now
we do, and they are even assembled in the U.S.!) Our parenting experience
has also given us ideas to take to our suppliers that address important
concerns, like a car seat with technology that alerts you when your child is
still in the back seat if the ignition is switched off.
Talking to our customers, we see our personal insights proven right in
many different scenarios. First-time moms like me want everything perfect and
brand-name, while second-time moms tend to focus on just getting through the
day. Second-time moms also concentrate more on functionality, which applies to
their shopping experience, too. They’ve reduced the places they shop from a
handful to only a couple, meaning convenience is important. That’s one reason
we’ve expanded our assortment not just in-store but also online, and we’ve
recently updated our baby
registry to be easily accessible with the Walmart mobile app. I love now
being able to shop for friends using my phone whether I’m in the store or in
Research has shown my team that the needs of moms globally are really
the same: They all want the very best for their children. I love that we’re
able to provide that not just from business experience, but from personal
experience, too. We’re able to learn about products and what works well, and
then influence that for other parents. Just a few months ago, I took home all
the diapers Walmart carries to try on my son and then gave feedback to our
suppliers on quality. It helps to be so close to the category to be able to
improve our assortment and customer experience.
It’s an intriguing circle, how many of my team members’ jobs influence
our parenting and how being parents influences our jobs. Whether it’s updating
our mobile registry, adding distinct items like tooth wipes, or ensuring we
carry great private-label options like the Parent’s
Choice training pants we just launched in partnership with Dreamworks,
we’re working hard to make the hardest job in the world – parenting – a little
can read more about Walmart’s expanded assortment of baby products and services
I’ll never forget the day in 2003 when everything went red. I was in my 30s, watching television with a friend in my living room when it happened. Three surgeries and several weeks later, I was declared legally blind.
While it happened quickly, it wasn’t completely unexpected.
I had been diagnosed with diabetes back in Jamaica and couldn't afford the
proper medication, which led to my vision loss. So I found myself trying to
navigate life without the benefit of eyesight and, soon, without my husband,
who left me. It was just my daughter and me. Years later, I moved to New York
City in search of opportunity, but questioned whether I'd made the right
decision after going unemployed for more than three years. That changed when I
found National Industries for the Blind.
Statistics show more than 70% of the more than 4 million
legally blind adults in the U.S. are not employed. As the nation’s largest
employment resource for people who are blind, NIB is working to change those
statistics, and my story is one example. Eight years ago, I discovered New York
City Industries for the Blind, which later became Alphapointe, one of NIB’s associated
nonprofit agencies. I began manufacturing SKILCRAFT® Speedy Scrubber sponges at
Alphapointe’s facility in Brooklyn. And I’ve been counting my blessings ever
All of a sudden, I had a steady income. I wasn’t wondering
how I was going to pay my bills and support my daughter. I take great pride in
operating my sewing machine on the manufacturing line because I know the
military and government customers who use our product depend on us for quality.
In May, we were excited when our sponges began hitting the shelves of select
Walmart stores throughout the Northeast as part of the retailer’s commitment to U.S.
manufacturing. I’m part of a team with more than 100 employees, each one
legally blind, just like me.
NIB and Alphapointe believed in me, and that’s the second
chance I was looking for. I’m confident again and I have a support system
around me. I’ve made friends for a lifetime – friends I go out to dinner with
and hang out with on the weekends. I even met the love of my life, Ronnie
McNeil, here. We were married earlier this month, which kind of completes my
dream come true.
more than 76 years, NIB has created jobs for people who are blind through the sale of
thousands of SKILCRAFT products. The Speedy Scrubber sponges are manufactured
by people who are blind working at Alphapointe – one of 95 nonprofit agencies
associated with NIB – in its Brooklyn facility.
Vice President of Youth Development, YMCA of Greater Rochester, NY
July 21, 2015
I first met Lisa as she walked into the YMCA of Greater Rochester with her youngest child still in a stroller, and her preschooler toddling along. For Lisa, planning three meals for her family every day was something that she could not afford as a single mother of three.
Fresh fruits and vegetables – a staple in a healthy diet for
growing kids – were an expensive luxury. Toward the end of every month, she was
left worried and afraid that she wouldn’t be able to put any food on the
Lisa and her girls started coming to the YMCA of Greater
Rochester in 2013, where we were able to offer a solution to her family. We
provide local children free access to nutritious meals during the day including
breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks. For moms like Lisa, it’s a tremendous
relief as they no longer have to worry about where their kids’ next meals are
Our facility is one of many YMCAs in 2,300 communities
nationwide benefitting from a $5.3
million national grant from the Walmart Foundation that enabled the
expansion of yearlong food programs. This grant is part of a group of grants
made by the Walmart Foundation, totaling $15.5 million, to support free meal
and nutrition programs. These grants mean so much to so many families this time
of year, as children are out of school and without access to school meals and
the daily routines they count on.
Today, things are improving for Lisa and her family. She
graduated from college with honors this May and already has a job as a pharmacy
tech at a local hospital. She credits our YMCA program with giving her the
support and peace of mind that she needed while finishing her degree. Lisa now
is also able to give back. Many times, I’ve seen Lisa and her daughters bring
clothing to our facility in the hopes that other families will benefit.
Lisa and her girls still come to the YMCA each
morning, and I talk to her about her plans for her daughters, who she says will
grow up to change the world. I bet that dream will come true.
WMT: Why is U.S. manufacturing important,
and why do you think it makes a difference for communities across America?
Pritzker: I have a history
of manufacturing in my family’s background of business, so I have seen up close
and personally the implications of manufacturing on families and communities. Manufacturing
is a critical sector of our economy. It employs about 12 million people
directly and 16.7 million people at large, and what we know is that we have a
resurgence in both employment and output in American manufacturing. We have had
about 900,000 new jobs since 2010.
What I am struck by is if you look at Walmart’s policies to increase
the purchasing of American-made goods and their commitment to lower
their carbon footprint, they are actually related to one another. With these two policies, I think Walmart is
being both closer to its customer and closer to its supply chain, and I think
that means that the products and goods and services that get created by Walmart
are more in touch with what the customer wants.
American manufacturing is an important source of jobs, and it is also
an important source of exports. We had about $2.34 trillion worth of exports
last year which is a record. $1.4 trillion of that was American-manufactured goods.
And so while it is a significant part of the economy that we export, it is also
an important part of our GDP, and it is also an important part of our
innovation. So whether it is the innovation that goes on between the Walmart
buyer and the supplier or it is the innovation that goes on in the factory
floor of either improving how the product is made or creating new products …
that is very good for our economy.
WMT: This wasn’t your first time
at Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit. What have you noticed now versus the
first time you were here – what’s different?
Pritzker: Anecdotally, it
seems that … there is a greater breadth of what is being brought to market. I
think the aspiration to do more
textiles here in the U.S. seems to be coming to fruition, and no one really
knew if that was possible. It seems to me that [Walmart is] seeing more
products and that is encouraging. I was talking with Michelle
[Gloeckler] that the [Walmart] buyers are more often on the factory floor,
so they are understanding the implications of the changes they are asking for
as a buyer to a supplier. As a result, they better understand the implications
on the line or the costs of something that seems easy to ask for when you are
sitting in your office and the factory is half the world away. The flipside is,
being on the factory floor allows for more collective innovation. They are
saying, ‘Hey, if you want this, what if we did X’. That’s something that could
be good for the manufacturing sector. And also good for Walmart. I think it is
very exciting what is happening.
WMT: What are some specific ways
that your office is working to help boost manufacturing in the U.S.?
We are working every day to
connect manufacturers with the resources they need to succeed and thrive. One
specific initiative is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a national network with hundreds of specialists
who understand the needs of America's small manufacturers. Our experts connect
businesses with the resources and services they may need to become more
competitive, meet a new market challenge, improve production processes, adopt a
new technology, or take a new good to market. For every dollar of federal
investment, MEP clients generate nearly $19 in new sales. This is an exciting
example of smart and effective government working specifically on behalf of
Another program created by the
Department of Commerce and our current presidential Administration is Manufacturing
Day – a series of
events across the country that is designed to excite young people about the
potential of a career in manufacturing. Too many people view manufacturers as
outdated factories filled with line jobs – not as innovative, inventive
businesses, where workers develop and use the latest technology and build
lasting, middle class careers. We are changing this perception by inviting
students, career guidance counselors, parents, and workers to open houses,
public tours, and career workshops at plants and factories across the country.
Last year’s Manufacturing Day brought 400,000 Americans to over 1,600 events.
The Department of Commerce is committed to being
partners with America’s manufacturers as this vital sector of economy continues
its remarkable resurgence. Working together, we can ensure America’s
manufacturers remain at the center of our nation’s prosperity and keep America
open for businesses.