Innovation

Eden: The Tech That’s Bringing Fresher Groceries to You

What’s for dinner tonight?

No matter the answer, there are some givens: It has to taste good, be good for you, and be affordable. But when you’re shopping with limited time, how can you be sure you’re buying the freshest apples, milk that will last, or perfectly ripe bananas?

We think our new intelligent food system called Eden can help. Developed in just six months by our own associates, it is improving the quality and flow of fresh groceries from farm to shelf.

Eden is the result of a friendly competition, or hackathon, among the engineers on our fresh merchandising teams. Our goal was to figure out the best way to keep track of food freshness all the way from the farms to our stores. The winning team determined that building a digital library of food standards was the answer. So they gathered the many chapters of food product specifications set by the USDA, layered on Walmart’s own rigorous product standards, and combined all of this information with more than a million photos to create a freshness algorithm that prioritizes the flow of perishable goods worldwide.

As a result, Josh Bohling, senior designer of associate experience design, and I have filed two patents for Walmart, and Eden is now the cornerstone of Walmart’s move to improve the quality of fresh produce for sale to our customers.

Eden leverages sophisticated technologies such as machine learning, but we’ve made it simple enough for all of our associates to use. Eden’s suite of apps helps Walmart associates better monitor and care for fresh fruits and vegetables that are waiting to be shipped from distribution centers to stores. That could mean more efficiently ripening bananas, predicting the shelf life of tomatoes while they’re still on the vine, or prioritizing the flow of green grocery items from the back of the store to the shelf.

For example, take everybody’s favorite, the banana. This tasty fruit is consistently among the best-selling grocery items in Walmart’s U.S. stores. Bananas travel from seven countries in Latin America to over 4,000 stores in the U.S. On such a long road, what happens to those bananas if temperatures in the container trucks exceed acceptable ranges? In the future, Eden will be able to recalculate the freshness factor and re-route the shipment immediately. The bananas end up in a closer store to optimize freshness, consumers take home a delicious bunch, and everyone is happy.

Eden also helps eliminate food waste. Our goal is to eliminate $2 billion in waste over the next five years. Already, Eden is being used in 43 distribution centers and has prevented $86 million in waste from happening.

What was once a manual inspection process is now more efficient and thorough than ever. We’re proud to say that we’re the very first retailer who has digitized this entire process. Thanks to the power of technology, we’re able to bring you and your loved ones the freshest food, even faster.

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Life

#IShannanYou: The Associate Love Story That Has Netflix Viewers Swooning

It’s a classic love story: Boy meets girl, falls madly in love and proposes to her in front of millions on one of 2018’s most popular Netflix shows.

Okay, so that’s probably not how it happens for most of us. But, for William and Shannan Mahnken, it’s all part of their real-life love story that started five years ago after they met at a Walmart assistant store manager training session in Woodstock, Georgia.

The Netflix reality show reboot, “Queer Eye,” has taken pop culture by storm. The show’s “Fab Five” – Jonathan, Karamo, Tan, Antoni and Bobby – have won over viewers’ hearts across America by taking the show beyond its basic premise and diving into conversations about identity and self-confidence that inspire viewers and participants alike.

Before Shannan submitted William to be one of the makeover contestants on the show’s second season, the grocery department manager was a shy aspiring actor and screenwriter who named ’90s sitcom character Frasier Crane as his style icon. In his own words, “I was hiding behind my beard and all that hair.”

It’s not always easy to embrace your full self or wear your heart on your sleeve, but despite William’s reserved personality, he had a great time on set. “The guys are all so great,” William said. “They just walk up to you like they’ve been friends with you forever. I felt so comfortable.”

Bonding with the Fab Five even helped William feel comfortable enough to seek their help in planning his proposal to Shannan. He set to work with Karamo, the “Queer Eye” culture consultant, to craft a grand proposal that would sweep her off her feet.

“I was trying to think of a word that meant more than love,” said William, “and eventually I realized that there was no single word or phrase that could describe how I feel about Shannan. I decided that the only way I could describe it was with her name.”

That’s right. William invented a new way to say, “I love you” – and he did it using his future bride’s name. “I Shannan you.” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, I highly suggest grabbing a box of tissues beforehand.

Last month, William and Shannan finally tied the knot in a small sunrise ceremony on the beaches of Amelia Island in Florida. Since the show aired, the lovebirds say that although married life is a little different, the couple have stayed pretty true to who they are. They now work together as department managers at the same Walmart store in Cornelia, Georgia, and William continues to create short films and act when he can.

So, what was the biggest lesson he learned on the show?

“Confidence is a big one,” he said. “I learned how to open up to people. I don’t feel hidden anymore; I feel like I can open up to people about who I am. If I feel myself reverting back into that old pattern, I remember something that Tan said to me: ‘You’re not doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for her – the person you love.’ I think about that and it inspires me to be the best version of myself.”

Photos courtesy of Netflix.

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Innovation

My Journey From EE to IoT at Walmart’s DFW Tech Hub

Before I joined the team here, I had no idea how innovative a 50-year-old retail company could be.

Like most people, I had interacted with Walmart as a customer in stores and online but had never really thought about the systems and technology functioning behind the scenes to make the whole thing work.

As we officially open our new Walmart Technology satellite HQ in Plano, Texas, this week, I’m reflecting on my evolving, 20-year journey in tech — from building circuit boards to developing software to, now, exploring ways to apply advances in the internet of things (IoT), machine learning, object detection and other emerging technologies in the increasingly blended world of physical-digital retail.

Here’s a great example:

It might seem like a small thing, but spills are a big deal on the sales floor. So we developed a concept to help stores quickly detect spills, building a quick alert system that linked a camera with a Raspberry Pi and sensors that sent photos and data from the sales floor to the cloud. There, we deployed learning algorithms to analyze and build models that helped identify spills.

It wasn’t perfect – but it worked! And even though we won’t bring our prototype to life in stores at scale, we’re able to learn fast and apply those learnings to other projects — like using machine learning and IoT similar to our Raspberry Pi-based sensory concept to cut energy use and cost, all while keeping the temperature comfortable for associates and customers in our stores.

I’ve only been at Walmart four months, but it’s been a blast. I’m still blown away by the many different applications of emerging technology in something as simple as a retail store. But really, retail isn’t simple. It’s complex, the scale is insane and the industry is rapidly transforming. What an awesome time and place to experiment, innovate, fail fast and learn quickly.

It makes my brain happy, and I’m glad it’s happening here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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Business

These Back-to-School Tools Add Up to Easier Shopping

Going back to school with confidence is as easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4.

Whether you’re shopping for a kindergartner or a college student, Walmart is making it easier than ever to get all the supplies you need in-store and online with a variety of new tools and products.

The best part: You don’t have to sacrifice style for convenience or saving money. Around 25% of our school supply assortment is new this year, and you’ll find these on-trend items offered at our everyday low prices.

Study the graphic below on some of the ways we can help you ace back-to-school shopping.


*Free two-day shipping is available on orders over $35 without a membership fee.

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Sustainability

This Bud’s for the Future of Our Planet

Over the years, the Budweiser logo has come to represent many things beyond just beer: the Budweiser frogs, the greeting “Wassup?” and, of course, the majestic Clydesdales. But soon you may be seeing a new Budweiser logo that symbolizes even more.

Anheuser-Busch, which first introduced Budweiser Lager Beer in 1876, is taking a serious look at how the way beer is produced can help make a difference for our planet.

To highlight its commitment, the company created a special “Brewed with 100% Renewable Electricity” logo that now appears on all Budweiser sold in the U.S. Just as iguanas Frank and Louie became popular mascots for the brand, the new logo will hopefully become a recognizable mark of social responsibility.

These efforts don’t end at the logo, however. The company took its ambitious sustainability goals and joined Walmart’s Project Gigaton, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our supply chain by 1 billion metric tons by 2030.

The brewer set its own goals that it hopes to meet by 2025. Its four areas of focus are:

  • Renewable electricity and carbon reduction
  • Water stewardship
  • Smart agriculture
  • Circular packaging

“Achieving ambitious goals requires cooperation from stakeholders across the board. When you add efforts from wholesalers, suppliers and consumers to those from companies like Walmart and Anheuser-Busch — companies who are committed to the cause — you’ve got a chance to make a real difference,” said Angie Slaughter, vice president of sustainability procurement at Anheuser-Busch, North America.

A major milestone was reached when the brewer announced a wind energy partnership with ENEL Green Power in 2017. Since January of this year, 50% of Anheuser-Busch’s purchased electricity has come from a wind farm at Thunder Ranch, Oklahoma. That’s enough renewable electricity to brew more than 20 billion 12-ounce servings of beer in the U.S. each year.

The Budweiser brand carries the flag for the renewable electricity goal pledged by the brewer. “When you consider the Budweiser beer volume in North America, we sell 15 million 12-ounce servings every day, and we have 15 million opportunities with each one to get customers involved in conversations over a beer,” Angie said of Budweiser’s consumers. “We also want to encourage other companies to be inspired to do more. The new symbol is available for other companies to show how they’re using renewable electricity in their brands.”

The wind farm hits on another shared interest between the brewery and Walmart: creating American jobs. Angie said the development of the farm is a 15-year project, and around 400 temporary jobs were created at the peak of construction. Some jobs will remain long term.

Anheuser-Busch itself is an American success story – one that began in 1860.

“We are proud to call the United States our home and are proud to continue to brew America’s best beers,” said Angel Beasley, manager of trade marketing supporting the Walmart business. “It makes sense especially to amplify our American heritage with Walmart’s Made in the USA program. In fact, 98% of the primary ingredients used in the beers Anheuser-Busch proudly brews are grown in the U.S.”

There are more than 18,000 employees nationwide. Budweiser’s production alone requires over 1,700 people, Angel said.

The next time you pass a Budweiser display in your local Walmart store or crack open a cold one, you’ll know that it’s more than an adult beverage – and that the company is doing more than coming up with clever commercials.

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