Walmart Driver Delivers a Win at National Championships

He practices nearly every day, honing his skills and aiming to be the best in his field. He’s won numerous competitions, most recently being crowned a national grand champion.

But he’s not an athlete; he’s a truck driver. And the National Truck Driving Championships are his big bowl game.

Mike White of Nineveh, Indiana, has been driving professionally for 39 years, the last 26 of those for Walmart’s private fleet. On Aug. 13, after four days of hard-driving competition in Indianapolis, he was recognized as the most skilled and most knowledgeable in the country.

The 79th annual competition, hosted by the American Trucking Associations, was a nail-biter until the very end. “When my name was called out, it floored me. I didn’t think I was even going to make the top five,” let alone be named the champion, Mike said.

Competitors are made up of the winners in eight classes of competition from 50 state trucking associations’ Truck Driving Championships. Each driver must undergo a written examination, personal interview, pre-trip inspection test and a skills test.

Mike credits his exam and pre-trip scores with getting him into the top five and landing him the 3-axle class title. His run on the skills course put him over the top, securing his bid for overall grand champion.

It’s a game of inches. Mike faced 15 challenges, like maneuvering his big rig within 18 inches of a barrier and rolling between two tightly spaced rows of tennis balls attached to wood stands – bump any of them and lose points, and possibly the title. There was also a “road kill” challenge where drivers had to get the right front tire as close as possible to, but not touching, a rubber duck sitting in the roadway.

“It was such a surprise – that was the best part,” Mike said of his big win. “This wasn’t just for my home state of Indiana; it was for me, my family and Walmart.”

It’s also a nod to Mike’s commitment to safe driving. Drivers must be accident free for at least a year prior to the competition. Considering that Mike has been to nationals six times, it’s clear that safety on the road is his priority.

Despite having about 36 competitions under his belt and now the ultimate award, Mike isn’t ready to quit. He’s looking forward to defending his titles in 2017.

That attitude doesn’t surprise Jennifer Gray, regional safety manager for Walmart, who witnessed Mike’s winning moment. “Mike is the true face of our professional Walmart driver, and I have been blessed to be able to work with him for the past four years,” she said after the competition. “He has always had his eye on that prize of being a grand champion one day.”

Geno Bell, senior director of transportation for Walmart, seconded that.

“I’ve known Mike White for over 10 years. He’s a true professional, mentor and a great ambassador of the culture for our private fleet,” Geno said. “Mike practiced and studied hard for the ATA competition, and to see him win it all was AMAZING!”

Mike has earned more than just praise from his leadership – he’s also getting a new semi in the color of his choice.

“Walmart is so proud of their drivers who achieve awards for their expertise in safe driving,” Jennifer explained. “We have a wonderful program to recognize these associates and to also allow the motoring public to recognize when they are sharing the road with one of our safe driving champions.”

It takes time and expertise to earn a personalized truck. The honor is reserved for associates who achieve 3 million and 4 million Walmart safe driving miles, as well as those who are named ATA grand champion or ATA Driver of the Year.

In the meantime, like a seasoned athlete, Mike is back in training mode preparing for the next round of competitions.

“I have a big hill to climb and a lot of people after me,” he said.

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Health & Wellness

New Digital Health Tools Transforming Diabetes Self-Care

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are more than 30 million in the U.S. living with diabetes. That’s 1 in 11 Americans.

Perhaps even more alarming: Out of the 84 million who have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, 90% don’t know they have it. It’s a growing epidemic with a devastating physical, emotional and financial toll on our communities. And it’s because of this, there’s an ever increasing focus on diabetes prevention, treatment and education.

At one of our nationwide Wellness Day Clinics last month an individual discovered his blood glucose level was a life-threatening 530. An onsite nurse explained the consequences of the test result and he immediately went to a nearby urgent care clinic to initiate care. It is rewarding to think the work we do at Walmart can help people live healthier and even save lives in some cases.

Perhaps most critical for diabetic patients, however, is access to affordable supplies. That’s why I’m excited about our exclusive line of important, everyday essentials. From meters to test strips and insulin, patients are able to save considerably on the items they need most. Because they can afford to test more regularly, this means our patients can better manage their care, and ultimately, lead healthier lives.

Recently, we expanded our line of ReliOn diabetic supplies to include the $18.98 ReliOn Premier BLU blood glucose monitoring system. It features Bluetooth technology that connects the meter to an app on your iOS/Android smartphone, eliminating the need for paper logbooks. With a couple of taps, you can also share your results with your care provider. $14.98 ReliOn Premier Voice is a bilingual (English and Spanish) blood glucose monitoring system that provides audible testing results and is excellent for the blind and low vision diabetic patient. Both of these tools capture clinical data and offer analytics, providing patients with actionable feedback. Most importantly, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for price. All ReliOn blood glucose monitoring systems meet the same strict FDA accuracy standards as the more expensive brands.

The health and safety of our patients is a critical priority, and I love sharing how our team is helping to make a difference in the communities we serve by actively helping them identify and manage their diabetes. Whether it’s through advanced technology, affordable everyday necessities, healthy food, even fitness gear, Walmart is a one-stop-shop for diabetes management. I’m proud of that.

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Put a Pin on It: The Tiny Tokens Embodying Walmart Pride

There’s a certain sense of pride that comes from graduating – whether it’s from high school or college, it’s a familiar experience for many.

You can see that very same pride in Walmart Academy graduates as they walk across a stage and are recognized for their dedication. They’ve not only set aside time to learn the best ways to serve their customers – they’ve taken advantage of an opportunity that can help set them on a clear path.

Ayreann Luedders, a senior director with the Walmart Academy program, gets to see the graduates’ transformation first hand. “When my team gets to the locations to help set up for graduation, at first the associates don’t know what to expect,” Ayreann said. “By the end they realize, ‘oh, this is a big deal,’ and you can see it on their faces. They are just so proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

To celebrate these achievements, each Academy location’s inaugural graduating class designs a pin that’s given to each graduating class thereafter. They commemorate everything from specific events to individual stores and their communities to pieces of Walmart’s past.

Here’s a look at a few of these pins and the stories behind them.

Pontotoc, Mississippi
This Academy graduation’s theme was all about Walmart history, from serving MoonPies (Sam Walton’s favorite volume producing item) to the regional manager dancing in a hula skirt like Sam once did on Wall Street. This pin shows the Walton’s 5 & 10 as a symbol of where we started, and the words “Pathway to the Future” to show where their training will take them.

St. Petersburg, Florida
With this store just steps from the beach, this pin features the Florida shoreline and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This group’s graduation ceremony even included a massive sandcastle at the front of their store.

Friendswood, Texas
You might find a rocket scientist at this store – it’s less than 10 miles from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. To show off their unique location, they decided to use a space shuttle orbiting the Earth within the shape of Texas.

Tracy, California
The elements on this pin showcase the history of their community. The triangle shape refers to Tracy’s location inside the three interstates that border the city, and the bear is a nod to their state flag. The train represents their more than century-long history as a major railway hub.

Edmond, Oklahoma
What makes this pin special is that it comes from the 100th Academy Walmart opened. To commemorate that milestone, CEO Doug McMillon came to speak, making it even more special for the graduates.

Dulles, Virginia
Using a simple backdrop of Virginia’s state flower, this pin represents a store that is anything but ordinary. It serves a diverse community, and over 80 native languages are spoken by our associates there.

“It was through the graduation ceremonies that I had this epiphany moment that we’re changing lives in what we’re doing through Walmart Academy,” said Tina Kurtz, a director with the Walmart Academy program. “It gave them an entirely new perspective on their jobs – understanding how doing things a certain way helps. It’s meaningful, life-changing work.”

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Knock, Knock … Who’s There? Your Walmart Grocery Delivery

It’s 10 a.m., and it already feels like a long day. You know your schedule is only going to get busier. How will you get dinner on the table if you don’t have time to stop for groceries?

We have a new answer for you: Don’t worry. Keep doing what you’re doing. We can deliver those groceries to your front door.

By the end of the year, this option will be a reality for more than 40% of U.S. households. Online grocery delivery, previously a test project in six metro areas, will soon be a service we’ll offer across 100 metro areas. We’ll be using more than 800 of our stores to fulfill orders. That’s an impressive number, but it’s more about where you deliver to than where you deliver from – millions of customers will now have access to this time-saver.

Here’s how it works:

  1. To order, customers visit Walmart.com/grocery or go to the existing Walmart Grocery app to build an online basket and place an order, selecting the most convenient time for the order to be delivered.
  2. That’s when one of our 18,000 personal shoppers gets to work. Based on the delivery time, he or she will begin picking items, scanning them along the way to ensure an accurate and complete order. (By the way, we’ve given these associates special training to pick the best of the best for your order, especially when it comes to fresh meat and produce.)
  3. Finally, our team will request a delivery service to come to the store, pick up customers’ orders, and take them directly to their desired location.

We’re excited about this new offering, which is simply the latest result of our ongoing work to help make shopping easier. Whether it’s ordering one item online and picking it up the same day in our stores, pulling your car into our parking lot to collect a grocery pickup order, or now ordering – and receiving – groceries at your convenience, you’ve now got so many choices to fit your needs. We’re learning from Walmart teams across the globe and building on the best parts of our business to help put some time back on your calendar. Through technology, great stores and our awesome team of associates, we’re working hard to serve you whenever and however you want.

I love being part of a team that’s constantly thinking about how to bring out the best of Walmart. It’s even better that, for a lot of our customers, this news means we’re now bringing it literally to your door.



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.