WalMart plans new GTA warehouse, part of $3.5B investment

IMAGE: WalMart plans a new 550,000-square-foot distribution centre in Vaughan, just north of Toronto. (Courtesy WalMart)

WalMart plans a new 550,000-square-foot distribution centre in Vaughan, just north of Toronto. (Courtesy WalMart)

WalMart has announced a fifth distribution centre in the Greater Toronto Area as part of a $3.5-billion commitment to its Canadian operations during the next five years.

The centre will join another 300,000-square-foot facility currently under construction in Surrey, B.C.; and major upgrades to a third facility in Cornwall, Ont., near the Quebec border.

“The retail business is as dynamic as ever and this investment ensures we’re developing a supply chain that is the envy of the world,” said John Bayliss, senior vice-president, logistics and supply chain for Walmart Canada, in the announcement Monday morning. “The better the supply chain, the quicker our customers can get the products they want.

“This investment will transform our supply chain and create hundreds of Canadian construction jobs along the way.”

All the logistics centre upgrades are designed to create state-of-the-art automated facilities. It involves a total investment of $1.1 billion to build the two new distribution centres and renovate Cornwall.

Hundreds of construction jobs will be created through the program.

New distribution centre in Vaughan

In Vaughan, just north of Toronto, a next-generation 550,000-square-foot distribution centre will be constructed at 11110 Jane St. (near Hwy. 400 and Teston Road), slated to open in 2024. The facility will incorporate next-generation automation and technology working with Vanderlande.

In Surrey, a 300,000-square-foot distribution centre is already under construction at 19500 26th Ave. It is slated to open in 2022. WalMart is working with Witron on the site’s distribution logistics technology.

The Cornwall logistics facility will receive new automated systems to manage apparel, health and beauty, and other small general merchandise items. The system is scheduled to go live in early 2021.

The systems will feature machine-learning Cobot Technology, which can work in concert with associates to improve the accuracy and efficiency of operations, the company says.

The new technologies also improve the capacity of the distribution centre system, to provide omni-channel capability to supply both the store and e-commerce networks.

WalMart currently operates a distribution network of 11 facilities in Mississauga, Calgary and Cornwall. Each of those regional hubs services a network of about 135 stores. The logistics network employs about 3,800.

In Mississauga, WalMart opened its fourth existing warehouse in late 2019, a 450,000-square-foot facility.

WalMart’s other investments

The technology investments include telematics and “internet of things” sensors across more than 2,200 WalMart truck trailers to give real-time information on deliveries.

They also include scaling WalMart’s blockchain transportation payments platform with Toronto based DLT Labs, and using new machine learning training software to support improved training and safety in distribution centre and fleet operations with Axonify, a Waterloo-based learning company.

Other major components of the $3.5-billion in investments include:

* renovating over 150 stores over the next three years – over one-third of the store network;

*  accelerating digitization to create “smarter stores,” including expanded electronic shelf labels, shelf scanners to monitor product volumes, robotics and computer vision cameras to simplify, minimize touches and maximize efficiency and accuracy;

*  a new checkout experience to reduce touchpoints, including tap-to-pay, new bigger self-checkout and “Check Out With Me” mobile payment technology to allow associates to checkout customers anywhere in the store.

In WalMart’s omni retailing program, the company will:

*  expand the “Walmart Pickup” offering to approximately 270 stores – or 70 per cent of locations – by the end of 2020;

*  pilot “hybrid locations” – supercentres with “micro fulfilment centres” in their backroom to increase the speed of fulfilment for pickup and delivery;

*  invest in new technology to accelerate the pickup experience, including advanced notification.

“We need to do everything we can to delight our customer every single time they choose to shop with us, whether it’s online or in the store,” said Sam Wankowski, chief operations officer of Walmart Canada, in the announcement.

“We’re challenging ourselves to be better and be relentlessly focused on excellent omni customer service and experience.

“This means better stores, quicker service and doing what Walmart does best – focusing on customers, always at Walmart’s everyday low prices.”