Walmart is piloting a new programme to move goods directly on trains.
It has developed its own collection of intermodal containers and is using its own drivers to move them from rail hubs to Walmart stores. The pilot was launched in the summer of 2018 and is operating in Southern California. This is an innovative step for a retailer, but demonstrates how understanding, and ownership of supply chains is changing within the industry.
Traditionally, a third party would be used for drayage and by moving this in-house, Walmart is able to take over this part of the supply chain and own it directly. Having immediate control over this element of the chain gives Walmart the opportunity to save hours, and potentially days of transit time per container in peak season.
Ken Braubach, Vice President of Inbound Logistics at Walmart said, “When we give it to a third-party provider, we don’t necessarily have the control. We are at the third party’s discretion of how they operate and optimize our network – whereas we have that capability when we move it ourselves.”
The new container was designed by Walmart and includes chassis and double-stacking capability, combined with a roll-up door making warehouse and store deliveries easier. In comparison to the swing doors often found on rail containers, the roll-up doors were designed to optimise access, and ensure efficiency for unloading by store associates.
A pilot, for now…
The pilot is operating a small number of the intermodal containers, and Braunbach has stated that this is a “supplemental or a strategic opportunity to be more efficient.” Walmart has asserted it is still looking to work alongside its intermodal partners, but with the volume of freight it moves across the country, there could be an opportunity for the pilot to grow outside of the current testing area.