EXCLUSIVE: Look inside Walmart's new next-generation fulfillment center in Joliet

Facility spanning nearly 1.1M square feet eventually expects to hire 1K people.

Evelyn Holmes Image
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Exclusive look inside Walmart's new next-generation fulfillment center
Walmart is opening a new next-generation fulfillment center in Joliet, IL while competing with Amazon. ABC7 had an exclusive look inside.

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- It's where high tech meets Walmart tradition as the retail giant takes delivering to their customers to the next level.

On Wednesday, Walmart officially opens its new, next-generation fulfillment center in Joliet. The first-of-its-kind facility spans nearly 1.1 million square feet and uses automation to pack and ship online orders more efficiently.

"This facility gives us the ability to reach the majority with two-day shipping, which speeds up your ability to get your items quickly, which is the ultimate the customer wants at all time," said Walmart Joliet Fulfillment Center General Manager James Bright.

The next generation plan came as Walmart goes head-to-head with Amazon, meaning the idea to build fulfillment centers is right on time.

Walmart warehouse workers used to walk 10 or miles a day to pick items off shelves and carry them back to a packaging area.

"It would come out of the automatic retrieval system and would come here," Bright said. "We have a box made in house and slide into this level here. The totes would like themselves up and pick directly into the box."

There, the boxes are even made to order, so there's less waste and customers aren't stuck with a big box for a small item.

"And the light lights up green when that's the box," Bright said.

The southwest suburban facility has 300 million cubic feet of storage.

"A lot of the manual labor has been reduced tremendously," Bright said. "I think it's a great opportunity."

Julio Delgado and his daughter, Ashley, would know. Both landed jobs at the mammoth facility, which eventually expects to hire 1,000 people.

"I've never spent 10 hours knowing that I'm in the same building with my dad except, when I am at home," Ashley said.

This facility is the first of four such fulfillment centers the company is building over the next three years and could alone provide 75% of the U.S. population with next-day or two-day shipping on millions of items.