Sustainability

Helping Walmart Meet Sustainability Goals with Fuel Cell Technology

Sustainability is important to growing industry in the world we live in today. Leading corporations are always on the lookout for new ways to make operations cleaner and more environmentally friendly. Plug Power, the premier systems integrator for hydrogen fuel cell systems, provides companies with an economically viable solution to help them meet their sustainability goals.

Walmart specifically has made clear that they maintain three sustainability goals:

  1. To be supplied 100% by renewable energy
  2. To create zero waste
  3.  To sell products that sustain people and the environment

Through a partnership with Plug Power, companies like Walmart can get closer to meeting their objectives.
Since 2012, we have been working together with Walmart to bring a zero-emission power source distribution warehouses in North America. This depends on material handling lift trucks for moving pallets full of perishable foods and consumer products down from warehouse storage shelves and into delivery truck trailers.

Traditionally, lead-acid batteries have powered these warehouse lift trucks. But any grid-dependent power can be polluting, hazardous and wasteful. A fuel cell on the other hand, runs on clean hydrogen fuel. Plug Power’s GenDrive fuel cells are designed as a drop-in replacement for the batteries – you just pull the battery out of the forklift and drop in a GenDrive unit.

Not only do fuel cells produce only heat and water as a by-product, but they also eliminate the need for Walmart to use up valuable space on its warehouse floor for battery storage and charging. GenDrive fuel cells are easily refueled by the truck operator in as little as 60 seconds, significantly decreasing the amount of time lift trucks are not operational during the day.
 
To date, Walmart has more than 500 GenDrive fuel cell units in operation at several warehouses, including its Washington Courthouse facility in Ohio, and a fresh food distribution center in Balzac, Canada, considered the most energy-efficient distribution facility of its kind in North America.
 
Most exciting, Walmart is about to expand that number dramatically with a roll out that totals more than 1,700 new GenDrive units to be installed in forklift trucks at six more Walmart warehouses in North America.

Plug Power is making it much easier to bring sustainability to these new sites because it has become a one-stop hydrogen solution provider, delivering fuel cells, hydrogen, maintenance service and support.

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells emit only a small amount of heat and water, making them an environmentally-friendly alternative energy source. By using hydrogen fuel cells in material distribution warehouses, Walmart is deploying lift truck operations that are efficient, clean, quiet, and most importantly, sustainable.


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Community

Why Supporting the Military is Gary Sinise’s Mission

The tragic events surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States left actor Gary Sinise asking himself, “What can I do to support our military?” He found the answer in doing what he loves: entertaining.

Although not a veteran himself, Gary became a vocal supporter of American servicemen and women. He began touring with the USO across the U.S. and to military bases abroad, and eventually brought musician friends along to perform. What started as a group just playing together for fun turned into the Lt. Dan Band, named after Sinise’s memorable Vietnam War veteran character in the movie “Forrest Gump.” In the past 13 years, the band has played hundreds of shows, including a recent concert that Walmart sponsored to recognize Medal of Honor recipients.

In 2011, his personal mission to champion wounded heroes, their families and children of the fallen led him to establish the Gary Sinise Foundation. The organization is home to a variety of programs that offer support, raise awareness and provide necessary resources to wounded heroes and active-duty service families. Watch as Sinise shares more about his mission and offers advice on how anyone can support our nation’s military and their families. 

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Sustainability

In eCommerce Packaging, Sometimes More Equals Less

About a year ago, Walmart assembled a team from all over the company to focus on ways we could continue improving the online shopping experience. The feedback we received was tremendously helpful, but there was a surprise. An overwhelming majority of customers took it upon themselves to elaborate on an unsolicited topic: The size of our boxes.

Over and over again, our customers expressed a desire for us to reduce our packaging. That’s what they were talking about, so we immediately shifted our focus to follow their lead. And that shift has created the potential for huge results.

In the world of e-commerce, several factors have to be taken into account when reducing packaging. Because these items are being shipped great distances and handled multiple times, we must ensure the proper amount of cushion and protection. Ultimately, it’s about the product arriving at its destination undisturbed.

Through data analysis and extensive testing of potential solutions, we’ve developed a way to improve cardboard box utilization by more than 30%, without sacrificing product protection. If scaled over our entire e-commerce operation in the U.S., this effort has the potential to reduce cardboard box consumption by 7.2 million cubic feet annual, roughly enough to fill 82 Olympic-size swimming pools. It also translates into the ability to pack more products into the tractor-trailers we put on the road.

We took everything from order trends and history, to the size of boxes used at our fulfillment centers, into account. We developed several new box sizes and put them to the test – first with a couple of hundred orders, then with 10,000 orders. Then we piloted the program across an entire fulfillment center and, ultimately, concluded we could maximize efficiency by expanding our assortment of box sizes from 12 to 27.

Soon, we’ll implement the program at a second e-commerce fulfillment center and, eventually, across the organization. But the key to success will be our ability to customize the program to the needs and orders of every facility. In fact, this program will have to be continuously monitored and adjusted to meet changing needs. What is achievable at one facility with an assortment of 27 boxes may require an assortment of 40 boxes at another. And we’re up to that challenge.

The bottom line is, we recognized an opportunity by listening to our customers, and we acted on it. Great things happen when you take time to listen.

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Opportunity

From Leading Soldiers to Leading Walmart Associates

Following in my father’s footsteps, I joined the Marines before I finished high school.

After returning home from two tours of duty in Somalia and Iraq, I found that similar to many veterans, I struggled with the transition to civilian life. Initially I thought I had only two options: police officer or fireman. I decided on becoming a patrolman, but there were a limited number of openings, and the salary would have made it difficult to support my family.

After much research, I decided to work in retail. I took my first position with Walmart not only because of the secure salary but also because Walmart seemed to be a company that offered equal opportunity to every kind of person. Just like the military, I would be able to prove my abilities and possibly be rewarded for high performance.

Several months after separating from the Marines, when I felt the desire to rejoin the military, Walmart encouraged me to return. I joined the Army National Guard and was eventually called back to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was a lead sniper, in charge of training more than 200 Iraqi policemen and 15 Americans. I was responsible for teaching them everything from leadership to gathering intelligence in a combat environment.

My part in the deployment ended after mortar rounds landed preceding a serious firefight in which I suffered several injuries after mobilizing my men to safely return to camp. I was awarded the Bronze Star with valor for my leadership; however, my recovery took months of surgeries. Today, I’m legally blind in my left eye, and still have some memory issues from a traumatic brain injury. But through all those difficult times, my managers at Walmart were really supportive. They helped me work around my limitations and even flew me to Kansas City to receive the Sam Walton Hero Award in front of 5,000 people.

After my recovery, I learned how to translate my military background to the business world even further. It may sound very different, going from staff sergeant to running a grocery department, but leadership skills remain constant. It’s all about establishing routines, simplifying things for associates, leading them and understanding them. Because of that, I’ve been able to grow my career.

I was recently promoted to Fresh Operations Manager and lead more than 1,000 associates. I work in the field, teaching and training fresh operations in our stores and have remained committed to our troops by supporting Walmart’s initiative to hire veterans. I work with HR to help them understand the different military ranks and how that translates to jobs. In the last five years, Walmart has hired more than 100,000 veterans and we’re a stronger company because of it.

I like to stay involved in supporting veterans in any way I can. I co-founded Helping Hands for Freedom, a nonprofit that supports the families of wounded and fallen soldiers. Most soldiers and their families lack the kind of support I was fortunate to receive from Walmart, so we do everything we can.

It’s great knowing I work for a company that supports my involvement with veterans. My plan is to continue to grow within the company and move up to senior leadership on the grocery side of the business. I want to continue to move forward with my development and growth so I can continue to lead and develop associates across our company.

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Innovation

Checking Your Grocery List, and Getting it Right

People want to save money and time, so it's no wonder online grocery shopping sounds so appealing. Open your browser, click the grocery items you need, and let someone else do the shopping for you – right down to loading them in your trunk, right?

That’s exactly why Walmart will be expanding its online grocery service to nine more new markets this month, such as Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; and Raleigh, North Carolina. But our customers want more than just the ability to click and shop from the comfort of their own homes or workplaces. They want to know the perfect tomato – or better yet, banana or avocado (because those can be especially tricky) – finds its way into their grocery bag every time.

Before we began expanding the service to more markets, we worked tirelessly for quite some time to pilot and modify our online grocery service – and that’s because we’re committed to getting it right every time. The key to how we build a trusting bond with customers rests with our managers and, most importantly, our personal shoppers. We select only the best of the best for this critical role, and each associate undergoes rigorous training.

Selecting great produce and meat is essential. Personal shoppers not only learn the art of selecting these items by look, but also by touch and smell. For example, when a customer selects strawberries, our personal shoppers peek through each side of the carton. Similarly, finding the perfect pineapple or cantaloupe requires extra time – and we make the time. When our personal shoppers are gathering frozen and refrigerated items, they work quickly to select those items and return them to a designated, temperature-controlled holding area to ensure quality is not compromised.

But all the training in the world can’t account for everything. That’s where personal relationships matter.

Our promise to customers is that we’re not just here to gather their groceries. We learn their names.  Over time, we’ll get to know whether they prefer softer or firmer avocados, because we understand that texture makes a difference if you’re adding a slice to a salad or mashing it for guacamole. And as we get to know our customers more, we can begin to know which customers are fans of yellow bananas, and which opt for slightly green for a longer shelf life.

We’re in the business of saving our customers money so they can live better. In our eyes, taking grocery shopping off a customer’s growing to-do list, while ensuring quality and convenience every time – that’s definitely living better.

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