U.S. Manufacturing

Empowering Manufacturing’s Revolutionary Thinkers

Creating big change doesn’t just happen in one big step. It does, however, require many big thinkers – the bright minds who can develop new processes and ideas to tackle every detail and slowly bring a massive transformation to life.

Expanding U.S. manufacturing is a big change we at Walmart have been focused on for nearly two years now, and since then, we’ve taken many smaller steps to make it a reality. Today is one of those. At our second U.S. Manufacturing Summit, we not only brought together government leaders, suppliers and our own leadership – we joined the Walmart Foundation and U.S. Conference of Mayors in announcing the first grant recipients of the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, an investment in the intelligence we need to shape a better future.

One example of a process that could use a forward-thinking re-examination is the manufacturing of blue jeans. This relaxed wardrobe staple may seem pretty simple, but making a pair is actually quite complicated – and not that efficient. The current method typically involves chemical washes and several dips into a vat of dye. It also consumes a good deal of water. Researchers at Texas Tech University, one of today’s fund recipients, have proposed an alternative wherein foam is used to apply the indigo dye, allowing jean manufacturers to finish three times as many pairs during the dyeing stage and reduce water usage by 50% to 70%.

Three other institutions received grants toward textile processes today – Georgia Tech Research Corporation and North Carolina State University at Raleigh have both created concepts for new sewing technology, and the University of Georgia Research Foundation developed an additional approach to more sustainable dyeing. Other recipients included Indiana University and Oregon State University for injection molding innovations and the University of Texas at Arlington for new systems in small motor assembly.

Innovation has long been part of the culture at Walmart, and I was proud to be a part of this announcement. Thinking creatively paid off today for these institutions, but the bigger payoff will be in changing the landscape of U.S. manufacturing and thus our collective future.

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Community

Meet Reagan, the Face of a Modern-Day Miracle

Seth and Kata DeLoach had no way of knowing that a trip to the pediatrician for their daughter would turn their world upside down.

After noting some concerns about the development of then 2-month-old Reagan’s head, the pediatrician directed Seth and Kata to a neurosurgeon at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis – a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. It was there that a neurosurgeon was able to diagnose Reagan with craniosynostosis, a condition where joints in the brain begin to close prematurely before fully formed.

When the DeLoach family received the news, Seth was working at a Walmart store in Indiana. He recalls with gratitude the blessings of prayer and support from his manager and fellow associates during the two-month wait until Reagan was old enough to undergo surgery.

The day of the procedure, Seth and Kata waited for two hours at Riley Hospital while a nurse updated them every 30 minutes on their daughter’s progress — a seemingly small act that will be remembered by the couple for years to come. Three days after Reagan’s surgery, the family was finally able to return home.

Today, Reagan is a happy, healthy 2-year-old. Since the DeLoach family’s incredible medical journey, they have been wholeheartedly giving back. Seth, now a co-manager at a Walmart supercenter in Owensboro, Kentucky, shared his daughter’s story with his employees, and the team rallied around Reagan.

“In the past, I would always give money when asked,” Seth said. “But after Reagan’s experience, it really hit home. I had been personally affected and was so grateful for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Riley Hospital for Children.”

Seth’s efforts have been instrumental in the Owensboro store’s fundraising campaigns for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This year, they were able to surpass their fundraising goal and raise more than $8,000 for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

Reagan may be young, but her story – and those of many children like her – continues to inspire many to believe in the power of a miracle.

Since 1987, Walmart and Sam’s Club customers and associates have raised more than $870 million for 170 children’s hospitals in communities throughout the U.S. and Canada. To help children in your community, you can make a donation at the register at any Walmart store or Sam’s Club now until Oct. 9.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Watch the American Dream at Work at this Utah Company

If you were watching TV over the weekend, you may have seen a new ad about Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing. While the music in the background is fairly recognizable, what may not be as well-known is the commercial’s cast: real employees of Lifetime Products, one supplier we’re working with to re-shore production of several items.

Based in Clearfield, Utah, Lifetime manufactures basketball hoops, folding chairs and tables, and picnic tables. They also produce other consumer products, from lawn and garden items to kayaks and paddleboards, for other companies.

The company was founded in 1986 and soon became a Walmart supplier of sports equipment. Fast-forward 30 years and they are providing approximately half of their 300 products to Walmart stores, Walmart.com and Sam’s Club locations across the U.S.

Lifetime began as an idea in a garage in Riverdale, Utah, when a husband and wife team wanted to build a better basketball hoop for their family. Their passion and innovation expanded the project into a business whose name reflects its mission: to build durable, lasting products for consumers and their families.

The company has grown from 15 employees in a partial warehouse to 2,000 employees, making it one of the largest employers in Clearfield, population 30,000, and one of the largest private employers in the state.

In late 2014, we at Walmart reached an agreement with Lifetime for the production of patio furniture and other products re-shored from China. Walmart’s commitment to Lifetime and American-made goods has allowed the manufacturer to establish new production facilities in Mascot, Tennessee, just north of Knoxville. Lifetime hopes to hire 500 employees over the next five years in this new location, which is situated in a town of just 2,500 people.

“Lifetime’s relationship with Walmart and Sam’s Club has been vital to our expansion,” their president and CEO, Richard Hendrickson, recently said. “As a company, we will continue to fight hard to keep jobs and manufacturing technologies and expertise right here in the United States of America.”

When we visited Lifetime to shoot the commercial, we also got the chance to meet several of their employees and chat about their work. In addition to Mike’s story here, you can watch others – and read more about our commitment to U.S. manufacturing – at walmart.com/americanjobs.

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Business

#PattiPie, New Cobblers and the Evolution of Our Bakeries

When Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie hit Walmart stores last fall, the demand for #PattiPie became so high we could barely keep enough of them on the shelves.

As a merchant for our fresh bakery, this was exciting news. It proved that the work by Kinna Thomas, our senior buyer of cakes and pies, and our entire team to provide premium goods baked with high-quality ingredients was not going unnoticed.

It also proved that taking the extra time and effort to think outside of the box whenever we’re developing bakery goods makes a real difference to our customers. Taking it to the next level for this holiday season, Kinna was reviewing Ms. LaBelle’s cookbooks and stumbled across one of her famous cobbler recipes. We knew how important it was to hit the mark perfectly.

After testing and trying out the product, I’m excited to announce that together, we’ve cooked up three premium cobblers in peach, apple and mixed berry flavors for #PattiPie fans to enjoy, starting Sept. 2. Not only are they packed full with quality fruit, they’re baked with two crusts – one on top and one on bottom – to ensure that sugary crisp bite.

Knowing that most cobblers on the market today are frozen, we worked to find the right supplier to create a unique fresh version. Turns out we had the right company with us all along: Twin Star Bakery out of Houston, who currently makes a number of decadent items for Walmart, including oversized sandwich cookies and specialty dessert cakes. As a matter of fact, the cobbler expansion will bring over a hundred new jobs to their factory.

In addition to the cobblers, we’re also bringing Ms. LaBelle’s apple pecan cake and sweet potato pound cake to select stores. The sweet potato pound cake was a joint venture to with a small Philadelphia business, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique. We will offer this delicious Southern-style treat in select stores in the Northeast.

The success of Patti’s sweet potato pie – and the resulting expansion of her personal recipe-based product line – is just one example of how we are working to transform our fresh bakery offerings through innovation. We are so proud to offer amazing new items across our entire bakery. Just last year, we added about 60 new items and we continue to innovate. Today, more than half of our items are prepared in our stores, and we’ve enriched our teams across the country with bakery technicians who’ve been training and helping our store associates to ensure everything comes out exactly right. On top of that, we’re simplifying our processes so that we can bake many different items at one temperature, allowing us to produce more fresh-baked goods for our customers every day.

It’s a sweet time to work in Walmart’s fresh bakery, and we’re excited to see our customers’ reactions as we work to deliver every ingredient just right.

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Opportunity

One Walmart Associate’s Path to the Pentagon

Since 1997, Luke McCollum has lived somewhat of a double life, holding careers at both Walmart and the Navy Reserve.

While a retail role and a government job may seem like an unlikely pairing, he says the blending of both worlds is what has prepared him well for an exciting next step: Navy Vice Admiral, where he’ll serve as the Commander of America’s Navy Reserve Force. This is no small promotion – President Barack Obama had to appoint him to the role.

While this means Luke will be leaving Walmart’s home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, to work solely at the Pentagon, he says Walmart is a big reason why he’s able to take this new step. Why?

“Working here has made me a better Navy Reserve officer, and vice versa,” he said.

As vice president of Walmart’s logistics services, one of Luke’s duties is to oversee new distribution centers coming to life across the U.S. – from picking the location, to seeing it all in action with excited associates. He most recently experienced this with a new fulfillment center in Chino, California, and a new distribution center in Mankato, Minnesota. To Luke, it was exhilarating to see everything unfold, knowing that this would help serve customers better and provide new opportunities for our associates.

While his work and processes at Walmart are different than those at the Navy, he’s found common ground at both organizations in dealing with the large, complex and unpredictable. “In the Navy, we can never get comfortable because it’s always changing,” he said. “It forces us to think differently and strategically. We have to do a lot of that at Walmart, too.”

What Luke enjoys about both of his teams is their desire to learn new things. “I would be sitting in senior meetings in the Navy, and they would ask me how Walmart would solve a problem. The same happened in my Walmart meetings,” he said. “They have the appetite to change and grow. Both have had to evolve over the years. At Walmart, we try to understand how our customers have changed and how we can operate better to serve them. The Navy is no different. They serve a customer, too – the American people and the men and women on active duty.”

Having a really strong support system at home and at work is what has helped Luke hold down two careers. He gives a lot of credit to his family. When most people are heading home for the weekend, Luke has to get on a plane to the Middle East or the Pacific for another full work week. With a 24-hour flight back home and jumping right back into Monday, he doesn’t have much downtime. “You have to know what’s important because you can’t do everything,” he said.

Why do two jobs? For Luke, it’s all about the people. He thrives on seeing people do things they didn’t know they could do. “One of the definitions of leadership is to define reality, provide encouragement on the way and say thank you in between,” he said. “I’ve gotten to do that in both organizations.”

Luke is honored, humbled yet excited to take on this new job.

“I’ll miss my Walmart team, but my experiences here have prepared me well to take this next step,” he said.

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