U.S. Manufacturing

A Seat at the Table for U.S. Textile Manufacturing

Who doesn’t enjoy plopping onto a patio chair, kicking their feet up and sipping on an ice-cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day? Odds are, you probably focus the majority of your attention on the lemonade. But when’s the last time you considered the comfy cushion on that patio chair? Where exactly does it come from? How is it made?

The colors and designs on the cushions of your favorite patio furniture – and so many other products – are still screen printed. The majority of these fabrics are laboriously printed overseas, cut, sewn into cushions and shipped to the U.S. Often times, up to seven months pass from the time a retailer places an order until the product arrives on its shelves. Digital fabric printers have existed since the early 1990s, but they’ve never been fast enough to meet the demands of mass production. And, even then, implementing digital printing into cut and sew manufacturing would require a complete overhaul of the process currently being used around the world.

For years, a team of experts at the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University has been collaborating with print and color science professionals to not only advance the technology but develop a process map to effectively integrate digital printing with cut and sew once and for all. Last year, NC State’s work to advance textile production received a boost with a grant from the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which helped complete a 2,600-square-foot, on-campus, digital print, cut and sew facility.

“So much trial and error has gone into testing new technology and optimizing a process that has the potential to transform the textile manufacturing industry,” said Dr. Lisa Chapman, who specializes in digital technology research at NC State. “Every detail – from speed of printing, to the development of pigments for industrial use – has been carefully examined.

“We’re running successful print trials right now,” she said. “That’s very exciting news for U.S. manufacturing because, all of a sudden, it has a competitive advantage in the marketplace. The speed is finally there. This process is going to allow domestic textile manufacturers to not only print digitally, but print on demand rather than waiting seven months for an order to process and ship.”

What does “print on demand” mean? It means the days of eating up valuable space in warehouses with backlogs of large patio furniture are almost behind us. It means retailers and manufacturers will be able to adapt quicker to evolving trends – and that the cost of a 10- to 20-color fabric will cost no more than a single-color fabric. Fabrics will now be printed to specific size specifications, minimizing waste and driving energy, cost and other efficiencies.

The team at NC State continues to work closely with industry partners, such as Expand Systems, to integrate digital printing with cut and sew operations to bring new products to market. Some of these products could arrive in stores – including Walmart – as early as next spring. NC State feels confident this technology and process could be adapted to meet the needs of other product categories, such as bedding. It's a win for U.S. manufacturing with the potential for even bigger and better things ahead.

Editor’s Note: In January 2014, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, announced the creation of a $10 million U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund to award those who create new processes, ideas and jobs that support America’s growing manufacturing footprint. To date, $4 million in grants has been awarded to seven leading research and development institutions, including NC State, to help solve manufacturing challenges related to small motor assembly, plastic injection molding and advanced textiles. The second grant cycle was announced last week at Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit, and you can learn more here

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Community

Acre for Acre Promise Preserves Nature for Generations

As a parent of four young children, watching their reaction to seeing a family of deer walking through a shallow stream will always be one of my fondest memories.

The smiles, giggles and amazement on their faces: It was nature in its purest form and something I hope to be able to experience with my children’s children one day.

Conserving one acre of wildlife habitat for every acre of land Walmart developed was the goal of Acres for America, which was founded in 2005 by a partnership with Walmart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. That was a commitment of $35 million over 10 years.

That original goal has turned into one of the most impressive collaborations in U.S. land conversation history. In 2015, Walmart renewed its commitment to the program by contributing an additional $35 million over 10 years, with a goal of protecting an additional 1 million acres across the nation. And now the program is creating eight new land conservation projects across Hawaii, Northern California, Southern California, Montana, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina, which will protect and connect wildlife habitats across more than 100,000 acres through $3.8 million in grants and $81.2 million in matching contributions.

The 2017 grants include a rare native Hawaiian forest, longleaf pines in Texas and sustainably harvested forestlands in Minnesota and Montana. They protect ancient redwoods in northern California as well as 1,600 year old bald cypress trees in North Carolina, the oldest known trees east of the Mississippi River.

I’m excited that Walmart is working through their Acres for America program to ensure those beautiful habitats are around for generations to come – one acre at a time.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Competitive Edge: Fan Gear Scores Big for American Jobs

Anywhere you go in America, there’s a sense that folks have a strong connection to the places they came from. We always root for our home teams.

Sports can create a bond that makes people feel close to home, even when they’re far away. At WinCraft, we manufacture licensed sports equipment for teams in the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, Team USA, the NCAA and over 500 colleges and universities. It makes sense that, for American sports like these, every team’s products can be made in the U.S.A.

When Walmart announced its commitment to help create American jobs through buying more American-made products, we knew it was something WinCraft needed be a part of. Supported by their initiative, we’ve built a brand-new manufacturing facility in Winona, Minnesota, and created over 70 more jobs for the wonderful people in our town. WinCraft employs over 675 people in Minnesota, Iowa, Washington and Florida.

Check out this video to see our WinCraft team spirit in action.

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Opportunity

These Vets Helped Each Other - Now They Pay it Forward

For veterans leaving the military, transitioning to civilian life can be a challenge, but Jarred Crabtree and Jeff Kowalik are determined to make it a little bit easier.

The two met in the U.S. Army, where Jeff was Jarred’s lead drill sergeant in basic training. An injury sent Jarred home earlier than he’d anticipated, but the two kept in touch over social media. When Jarred learned his former drill sergeant was leaving the Army, he knew he had to reach out.

Jarred had made the transition from military to civilian life twice before. After a time in the Army and seven years in law enforcement, he had become a market manager for Walmart’s Oklahoma City stores. He was still at Walmart when he rejoined the Army and met Jeff in 2010.

“When I injured myself, it was devastating,” Jarred said. “But the group of veterans when I came back was so supportive, I immediately felt better – like I could put all my energy and skills back into my job here.”

After 18 years in the Army, Jeff was medically retired and having the all-too-common experience of struggling to find...

Posted by Walmart Today on Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jarred wanted other veterans to experience the same kind of support and community he had, so he invited Jeff to come tour one of his stores in Oklahoma City, where they had several developmental co-manager positions open.

“I couldn’t think of anyone better for the role,” Jarred said. “I remembered Jeff’s leadership skills and his ability to lead diverse groups of people. He had the skill sets we needed.”

During his 18 years in the Army, Jeff had never had to look for a job. “When you leave the military, you have to remember how to do everything again,” he said. At Walmart, Jeff had to learn a new lingo and a new role, but he said it goes hand in hand with what he learned in the military. “The leadership, how hard you have to work, the service – there’s an honor behind what you do here.”

Jeff and Jarred are passionate about having other veterans join their teams at Walmart. They know the value veterans bring: professionalism, adaptability, teamwork, problem solving and ingrained leadership skills.

“If you want a job, all you have to do is come apply. You don’t have to start at the top, but with dedication and hard work, you’re going to move up,” Jarred said. “There’s so much opportunity, and it’s not just on the sales floor. With all the positions we have, whether it’s in operations, support, merchandising – when people realize what’s available, they’re amazed. You can lead people, and that’s what Jeff and I get to do every day.”

Now, Jeff mentors his team members at Walmart and in the broader veteran community. He works with the Veteran Support Foundation, which supports various veteran projects across the country, including helping homeless and disabled service members. He also maintains the veterans’ appreciation board at the front of his store, a photo display that recognizes associates who have served in any of the military branches.

“There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood that ties you together,” Jeff said. “When I came to Walmart, it was extremely heartwarming to know I had someone like Jarred, who was also military and also a leader above me who I could learn from.”

Jeff and his family have since moved to Houston, where he’s a co-manager of a Walmart supercenter, and his wife Jennifer is an assistant manager at another supercenter nearby. Meanwhile, Jarred was promoted to a director of implementation and sustainment. That means he’s now the main point of contact for Walmart’s central division of stores to ensure they’re operating successfully. But both veterans are taking what they learned and continuing to encourage other veterans around the country.

“Don’t give up,” Jarred said. “That’s the biggest message I’d want to get across to other veterans: there’s something out there for you. Ask questions. Don’t just apply online – come visit the store. Come talk to us, because you’ll find more people like me and Jeff who want you working with us.”

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Opportunity

Military Service Means Success for Three Tech Associates

Improvise, adapt and overcome.

These three words — the unofficial slogan of the Marines — have particular meaning to those who serve our country. And as military personnel transition to civilian life, they can apply these same words to their careers.

Walmart has always valued the skills military experience provides and how well those translate to the world of retail. We even made a commitment in 2015 to hire 250,000 more veterans by the end of 2020.

With the technology field growing fast, companies are looking for qualified people to fill roles. And there’s a highly talented workforce of veterans who can fill them. From building information networks in Afghanistan to managing vast amounts of data for a whole branch of the military, these experiences are easily transferable to the corporate world – and quite valuable.

But what specifically, makes a veteran successful in a technology career? According to Dennielle Matsumoto, a Walmart Technology senior systems engineer for the cloud, and Jon Fox, a data scientist at for Walmart, it’s collaboration, problem solving and agility.

Collaboration

In his analytical roles with the military, Jon collaborated on many projects with various units to help them make the most of the data at their disposal. One of the most valuable insights he gained is that true collaboration requires strong relationships rather than technical expertise.

“You have to demonstrate your credibility,” Jon said. “You have to establish your rapport with the organization you’re supporting or the organization that’s supporting you.”

When he came to work at Walmart, Jon noticed that the company and its suppliers depended on active collaboration to deliver on the retailer’s promise of saving money and living better. “The data shared between the supplier and Walmart allows our buyers to make better decisions to help reduce the cost of goods we provide to our customers,” Jon said.

For Dennielle, her experience supporting marine air operations in the Navy helps her collaborate with multiple teams at Walmart Technology. Her team works on networking automation, configuring networks for a cloud environment and improving cloud security. “My job is to prioritize workloads and talk to users of our cloud services to determine what they need,” Dennielle noted. “Being a product owner, I don’t have to necessarily know coding or the finite details, but I do need to have a higher-level view of my products and be able to collaborate with different types of stakeholders.”

Problem solving

Pop-culture portrayals of military decision-making depict a rigid and hierarchical process with little room for creative thinking. But in real life, the military cultivates diverse viewpoints, devoting ample resources to testing a breadth of solutions to select the best one. In the military, this process is known as course of action (COA) development. “You develop those three or four courses of action and generate criteria for how you’re going to evaluate each one. Then you rate each alternative against those criteria, and you end up with a recommended course of action,” Jon said.

COA decision making has aided Walmart Technology in recruiting data analytics associates in new ways. Jon says he’s excited to continue promoting this model to decision makers across the organization.

Agility

Agility is a critical skill, both for soldiers on the battlefield and for tech professionals in a rapidly changing industry.

“In the military, you need to be more flexible to change and take that change and produce something that gets the mission accomplished, or in this case, a product,” Dennielle said. “Being agile comes down to [face-to-face] communication and being engaged daily with our team.”

There are few settings where the stakes are higher than in the military, where new information often needs to be used in real time. So Jon wasn’t intimidated to take an analytics role at a company with dozens of petabytes (that’s 1 million gigabytes or almost 4,000 256 GB smartphones) of stored data. “Walmart has a lot of data. In my last job in the military, one of our platforms produced 14 petabytes a day,” Jon said.

Finding your fit

For Shonna Secrest, who came to Walmart after working with post-traumatic stress disorder patients at the Fort Sam Houston military hospital, service provided a sense of humility and the ingredients to become a successful leader. “[Service] made me responsible and accountable and gave me a high level of integrity,” she said. “It gave me the leadership skills I needed to succeed and it kept me humble — once you get broken down mentally and physically and then built back up, you learn to be humble.”


After starting as a project manager in security, Shonna is now a senior manager, helping test and provide quality assurance for software throughout the company. She credits her eight years in the military for her success. “I love the culture here — you have a service mindset that’s embedded in you where you’re not afraid to pull your sleeves up, help others and keep track of the goal.”

Few companies match the size and scale of Walmart, but it’s not a stretch to see how close the military compares. From managing massive amounts of data to large logistics operations or rallying a team to work as one, veterans already have the know-how and it’s a natural fit for the work we do. We’re honored to have many associates who are veterans and we’re proud to focus on hiring more.

With our commitment, Walmart guarantees a position to any eligible U.S. veteran honorably discharged within their first 12 months off active duty. Check out our careers site to see what positions are currently available.

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