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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Business

Meet the Families Behind Our Grass-Fed Beef

They say you are what you eat.

When we shop to feed our families, we’re especially concerned with what’s in the food we’re buying and where it came from. Thanks to two cattle ranching families who came together years ago to farm grass-fed beef in Utah and Wyoming, we’re able to provide this option – our Marketside Butcher brand – at over 2,000 of our stores.

It’s important to do business with people who care about their customers as much as we do. Working with Jones Creek, that care is obvious. The Crandall family has been farming cattle on their ranches in Utah and Wyoming for over five generations, and they’re committed to a product that’s as natural as it is tasty.

Check out this video to see why they believe in producing beef with no added hormones or antibiotics, but lots of passion and care.

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U.S. Manufacturing

These Artists are Mixing Up the Cocktail Game

Watching a professional mixologist craft the perfect cocktail can leave you awestruck.

From their performance-style bottle flips as they mix the ingredients to the spectacle of the drink itself, it’s truly a form of art.

The bottle flips take time to master, but creating that perfect cocktail at home is definitely within reach. However, it can be intimidating. While craft cocktails are in vogue right now – especially with millennials – many of them report they don’t know how to make them.

We were approached in the summer of 2016 by Walmart’s mixed drinks buyer, Tammy Patton, who wanted help in creating a new, exciting product that resonated with these customers. “The mixed drinks and bar ingredients category hasn’t seen innovations in a while. It all started with us needing lime and lemon juices, which surprisingly, we didn’t have in that category,” Tammy said.

What we came up with – a selection of mixers and bar ingredients called Cocktail Artist – fills this gap. From the ingredients to the packaging, it stands out. We went straight to the experts – eight award-winning mixologists from across the U.S. – and worked with them to create premium ingredients they would be excited to use. They became our spokespeople for each of the products, with their faces on the bottles of the ingredients they helped make.

Each mixologist honed in on the mix or ingredient he or she was passionate about. They were enthusiastic and took ownership from the get-go – all the way to doing store demos, taking pictures with customers and signing bottles. We went with an Andy Warhol-style concept and the idea of turning the labels into actual pieces of art.

We started with two products, then grew to eight in March of this year. And in 2018, we’ll expand to a total of 15. And with new products, come new bartenders. One of them, Skyy John, better known as Tipsy Bartender, is one of the biggest influencers in this category, with 26 million followers. To keep up with demand at our plant in Cincinnati, we’re proud to be adding jobs to that community. What’s great is that none of our mixes are made with high-fructose corn syrup and at the same time, they’re affordable. You can make some really high-quality cocktails and not break the bank.

“This line has really revitalized the category. The major players in that space are bringing more to the table and innovating. We’re growing a new customer base, and they’re coming back more often,” Tammy said. “We’re really proud we can offer quality products like this to our customers.”

Our goal was to create a craft cocktail movement. I think we’re on our way.

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Innovation

The Opioid Epidemic Has Changed Safe Disposal of Prescriptions

The opioid epidemic is as serious of a drug crisis as America’s ever seen. It’s so deep-reaching that nearly every community has felt its effects.

And while prescription pain medications are an appropriate treatment option for some, the reality is that unchecked supplies in the public pose a significant health concern. Just as prescription drugs should be prescribed carefully, they must be stored and disposed of carefully.

Providing a means for proper drug disposal is a fundamental way Walmart can help. Today, we announced a new, free, convenient solution for responsible opioid disposal, DisposeRx. It’s a first-of-its-kind solution and I’m so proud of our team and the work they’ve done to bring this simple means of disposal to our patients.

We know the person who was prescribed a prescription opioid medication isn’t always the only one who is at risk for misuse. This innovative option for medication disposal will help keep families and communities healthy, and DisposeRx is one more way we can make a difference.

Here are a few more reasons why we wanted to help with this critical issue.

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Business

CEO Doug McMillon's Note to Associates on Tax Savings

Happy New Year! I hope you and your families had a great holiday season. Thank you so much for all your efforts to serve our customers during our busiest time of the year. I know there were many smiling faces on Christmas morning and throughout the season because of you. Thank you for serving them so well and for helping each other to do it as a team.

We’ve got some really good news to share today. As you know, the President and Congress have approved a lower business tax rate. Given these changes, we have an opportunity to accelerate a few pieces of our investment plan. We plan to continue investing in you, in our customers through lower prices, and in our future--especially in technology to help improve your jobs and the experience for our customers.

So, we’re pleased to tell you that we’re raising our starting wage to $11 an hour for Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club, Supply Chain, eCommerce and Home Office hourly associates effective in February.

We’re also providing a one-time bonus to hourly associates that pays a larger amount the longer you’ve been with our company. Associates that don’t benefit from the new starting wage increase are eligible for the bonus and it will range from $200 to $1,000 depending on your length of service. As an associate who’s been with the company more than 25 years, I understand the value of experience and we all appreciate those of you that have helped build this company over the years.

I’m also excited to tell you that we’re making an important change to benefits by expanding our paid leave policy to provide full-time hourly associates with 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. This expanded parental leave also applies to salaried associates and to parents who adopt. We will also contribute $5,000 to the cost of adoption. I recently heard from two associates on this topic—one through an open door note and one at a town hall. Both pointed out how limited our policy was for adoptive parents so we’re happy to be addressing that concern now. Families are a priority to us and connecting with and caring for a new family member is obviously important.

As we look to the future and how we’ll win with customers, we’ll be assessing what additional investments are needed, and we’ll make those decisions with you, our customers, and our shareholders in mind.

Thanks again for everything you do. I’m proud of our progress and we have momentum. Let’s build on that in 2018!

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