Media Eyes Wal-Mart's Massive Distribution Center

ByABC News
April 18, 2006, 7:42 PM

BENTONVILLE, Ark., April 18, 2006 — -- After the first day of the Wal-Mart media conference, I'm left wondering, is Wal-Mart trying to recruit me to work there?

The day started early with a tour of the home office. Perhaps you've heard that it is bare-bones with no fancy furniture like the stores themselves. True. Perhaps you've heard about the row of 44 plain rooms where suppliers present their wares to Wal-Mart buyers hoping the retailer will buy them. True. Perhaps you've heard that the executives have small, sparse offices instead of enormous corner suites that you might expect at the world's biggest retailer. True again.

And finally, you might wonder if the home of that smiling yellow face that promises low prices has a friendly face to greet you and say hello when you enter the store. You bet it does. His name is Paul.

Wal-Mart HQ is a no-frills, low cost operation. It's a warehouse with platform ceilings, low cubicle walls and signs throughout the complex displaying quotes from the man himself, Sam Walton: "Listen to your associates, they're our best idea generators." Wisdom, indeed. Plaques and awards hang on one wall. Employees who went beyond the call of duty on another. And here and there you'll see an electronic time clock.

What really impresses, though, is the distribution center. This is the physical manifestation that explains how Wal-Mart is the low-price leader. It has made supply-chain logistics a core competency, which allows Wal-mart to slash prices. Come again? It gets goods to the stores quickly and efficiently, keeping the shelves constantly stocked.

At the distribution center, or DC, as it is called, more than 200 trucks arrive day and night dropping off merchandise, while more than 150 trucks pick up those same items for the stores. Wal-Mart has a private trucking fleet of 8,000 drivers who drove more than 910 million miles last year. The warehouse is enormous, reaching a height of 35 feet at the center. Rows and rows of products are stacked to the rafters. Remember in the Indiana Jones movie when the Ark of the Covenant was placed in a government warehouse for safekeeping? This could be that warehouse.

If Wal-Mart ran his logistics, Kane would never have misplaced Rosebud.