Wal-Mart and the Successful Supply Chain Management

We all know that Wal-Mart is one the most sucessful companies out there with one of the best supply chain’s ever created. The University of San Francisco wrote up an article on the techniques that Wal-Mart uses to become sucessful and they are exactly the same techniques that we learned in class.


Wal-Marts cost saving methods are always passed down to the customer as the costs associated with their supply chain is minimized.

Their success comes from:

  • Cross Docking
  • Demand Planning
  • Forecasting
  • Inventory Management
  • Strategic Sourcing
  • Distribution Management
I looked up cross docking to get a better understanding of what it is and how Wal-Mart uses it and it is a technique that replenishes inventory. Cross-docking is when inventory comes from the supplier directly to the retailers warehouse and then turned around and shipped out on trucks to the retailers store. This minimizes shelf time and inventory costs that Wal-Mart would of had to pay.
In addition, supply chain managers at Wal-Mart focus heavily on demand planning and forecasting like we did in class in order to acheive “lean inventory”. They focus on historical data, upcoming sales, and trends in the indsustry to predict the inventory levels they need.  They then forecast out their predicitons to make sure distributors have just the right amount of inventory on hand to reduce inventory costs.
One of the best ways Wal-Mart gets the lowest prices though is it vendor partners and the long-term contracts established with them. Since Wal-Mart is a market leader in retail sales, vendors are forced to agree to low margin, high volume sales to Wal-Mart if they want to stay on the retailers shelves.
One of my first accounting jobs was working at a online computers parts retailer/wholesaler. We had a few warehouses connected to an office and this gave me my first insight into supply chain and inventory management as I was involved in purchasing as well. Initially, our inventory system was out of date as we used a periodic system that was time-consuming and expensive. Our inventory mangement became more efficient when we ordered a SKU system to keep a perpetual count of what we had. Our hot-selling or our “A” list items were constantly being re-ordered and our inventory became much more lean to the point where we were restocking huge shelves every week. We used histroical data such as Black Friday sales and upcoming promotions to know how much to stock and also became a volume buyer to achieve the lowest prices.
Have you had experience being in a purchasing department and measure the inventory volume that needs to be purchased?


2 thoughts on “Wal-Mart and the Successful Supply Chain Management

  1. What a great post. I just posted about Amazon and their supply chain management and I mentioned Wal-Mart as well. My question is on how much of inventory holding costs are compared to Amazon. These two are both very successful and large companies. It would be very interesting to know.

  2. Wal-Mart definitely has significant purchasing power in regards to their suppliers and products. One of my seasonal jobs was at a retail clothing store. This was one of the most arduous and stressful tasks I have been through. Furthermore, our store did not have enough room to hold the “replen” and inventory that was being turned over in at most three to four days. As difficult as this was it was amazing how well the supply chain process worked. Additionally, if the supply chain failed stores in close proximity had excess of the same product that would be overnighted to the customer for free. It was a great combination of CRM, Supply Chain, and Sales all working as one single unit.

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