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Walmart yesterday said that it is acquiring Alert Innovation, described as "a market leader in e-grocery fulfillment automation" with which it has been working since 2016.  Alert has been providing customized technology for Walmart’s market fulfillment centers (MFCs) and began piloting the Alphabot System in Walmart’s first MFC in Salem, New Hampshire in 2019.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  Alert Innovation will continue to operate under the Alert Innovation brand based in the Boston area.

“I am proud that Alert Innovation is one of the most innovative and capable automation companies in operation today. Our mission to improve people’s lives through innovation will now be dedicated to Walmart customers and associates which is an inspiring undertaking,” said John Lert, Alert Innovation Founder and Executive Chairman. 

There was a Reuters story yesterday that suggested where things are going:

"Walmart Inc is planning to cut more than 1,000 jobs at an Atlanta facility that fulfills orders placed on

"In a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) filed on Wednesday, the nation's largest retailer said it would lay off 1,458 workers at the e-commerce fulfillment center located in Fulton Parkway in Atlanta, Georgia.

"Walmart confirmed to Reuters that it was cutting its workforce at the facility and that workers were notified about the move in late August.  'We're converting the fulfillment center on Fulton Parkway to support our growing WFS (Walmart Fulfillment Services) business,' Scott Pope, a spokesperson for Walmart, said.  'As part of the conversion, the facility's infrastructure, operational resources, processes, staffing requirements and equipment are being adjusted to meet the building’s needs'."

KC's View:

This underlines the degree to which companies are making major bets on upgrading their e-grocery fulfillment infrastructures, clearly believing that over the long term, the trends that got accelerated during the pandemic will continue to shape the industry.  And automation is a huge part of that.

I have to say that I'm thrilled for John Lert.  It was many years ago - even before he started working with Walmart, if I am remembering correctly - that he drove down from Boston to meet me at my local Starbucks and explain his vision.  My memory is that I was impressed but maybe a little skeptical about the ability to deliver on the value proposition;  I think that it just struck me as being a tough road to navigate, though everything Lert said made sense.

Obviously, my skepticism was misplaced.  This one goes into the "win" column for both John Lert and Walmart, but not so much for me.