Big Data and Supply Chain Management @ Walmart

socialmed_ia    February 21, 2015

Organization Name: Walmart
Industry: Retail

Big data is a big issue nowadays. Everybody likes to talk about it, but not many really understand its meaning. I used to hold the opinion that big data is just another type of data, and therefore does not deserve a specific reference. I still think so… but certainly agree that big data is a unique type of data, especially when we consider its various sources, size, and real time matters. If we talk business, it seems that big data changes the game rules, by enabling the retailers to process information, and respond very quickly and much more precisely. I would like to link supply chain management and big data, and focus on exciting connections, which challenge our traditional way of thinking. For this purpose, I will examine Walmart and its Supplier Education company – 8th & Walton for  my case studies. Let’s watch Dr. Annibal Sodero on “How can social media data improve the supply chain process, forecasting, and ultimately on-shelf availability?”.

As you watched, Dr. Sodero talks practically on how big data can be used in supply chain management, especially in forecasting and shelf-availability. 8th & Walton “Founded in June of 2006, 8th & Walton is a Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart supplier development company that has helped hundreds of organizations in their efforts to do 8th-and-waltonbusiness better with the world’s largest retailer”, so in fact this company sets the professional background for Walmart suppliers, and innovates the most interesting cases for social media use by Walmart, focusing also on supply chain management. In case that you ask why 8th & Walton is connected to this post, I will answer that I belive Walmart is smarter because its managers respect knowledge and trust academic experts to lead innovation; and in short – without 8th & Walton, it is not the same successful Walmart.


* WMX – Walmart Exchange
This program allows Walmart’s suppliers to “use its digital media platform to apply big data … and use it effectively in order to boost sales and cut costs”. “On top of that... [Walmart] will use that in partnership to go out and buy media on behalf of our suppliers.”
If so, we can expect Walmart to use big data to benefit its supply chain by using the technology smartly, and connect on behalf of its suppliers. Definitely a matter of trust and good relationship, if you ask me.

* SPARC program – Supplier Portal Allowing Retail Coverage
This program “provides real-time insights on product performance when in store, enabling its supplier in-store teams to “not only spot problems sooner, but take action themselves.” By providing the same information to suppliers that its store managers have, Walmart hopes that suppliers can enable the type of collaboration with store staff that will keep product in-stock more often and reduce the out-of-stock levels that have been plaguing the retailer of late”.
If I summarize my impression – this program is brilliant in at least two aspects: contact the supplier effectively, and on the same time keep the stock in a good shape.

In summary, I must admit, I never considered Walmart as an innovative company. Yet, the little research I have done for this post revealed some important facts and practices, and lots of exciting things in Walmart’s day-to-day supply chain management.

Lessons for others:
* Big data is something you should consider to learn about
* Supply chain management is certainly a field to apply social media
* Use your IT budget wisely, there has to be a reason to use money (Yes you are right, results!)
* Trust is the state of play. Keep your suppliers close to heart.

P.S. I was trying to get Walmart as well as Dr. Sodero’s comments to this post, however I could not reach them by email nor phone.

Submitted by: Socialmed_Ia – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.

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