Walmart’s operations management covers a variety of approaches that are focused on managing the supply chain and inventory, as well as sales performance. The company’s success is partly based on effective performance in operations management. Specifically, Walmart’s management covers all of the 10 decision areas of operations management. These decision areas pertain to the issues and concerns that managers face on a daily basis. Walmart’s application of the 10 decisions of operations management reflects managers’ prioritization of business objectives. In turn, this prioritization shows the strategic significance of the different decision areas of operations management in Walmart’s business.
The 10 decisions of operations management are effectively applied in Walmart’s business through a combination of approaches that emphasize supply chain management, inventory management, and sales and marketing.
Walmart: Operations Management 10 Decision Areas
1. Design of Goods and Services. This decision area of operations management involves the strategic characterization of products. In the case of Walmart, this decision area covers goods and services. As a retailer, the company offers retail service. However, Walmart also has its own brands of goods, such as Great Value and Sam’s Choice. The company’s operations management addresses the design of retail service by emphasizing the variables of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Walmart is known for low costs because of its cost leadership generic strategy. To fulfill this strategy, the firm focuses on maximum efficiency of its retail service personnel. To address the design of goods in this decision area of operations management, Walmart also emphasizes minimal production costs, especially for the Great Value brand. For example, the firm’s goods are designed in such a way that they are easy to mass-produce.
2. Quality Management. This decision area of operations management is applied at Walmart through three tiers of quality standards. The lower tier specifies minimum quality expectations of the majority of customers. Walmart keeps this lower tier for most of its brands, such as Great Value. The middle tier specifies market average quality for low-cost retailers. This tier is applied for the performance of Walmart employees, especially sales personnel. The upper tier specifies quality levels that exceed market averages. This tier is applied to only a minority of Walmart’s outputs, such as goods under the Sam’s Choice brand. The firm addresses the decision area of operations management for quality management through this three-tier approach that ensures suitable quality in different areas of Walmart’s organization.
3. Process and Capacity Design. Walmart addresses this decision area of operations management through behavioral analysis, forecasting, and continuous monitoring. Behavioral analysis of customers and employees, such as in the stores, serves as basis for Walmart’s process and capacity design of store processes and capacity, personnel and equipment. Forecasting is the basis for the firm’s ever-changing capacity design for human resources. Walmart’s HR process and capacity design evolves as the business grows. Also, to satisfy concerns in this decision area of operations management, the company uses continuous monitoring. Continuous monitoring of store capacities informs Walmart’s corporate managers to keep or change current designs.
4. Location Strategy. This decision area of operations management emphasizes efficiency of movement of materials, human resources and business information throughout the organization. In this regard, Walmart’s location strategy includes stores located in or near urban centers. The company’s aim is to maximize market reach. Materials and goods are made available to the company’s target consumers through strategic warehouse locations. To address the business information aspect in this decision area of operations management, Walmart uses the Internet. The company has a comprehensive set of online information systems for real-time reports and monitoring. Thus, Walmart’s main concern in this decision area is on the location of stores and related facilities.
5. Layout Design and Strategy. To address this decision area of operations management, Walmart uses shoppers’ behaviors for the layout design of its stores. The layout design of individual stores is based on consumer behavioral analysis and corporate standards. For example, Walmart’s placement of some goods in certain areas of its stores, such as near the entrance/exit, is based on this behavioral analysis of shoppers. On the other hand, the layout design and strategy for the company’s warehouses are based on the need to rapidly move goods across the supply chain to the stores. Walmart’s warehouses have adequate space allocation for the company’s trucks, suppliers’ trucks, and goods. With efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and cost-minimization, the firm satisfies needs in this decision area of operations management.
6. Human Resources and Job Design. Walmart’s human resource management strategies involve continuous recruitment. The company suffers from relatively high turnover because of low wages, which relate to the cost-leadership generic strategy. Nonetheless, continuous recruitment enables Walmart to address this decision area of operations management. Also, the firm maintains standardized job processes, especially for positions in the stores. Walmart’s training programs support the need for standardization and service quality standards of the business. Thus, the firm satisfies concerns in this decision area of operations management even though there are some issues with turnover. (Main article: Walmart: Human Resource Management)
7. Supply Chain Management. Walmart’s use of information technology and bargaining power over suppliers successfully addresses this decision area of operations management. The company’s supply chain is comprehensively integrated with advanced information technology. Supply chain management information systems are directly linked to Walmart’s ability to minimize costs of operations. These systems enable managers and vendors to collaborate in deciding when to move certain amounts of merchandise across the supply chain. Walmart’s operations management approaches also include wielding the company’s strong bargaining power. Because it is the largest retailer in the world, Walmart influences suppliers to cooperate in using these systems.
8. Inventory Management. In this decision area of operations management, Walmart’s inventory management involves the vendor-managed inventory model and just-in-time cross-docking. In the vendor-managed inventory model, the suppliers access Walmart’s information systems to decide when to deliver goods based on real-time data on inventory levels. In this way, the company minimizes stockouts. On the other hand, in just-in-time cross-docking, Walmart minimizes the size of its inventory, thereby also supporting the firm’s cost-minimization efforts. Such approaches help maximize the company’s performance in this decision area of operations management. (Main article: Walmart: Inventory Management)
9. Scheduling. Walmart uses conventional shifts and flexible scheduling. In this decision area of operations management, the emphasis is on optimizing internal business process schedules. Through optimized schedules, the company can expect minimal losses linked to excess capacity and related issues. At Walmart, scheduling in warehouses is flexible and based on current trends. For example, based on the company’s approaches to inventory management and supply chain management, suppliers readily respond to changes in inventory levels. As a result, most of Walmart’s warehouse schedules are not fixed. However, the company generally has fixed conventional shifts for scheduling of store processes and human resources in sales and marketing. Such fixed scheduling is needed to optimize human resource expenditure. Still, to fully address this decision area of operations management, Walmart occasionally changes store and personnel schedules to address anticipated changes in demand, such as during Black Friday.
10. Maintenance. In addressing maintenance needs, managers must consider maintaining different types of resources. Walmart effectively addresses this decision area of operations management through training programs to maintain human resources, dedicated personnel for facility maintenance, and dedicated personnel for equipment maintenance. The company’s human resource management provides training programs to ensure that employees are effective and efficient. Walmart’s dedicated personnel for facility maintenance keep all the firm’s buildings in shape. In relation, the dedicated personnel for equipment maintenance fix, repair, and clean equipment like cash registers, computers, cleaning equipment, and others. This combination of maintenance approaches contributes to Walmart’s effectiveness in satisfying concerns in this decision area of operations management.
Determining Productivity at Walmart
Part of the goals of Walmart’s operations management is to maximize productivity to support the minimization of costs under the cost leadership generic strategy. There are various quantitative and qualitative criteria or measures of productivity that pertain to human resources and related internal business processes. The most notable of these productivity measures/criteria at Walmart are:
- Revenues per sales unit
- Stockout rate
- Duration of order filling
The revenues per sales unit refers to the sales revenues per store, average sales revenues per store, and sales revenues per sales team. Walmart is interested in maximizing revenues per sales unit. The stockout rate is the frequency of stockout, which is the condition where inventories for certain products are already empty or inadequate. Walmart’s objective is to minimize the stockout rate. The duration of order filling is the amount of time consumed to fill inventory requests at the stores. Walmart’s objective is to minimize the duration of order filling. The satisfaction of these objectives contributes to the company’s performance in operations management.
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