Walmart has made several changes in its data communication systems to improve its suppliers’ access to sales and inventory data. For example, the company added a customized Web site for its suppliers, such as Mattel, Procter & Gamble, and Warner-Lambert. Walmart’s goal is to improve efficiency in order to keep prices low and maintain a high level of customer service. With Walmart’s network, suppliers can access sales, inventory, and forecasting data over extremely fast connections. To ensure confidentiality of data, a sophisticated security system has been implemented to prevent suppliers from accessing data about one another’s products. Walmart has also added Web-based access to its RetailLink system so suppliers can use information in the database. Other data communication applications at Walmart include automated distribution, computerized routing, and electronic data interchange (EDI).
Walmart uses the latest in wireless technology in its operations for warehouse management systems to track and manage the flow of goods through its distribution centers. Another application of wireless technology is for controlling and monitoring forklifts and industrial vehicles that move merchandise inside its distribution centers. The Vehicle Management System (VMS) is the latest application of data communication at Walmart. Among other features, the VMS includes a two-way text-messaging system that enables management to effectively divert material-handling resources to where they are needed the most. (The VMS works effectively with RFID-based systems.) According to Walmart, the VMS has improved safety and has also significantly improved the productivity of its operations.