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Towards More Efficient Systems

Having started as a manual laborer in a Wal-Mart distribution center in 1977, Rolita Cook, 48, has plenty of experience watching freight come in and move out. Fast forward 28 years and Cook is overseeing software development for 43 of these centers.

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Wal-Mart pushed more than $45.8 billion in merchandise through its domestic stores’ doors in its last quarter alone. Managing such a massive distribution channel requires a lot trucks, workers, and computer servers.

As arguably the most efficient company around, Wal-Mart is constantly striving to improve how it connects its vendors to its 100 distribution centers and those centers to its more than 3,000 stores. Cook, an analyst within the Bentonville Behemoth’s domestic distribution client server group, is a happy cog in the process.

Cook talks to Wal-Mart divisions to help them figure out how to get shelves stocked as quickly as possibly, while keeping inventory as low as possible. She then draws up the requirements to relay those needs to the company programmers. Finally, she tests the software and helps train workers to use it in the field.

“It’s always a challenge. I have to set timelines and milestones,” Cook says. “And there are some vendor products out there that aren’t, shall we say, user-friendly.”

One would think the sheer size of the Wal-Mart operation would be a big headache, but that isn’t the case for Cook.

“It’s just so comfortable here,” she says.

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