During the latest four inches of Gore's Global Warming here in Raleigh, I made the obligatory, pre-snow trip to the grocery store in order to buy the required snow bread, snow eggs and snow milk. I was not surprised to find the bread aisle empty of any bread after a long day of the paranoid hoarding of staples.
What did surprise me was the same bread aisle was fully stocked the next day after the snow. Despite the run on grain products, the terrible road conditions and the resulting employee absenteeism, Walmart somehow managed to get bread back on the shelf in less than 24 hours. How does this happen?
One of the most innovative companies in the world, Walmart’s ability to move goods from place to place at low cost is unparalleled. What is often overlooked is the company's empowerment of lower level employees. Each stock clerk has the ability to assess their aisle's needs and change the store's order from a handheld electronic inventory device that is directly connected to the corporate supply chain. When there is a run on bread in Raleigh, trucks are on the move.
I really saw how dramatic an impact a well run company can have on a community in need during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Slidell, Louisiana was hit with a 12 foot wall of water and yet, Walmart was open for business the following week with tactor trailers headed in from all over the country. These trucks were loaded with clean up supplies, water, ice and countless other essentials. For those of us in the disaster recovery game at the time, Walmart was the only place to get food, water, clothing or even cash an out of state check.
So, the next time you get the snow bread at Walmart, just remember that it took innovative thought and hard work to get it there and not a government program.