A Champion for Learning, From the Field to the Floor

Supply Chain

Walmart associate Jose Molina uses lessons learned in soccer to succeed at work.

Jose Molina standing smiling at the camera at a fulfillment center

Jose Molina, a Walmart associate and local soccer coach, found himself following the advice he shares with his players when transitioning to a new role in his distribution center: Be positive, be willing to learn new things and be a team player.

Now 26 years into his Walmart career, Jose became an autonomous forklift operator just over a year ago. In other words, Jose is managing a high-tech robot that moves merchandise at DC 6020 in Brooksville, Florida.

Jose admitted he was nervous when his manager first approached him about the new role. But that’s when he remembered the advice that he’s usually giving to the young men he coaches.

forklift machines at a distribution center surrounded by boxes

“It’s like I tell my forward if he wants to score a goal — he has to try,” Jose shares. “If he tries 10 shots on goal, maybe he scores one or two. But if he never tries, he’ll score zero. Same thing over here. We have to try in order to understand. When we try, we can realize that yes, it’s different, but it’s also better.”

Jose says that as he’s spent more time in the role, he’s felt his worries melt away.

“At first, I was nervous because I’m not a technology or computer guy, but I’ve learned a lot now, and I like to be positive all the time,” Jose says. “When I coach soccer, I always tell my players to be positive and to be a team player, and that’s also what motivated me to face my fears and work with the robots.”

forklift machines at a distribution center surrounded by boxes

Using the autonomous forklift, Jose holds the Brooksville DC’s record for most trailers unloaded in a single day — 27 trailers during a 10-hour shift, which is about double the amount usually possible. In addition to the technology improving Jose’s effectiveness in his job, it has enhanced his daily routine as well.

Jose estimates that the technology now does 80­-90% of the physically strenuous work he used to perform while he operates the system and watches it unload freight. In fact, he went from walking about 10 miles per day down to about two. As a result, Jose has more energy after each shift to spend quality time with his family and grandchildren.

“It used to be like I’d go home, and I’d just sit. I didn’t want to do anything else because it was a lot of physical work,” Jose explains. “But now, I mostly stay off the floor and manage the robot.

“For 25 years, I’ve always had the chance to support my family. Now, I’m a grandpa and I have the chance to play with my two grandkids.”

With his doubts about working alongside technology now a thing of the past, he jokes that he only has one remaining question about the autonomous forklift: “I asked my managers, ‘why didn’t they bring us these forklifts 25 years ago?’ It makes a big difference.”

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