Walmart will open high-tech fulfilment centres for online orders.

Walmart is building high-tech warehouses to increase online sales and speed up delivery. The first of four new automated fulfilment centres will open this summer in Illinois. 

New warehouses could mean next-day or two-day delivery for cereal and T-shirts. Walmart's plans come as it competes with Amazon, which allows Prime members to order a wide range of items for delivery.

Walmart has 31 facilities that prepare online orders, as more sales come from its website. More than 3,500 stores, or 75%, fulfil online orders. 

At Walmart's existing fulfilment centres, employees walk 9 miles or more a day to pick items off shelves & carry them to packaging areas, said Michael Prince, Walmart's vice president of supply chain.

In the new warehouses, an automated system will retrieve items from expanded storage & shuttle them to an area where an employee will pack them in a custom-made box.

 Walmart tested the idea in New Jersey. Amazon, Kroger, and others use automation to boost speed and capacity. Amazon bought wheeled robot maker Kiva Systems a decade ago. 

In April, it launched a $1 billion fund to invest in supply chain technology companies. Kroger began opening giant robot-powered fulfilment centres in the U.S. last year.

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