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Tompkins Robotics is focused on robotic automation and distribution through developing and deploying game-changing robotic fulfillment systems. Initially known for tSort, the high speed, most flexible and adaptable unit and parcel sortation system on the market.

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Tompkins Robotics' tSort Delivers Big Benefits for Kmart Australia - Deploying mobile automation to support a distributed logistics network

POSTED 10/05/2021

Deploying mobile automation to support a distributed logistics network

Automation plays a large role in high volume, complex Supply Chains to improve key metrics in delivery speed, quality, accuracy, security, and total operating cost. Recent labor constraints, increasing consumer demands and expectations, e-commerce growth, SKU proliferation, and the need for data visibility and digital transformation have served as catalysts to expand automation within multiple industries, and most specifically within Supply Chains and fulfillment operations.

Advancements in technological innovations have fueled development of a newer generation of cutting-edge solutions that address both old and new challenges. These new solutions are shattering the barriers to business growth while offering much greater flexibility over traditional solutions within well-defined market segments such as retail, consumer products, and shipping.

In the past only very large organizations with access to strategic capital, advanced business strategies, and multi-year outlooks were able to invest in automation at Distribution & Fulfillment (D&F) operations. Typically, those investments were only seen at large scale, high-volume grocery, pharma, and retail.

Leveraging Industry leading mobile robotic automation has grown to cover many applications and areas in the D&F space and offer scale and mobility unavailable with traditional solutions. In businesses involving manual picking, sorting, and packing operations it is estimated that operators spend half of their total time traveling inside large warehouses. With the simple principle of eliminating travel through robotic sorting technology one can see how easy it is to materialize savings and enhance performance.

Tompkins Robotics' tSort systems are renowned for their affordability, flexibility and scalability. A tSort system is also, lower investment, requires less space, and deploys quicker when compared to other automated systems. tSort is often paired with its own execution software that is easily integrated with other higher-level ERP/WMS software in a D&F operation.

"The entire concept of tSort is to redefine item and case sortation to allow operations to have a 100% modular, scalable, configurable, and portable robotic solution to process goods to orders."  

                - Mike Futch - CEO Tompkins Robotics

With many options available it is important for leaders to carefully consider two factors: identity the right solution for their business and partner with the right vendor to deliver.

THE CHALLENGE

In the case of Wesfarmers retail division Kmart, the continued growth in their business along with the desire to remain flexible within their operation necessitated evaluating new technologies to pilot and implement in their New Zealand  D&F hub. Kmart is a discount department store retailer that has more than 300 stores in Australia and New Zealand and employs more than 31,000 staff.

With a network of D&F operations across Australia and New Zealand, Supply Chain leaders were looking for a cost-effective solution that could increase their facility throughput, reduce the labor gap, and provide modularity to be transferred between facilities as needed to accommodate varying demand in their distributed logistics network. The network delivers to high volume stores with a wide product mix and unique product handling requirements for case, inner pack, and item sortation to meet the annual and seasonal demand of the Kmart store network.

The challenge was to find a cost-effective solution that improved safety and increased throughput in our NZ facility to support our growing store network and volume.

             - Justin Boyd - Kmart Head of Assets, DC Design and Automation

THE SOLUTION

Seeking a best-in-class automation solution and through a detailed RFP process, Kmart ultimately selected Tompkins Robotics’ tSort system. The award-winning AMR solution optimizes fulfillment operations and provides a wealth of benefits for retail replenishment, including:

- High throughput: tSort systems facilitate high volume rates in a modular fashion to allow Kmart to scale the solution to fit the operation

- Rapid deployment: A typical tSort implementation takes less than half the time of traditional sortation systems. This allows for faster installation between peak seasons for minimal disruption to Kmart's operations

- Low capital investment: tSort solutions cost approximately half the cost of large tilt tray or crossbelt sorters and additional robots and assets can be installed as needed to grow a system. This feature means you buy what you need, as you need it which postpones capital investment and allows complete utilization of all assets.

- Scalable and Portable: The tSort solution is fully modular, configurable, and portable. Further, all elements and robots can be easily added, removed or relocated at any time to meet changing demand and business requirements. This portable design enables to “lift and shift” the systems to accommodate an evolving distribution network.

- Wide range of capabilities and applications: As a general merchandiser, Kmart has a wide range or product and varying packaging. tSort can process a wide variety of products and packages in many different environments and applications, including polybags, cartons, loose items, and many more product configurations.

- Higher capacity in a smaller footprint: tSort's multi-level design can process more than double the volume in less than 25% of the space of traditional sortation systems.

- Flexible and Robust Warehouse Execution System: tSort is powered by the cloud-based Tompkins Warehouse Execution System (tWES) and has 20 years of experience in integrating automated solutions to a variety of WMSs.

This tSort system and program was implemented remotely across multiple time zones including USA, Australia, New Zealand and India. This was achieved through the challenges of a global pandemic with strong collaboration and teamwork. Sean Hewat – Kmart DC Future Proofing Manager

THE RESULTS

Tompkins Robotics' tSort solution was installed, tested, and commissioned utilizing mostly remote resources while in the midst of the Covid pandemic and has successfully supported the operation since its go-live in May 2021.

Results for Kmart include:

  • Supports the reduction in manual handling activities on site 
  • Increased throughput to meet store growth and volume
  • Improved Inventory accuracy
  • Achieved more than 60% reduction in space over traditional solutions
  • Start of installation to go-live was less than 5 months, with an operational ramp up to full production in just a few weeks
  • An improved financial outcome for the business

"Tompkins' customer first approach is refreshing and leads to the team constantly challenging the status quo. The team effort and great attitude has led to an extremely positive customer experience. The project team embedded themselves in the working operation which allowed for a seamless transition."

         - Justin Boyd - Kmart Head of Assets, DC Design and Automation

"The Tompkins Robotics and Kmart teams came together to apply this exciting technology for a set of requirements and challenges that would have been difficult to meet with traditional automated solutions."

        - C. Thompson Brockmann - VP Operations with Tompkins Robotics

For more information on Tompkins Robotics and its award-winning AMR solutions, please visit www.tompkinsrobotics.com.