Bringing innovative robotic solutions to the forefront of the Australian logistics industry, Tompkins Robotics is making waves with its leading-edge products and their upcoming display at CeMAT 2023.
Industry insiders are no strangers to Tompkins Robotics – a stalwart in the logistics scene – recognised for its innovative robotics solutions.
But Thompson Brockmann, Executive Vice President of Operations at Tompkins Robotics, says it’s been a steady evolution for the company. Tompkins Robotics evolved out of earlier companies, with its Robotics division responding to evolving customer demands and requirements.
“Originally, Tompkins started out with a consulting focus, helping clients setting up and operationalising systems,” he says. “From studying, planning, implementation, to fully operating systems – our customers benefited from this approach.”
THE tSORT TRANSITION
The company made a pivot around 1999, moving into the sphere of material handling integration. This transition allowed Tompkins to “provide turnkey solutions”, combining consultation and design solutions for their clientele. In the latter half of the 2010s, Tompkins Robotics launched its own robotic solution, responding to the growing market need. The company’s tSort solution marked a turning point, acting as the foundation stone for subsequent solutions. “We then developed our warehouse execution system – tWES – around a robotic sortation solution and integrated other robotic solutions into our suite,” Thompson says.
It was at this point that the consulting integration part of Tompkins was separated from the robotics part, with the product-centric Tompkins Robotics coming into its own.
As the world’s first portable sortation system, tSort’s unique design features independent robots that can efficiently navigate from any induction station to any divert without the need for a track, thus maximising operational capabilities. The system is highly versatile, handling a wide array of goods – from small cosmetics to large containers, apparel, footwear, and even parcel bags and mailers.
The tSort has been applied across a wide spectrum of the supply chain, addressing needs in a range of sectors. “It has been implemented in various sectors and door-to-door within a warehouse: inbound receiving, returns processing, order fulfillment, shipping sortation, kitting operations, e-commerce, store replenishment, wholesale distribution, micro-fulfillment, central pharmacy, parcel postal sortation, and more,” Thompson says.
The flexibility of the tSort is what sets it apart from the competition. “We can tailor it exactly to your capacity needs by adding or subtracting robots, destinations, and induction stations,” Thompson says.
This scalability and modular nature of the tSort product gives it an edge in terms of adaptability. “The tSort solution is modular and scalable, resembling a large Lego set. We can assemble and disassemble it as needed,” Thompson continues. This feature allows businesses to optimise their operational capacity as per their needs, ensuring efficient use of resources.
The setup process is another critical aspect of the tSort solution, which – as per Thompson – can be turned around within a span of five to eight months and needs minimal setup. “It can be set up on site and fully operational within two to three months, with a very low impact on operations,” he says, highlighting the quick turnaround time for setup.
The proof is in the pudding, with Thompson noting that 65 per cent of their solutions are implemented in existing or brownfield operations, offering ease of integration for businesses.
Sean Hewat of Primary Sight – who undertakes much of the implementation work in Australia for Tompkins – emphasises the significant advantage this brings, especially considering the current scarcity of industrial property and labour shortages.
“The great thing is, it can be moved easily,” Sean says. “It’s not a fixed structure. If your lease is up for renewal, or you need to move to a bigger site, you can pack it up and move it.” This flexibility offers businesses a significant edge in navigating the changing dynamics of their operational environments.
TOMPKINS AT CEMAT
The Tompkins Robotics team – together with Sean Hewat of Primary Sight – are exhibiting at CeMAT this year, and excited to show off the tSort and other Tompkins solutions.
The Tompkins team intends to make a significant impact, offering attendees the chance to see their products in action. Despite being a small team, they have ambitious plans for their stand. “We will have the system operating,” Sean Hewat reveals. “So, we’ll have a small system that will have the tSort 3D, the tSort, the new Induction Lift – it will be very interactive.”
This interactive demonstration aims to provide attendees with an immersive experience, enhancing their understanding of the system’s ease of use.
But another factor Sean is keen to impress on attendees is the cost-effectiveness of Tompkins solutions, given the rising trend towards automation in Australia.
“As Australia embraces the automation age, it’s also finding out what that can cost. Tompkins’ product suite is very competitive,” he notes, adding that Tompkins is therefore well placed to form a key part of sustainable automation growth journeys.
Thompson concludes by pointing out how affordable automation can improve workplace culture and improve labour retention – over and against the stereotype that the automation revolution is all downside for warehouse workers.
“We’ve found that typical warehouse workers – working with pen and paper and pushing carts around – aren’t having much fun,” he points out. “It’s not very enticing for your workforce. But if you tell them you’re going to be working in an automated facility, with robots and cool technology – that whole gamification aspect really adds to the excitement of the modern industrial environment. That’s a point we’re keen to emphasise at CeMAT this year – automation is for everyone.”
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