Tompkins International introduces Tompkins Robotics, a revolutionary unit and parcel sortation system which has been patented for North America and Europe. Tompkins Robotics has joined forces with Lab Z to introduce the world’s first, portable automated sortation system, named t-Sort. This new and innovative robotic technology will help build world-class supply chains, providing unmatched flexibility and throughput. Our design can accomplish volumes ranging from millions of units a day to a small operation in the backroom of a supercenter or mall anchor store.

The t-Sort system performs much like a tilt tray or crossbelt sorter. However, the unique and exciting difference is it uses completely independent robots. This is the equivalent of having a tilt tray with no track allowing each robot to travel to any divert or induction station independently along the shortest path. This greatly enhances efficiency to maximize your operational capabilities. Robots, chutes, and induction stations can be added modularly at any time with no interruption or downtime, an additional robot can be added in seconds. A unique feature is the system is purchased on a seasonal or annual basis deferring the capital investment and fully utilizing the asset at all times, unlike a traditional sorter that one buys for their long-term growth plan. A typical installation takes only three to four months to go-live.

t-Sort technology uses free-moving, independent robots to replace conveyors, sorters, and tilt trays. It provides:

  • Efficiency – Robots move along the most direct path, maximizing your operational capabilities.
  • Space Utilization – Required space is reduced tremendously.
  • Modular – Robots, chutes, and induction stations can be added modularly at any time with no interruption or downtime, an additional robot can be added in seconds. 
  • Ultimate Flexibility – Unit sortation and parcel sortation simultaneously, and flexes on demand.
  • Robots Are Less Expensive – Compared to a traditional tilt tray system, the capital required is 50% to 70% less. The actual cost is dependent on the size, design, scale, and volume, providing a minimal entry cost for small systems.
  • Faster Startups – A typical installation takes only three to four months to go-live as opposed to traditional systems that take nine months to over a year.
  • Higher ROI – Lower investment, shorter lead times, faster implementation, reduced space, lower headcount, and incremental expansion/capital expenditures, all drive greater economic justification and ROI.  
  • Redundancy & Risk Mitigation – No single point of failure anywhere in the system. The system has lower risks, all elements are plug and play, and there is complete redundancy in all elements to include software, servers, and power. Robots automatically self-charge when needed.

The standard system operates on two levels and allows sortation of a wide variety of goods. Individual items range from extremely small cosmetics to gallon containers of liquids. The system is ideally suited to handle apparel and footwear, general merchandise, single items and innerpacks. Parcels sorted include bags, boxes, and mailers. Overall the system handles loads up to a 30 x 36 inch footprint. The robots easily transport cylindrical and other difficult items through unique tray designs. Given the unique flexibility of this application, multiple implementation concepts have been developed, with multiple, large scale national customers scheduled for implementation in 2018. 

  • Large DC/FC - Much improved system over traditional automation for unit and parcel sortation. Up to several million units a day at a single site.
  • Small DC/FC - Allows automation across a customer base that never before could afford or justify automation. Cost, modularity, savings, and performance allow small players to benefit and gradually grow the system as sales grow.
  • Packing and Shipping Sortation – Allows pack stations to interface directly to the t-Sort robots that can then weigh and manifest outbound parcels, and continue to parcel sortation.
  • Supplement Existing Sites - Allows a small system to be added to a site, acting as an automated, large Put Wall, saving money and capital at a large capacity increase.
  • Backroom Design – The first portable, modular, automated system for items and parcels. Allows eCommerce at large stores, automated order consolidation, and parcel sort to post office, providing next day delivery at lowest cost.

The t-Sort system is powered by Tompkins Warehouse Execution System (TWES), which eases the implementation through its quickly configurable design and is highly flexible with the ability to interface with a variety of host systems. TWES is cloud based to minimize IT hardware requirements, providing a large number of standard reports and analytics that will assist any operation in maximizing the benefit of the TWES system.

Tompkins Robotics, combined with TWES, will help further evolve supply chain logistics automation, improving the efficiency of logistics operations. t-Sort is a means of automated order fulfillment for units to complete an order, and parcel shipping operations, allowing for better planning, implementation, controls efficiency, flow of goods, and customer service. Watch the Tompkins Robotics video to further understand the capabilities of the automated sortation system.

There is a tremendous reduction in capital cost and space in the warehouse for the Tompkins Robotics design, compared to a traditional automated sortation system. In conclusion, lower and delayed investment, shorter lead times, faster implementation, reduced space and labor, all drive greater economic justification and ROI. In addition, the system has unheard of flexibility compared to the systems in use today and is truly a game changer.

Additional Resources

MonarchFx Continues to Excite

MonarchFx Continues to Excite

Author: Gene Tyndall/Thursday, March 8, 2018/Categories: Article

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We recently held a very successful two-day open house at the Tompkins International Emerging Technology Center (ETC) in Orlando.  Over 120 interested representatives from retailers, brands, and others were provided a two-hour discussion (the “context”) by our CEO, Jim Tompkins.  He explained what is MonarchFx and why we have developed and are launching it.  Michael Zakkour, our VP for International eCommerce discussed the importance of cross-border commerce and how China and Alibaba are changing retail.  Next, the attendees were provided a two-hour tour of the ETC including demonstrations of different robotics and technologies (the “content”). 

Among other thought leadership topics, Jim discussed the strategy driving MonarchFx, distributed logistics.  Consistent with Jim’s original concept for MonarchFx is the fact that, in order for companies to provide nationwide same day, next day, and two-day order turnaround, they must position stocks closer to consumers and business customers.  This strategic positioning is critical.  However, it does not require all inventories to be located in all metro areas.  Rather, with fulfillment centers located strategically, and automated efficiently, with best in class delivery providers, companies can eliminate most of their CapEx, reduce their OpEx, and obtain a high quality of service.

Also, among other thought leadership topics, Michael discussed the “New Retail” according to Alibaba.  He also discussed the incredible growth of eCommerce in China and the implications for retailers and brands in North America.  He mentioned that MonarchFx is being positioned, along with its global logistics partner, to serve sellers through Alibaba.

These two-days confirmed our experience that, when people visit our ETC and view the robotics and technologies that underpin MonarchFx, they are both amazed and excited about the opportunities, “Viewing is believing”.

We were pleased that follow-up articles from the ETC were published in, in Supply Chain Management Review, and in Transport Topics, by journalists who were in attendance.

For those unable to attend, you can view the robotics and technologies at the upcoming MODEX Show in Atlanta, April 9th through 12th.  You can also arrange a visit to the ETC, simply by letting us know.  We also invite all to our Annual Supply Chain Leadership Forum (SCLF) being held April 30th through May 2nd  in Durham, NC at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club.

A few more thoughts on distributed logistics.  As I stated above, this strategy drives MonarchFx.  We know, of course, that moving goods quickly has a higher cost, that filling and delivering orders accurately is challenging, and that positioning the right stocks in a decentralized network is capital-intensive.  We designed MonarchFx to meet these needs, at reasonable cost, timely, and with high quality service.  Our solution, imbedding robots and technologies within selected leading Logistics Service Providers (3PL) and serving multi-clients, achieving the goals of cost, time, and quality.  In brief, MonarchFx provides for the “Next Generation Supply Chains”, for the “New Retail”, and for the highly expected continued growth of eCommerce and online order fulfillment. 

A few more thoughts on global eCommerce.  North America based retailers and brands are anxious to sell their products online to International consumers and customers.  The barriers for achieving this have been challenging whether in costs, customs compliance, information technology, port delays, marketplaces, and/or risks and thus have restricted mid-sized producers and distributors from growing their global sales.  Alibaba has the most robust program for solving this problem, by providing the marketplace and distributed logistics for deliveries.  As I mentioned, MonarchFx and its global logistics partner is being positioned to facilitate this opportunity with serving Alibaba and others, for global eCommerce.

Lastly, it will be helpful to state the MonarchFx value proposition for retailers, brands, and others.  As we interact with dozens of potential MonarchFx sellers, the following top six value categories are most attractive:

  1. Cost to Serve.  As stated above, CapEx is not required and OpEx is reduced.  How?  MonarchFx invests the capital to establish the fulfillment center operations.  By serving multiple sellers, and pricing on a Unit-basis, seller costs are reduced and minimized.
  2. Freight Expense Reduction.  Many retailers and brands today spend millions of dollars on transportation, whether inbound to their distribution centers, or to stores, or direct to customers, or even store or distribution center transfers.  These costs can be reduced significantly by re-positioning products closer to consumers, customers, and stores. 
  3. Inventory ROI.  Some have questioned MonarchFx about whether or not this solution will increase the amount of stocks required for distributed logistics.  Our models show, that by smart allocations, stocking policies, and replenishment practices, overall inventories are not increased significantly, if at all.  Storing “A and B items” in selected locations, while supplementing their existing networks for “C and D items”, results in the right products being available in the right locations and the right times.  Today’s inventory planning tools are designed to support this strategy and are moving toward optimized stocking policies for eCommerce. “Sell one, ship one” is becoming the reality we have all hoped for.
  4. Uni-channel Operations.  Jim has explained this innovative idea as we have designed MonarchFx.  While most struggle with “Omni-channel”, we believe the right answer lies in “the single channel”, in that consumers/customers have alternative methods for ordering, delivering, and/or picking up their orders.  Online shopping or buying, with options for delivering or picking up in stores or elsewhere, is enabled by MonarchFx, because it processes efficiently and ships anywhere. 
  5. The MonarchFx Technologies.  When a seller commits to MonarchFx, it receives use of the leading technologies available today.  There are three basic technologies in the MonarchFx platform:

    --SensorThink: This innovative and powerful technology the Internet of Things (IoT) provides for The Connected Warehouse™. This means that everything that goes on in the warehouse (or DC or FC) is known real-time. It also provides the foundation for blockchain.

    --Tompkins Warehouse Execution System (WES). This powerful technology has been integrating material handling equipment for dozens of companies for the past 20 years and is improved regularly.

    --Softeon: Our partner for Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Distributed Order Management (DOM). Softeon is rapidly becoming known as the most rapidly implemented, effective, and usable system for these two key processes. The DOM is especially important for distributed logistics and inventory visibility.

  6. Quality Service.  Our MonarchFx solution makes the best use of the best 3PL’s, by having them do what they do best receive, pick, process, pack, and ship orders.  The order processing for “eachies”, which is an  eCommerce need, is not the same as filling orders for pallets, cases, or cartons.  Only a few of the 3PL’s are expert at this new requirement.  Our partners NFI, DHL, and Kenco, are committed to eCommerce and are serving customers in  new ways.  Moreover, our transportation manager is a well-known freight and delivery carrier serving all of North America. .

To better understand MonarchFx watch Get To Know MonarchFx.

MonarchFx continues to expand and excite.  The more retailers and brands learn about what it is providing and visit the ETC to view it, the more interest grows, and we are asked to model how their use will occur and benefit.  We are opening either five fulfillment centers in 2018, with the first coming online in April located in Chino, CA, with our partner NFI.  No retailer or brand interested in improving and growing its eCommerce operations should postpone visiting the ETC, viewing us at MODEX, and/or attending our SCLF, now or over the next eight weeks.  For more information on the SCLF take a look at the 2017 SCLF Highlights.  We look forward to seeing you and working with you in 2018, 2017 was a great year for Tompkins and 2018 will be even better.


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Gene Tyndall
Gene Tyndall

Gene Tyndall

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