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Mike Futch | President & CEO | Tompkins Robotics

Tompkins Robotics: Taking Automation to the Next Level.

This ongoing pandemic has presented a rise in demand for business processes to be automated at a rapid pace. Due to related restrictions in many places, business owners have realized the need for adopting technological advancements and the automation of operational processes tops their list.

In response to COVID-19 and travel limitations, Tompkins Robotics has been offering and delivering virtual tours of its autonomous mobile robot (AMR) solutions in use at the company’s Orlando, Florida facility. The interactive tours demonstrate the various configurations and capabilities of Tompkins Robotics’ award-winning t-Sort systems, including the t-Sort, tSort Mini and t-Sort Plus models.

In addition to witnessing its solutions in action, companies also get a chance to learn about the technologies that are integrated into the company’s systems, including automated induction and charging; integrated weight and dimension capture; Tompkins Robotics’ proprietary wireless network and warehouse execution system (WES); and new innovations such as an automated sorter exit robot, among others.

“The range of applicable locations to use a t-Sort is at every node in the Supply Chain, anywhere from a large distribution or fulfillment center to the backroom of a retail store”

The company is focused on the robotic automation of distribution operations. Its primary system, t-Sort, consists of autonomous mobile robots that sort a wide range of items and parcels to consolidation points, optimizing client distribution performance and capabilities.

Tompkins Robotics has maintained forward progress during the pandemic and enters 2021 with a large backlog of orders for delivery. These consist of orders for new sites for existing customers and orders for new customers.

“We continue to expand this core system with complementary robotics and integrated material handling systems to automate fulfillment operations,” explains Mike Futch, President and CEO of the company. Its systems maximize performance with mobile, scalable, flexible, and portable robotic solutions, making the clients more agile, adaptable, and profitable in today’s dynamic marketplace.

Wait…. What is t-sort again?

Ideal for small to large distribution operations, t-Sort is a portable, scalable robotic sortation system that operates like a tilt tray or cross belt sorter without a fixed track, with independent robots that move freely along the shortest path to any divert or induction station. It can be used for both item and parcel sortation in a variety of environments and applications, including e-commerce fulfillment, store replenishment, shipping and returns and retail and postal backrooms. The system can process and sort a greater range of goods than any other single type of sorter. Systems have been deployed doing up to 36,000 items an hour and as large as 2,700 individual sort destinations. With its flexible and scalable design, t-Sort is changing the way firms look at material handling across their supply chain. t-Sort is creating a huge paradigm shift in the supply chain and how the basic distribution function of order fulfillment is accomplished. While initially conceived as a parcel sortation solution, Tompkins Robotics has evolved the t-Sort suite across a wide range of supply chain and distribution applications.

“Our ingenuity and decades of experience in the design of operations has resulted in a line of products with the ability to provide previously unseen modularity, flexibility, and speed of implementation, all at a lower cost than traditional solutions,” says the team of Tompkins Robotics. The company has developed a solution in its t-Sort product suite that can enhance almost every step in the supply chain.

In addition to the original t-Sort solution, Tompkins Robotics’ AMR suite also features the t-Sort Mini for sorting small and lightweight items and the t-Sort Plus, which is capable of handling items up to 66 pounds—six times the weight of the original t-Sort solution. In 2020, Tompkins Robotics also released t-Rail, which enables overhead transportation of goods without disruption to floor-level activities. t-Rail can be used as part of Tompkins Robotics’ new micro-fulfillment solution which optimizes operations in small, standalone distribution or fulfillment centers, hyperlocal operations, or even inside a retail store. The t-Sort applications are used across the entire supply chain. Since the system is plug and play for all elements, a client can make their system any size or shape and ramp up the volume by adding robots.

Switches and Glitches

One of the biggest challenges in the early history of Tompkins Robotics was overcoming the fact that t-Sort was new and different. Firms that had decades of experience in using traditional sortation systems were slow to accept this new technology. Getting the first few customers was difficult as there were no sites to tour, no customer references, and the company was a startup. In addition, Tompkins Robotics’ team was still evolving the tSort models, use cases, physical designs, and vendor base. “Our system has improved through this evolution,” says Mike. Currently, the company does not have any major struggles. “We have manufacturing capacity, staff, and technology to meet the demands of 2021 and beyond. If our business were to grow faster than anticipated, then we may have an issue with onboarding new staff to keep up with the demand. However, that has not been an issue to date,” states the team of Tompkins Robotics.

It has partnered with integrators such as Bastian, Pulse, and Conveyco, which add sales, marketing, and deployment bandwidth to the firm. It has multiple vendors and sources for procured elements and has partnered with suppliers with the bandwidth to add shifts, staff, and production lines to increase capacity. The company’s team proactively hires new staff to allow them to have a training period prior to full autonomy. “We keep a 13-week and an annual projection of all key elements of our business that are updated every two weeks to recognize upcoming issues and adjust to meet them,” says the team of Tompkins Robotics.

An Automation Expert

Mike Futch is one of the original leaders that created Tompkins Robotics and brought the t-Sort sortation system to life for global customers. He has been involved from day one in the evolution of this unique and innovative system, recognizing the potential, designing the applications, and creating the value proposition for Tompkins Robotics’ customers. He continues to lead the design and forward movement of the company, driving much of the new application development, new product conceptualization and the integration with partners solving unique problems with complementary robotic automation. His focus is to deliver Tompkins Robotics and its systems to customers across the globe to maximize their service, performance, and operations in ways never possible.

Mike has had a long, successful, prior career in the U.S. Air Force and as a leader in consulting practices at several firms. He now brings that same level of success to the leadership of Tompkins Robotics and its customers. The demand for robotic sortation is just now picking up speed and Mike, along with his team, is uniquely positioned to lead in this space. Tompkins Robotics patents and unique designs allow it to do robotic sortation better than any competitor and its team is the current leader in AMR sortation. “We will have our largest and best year in 2021. We expect our business to double in 2021 and 2022,” concludes Mike.

Awards felicitated to Tompkins Robotics & t-Sort:

  • Modern Materials Handling, Material Handling Product News and Material Handling 24/7 – 2019 Readers’ Choice Product of the Year Award
  • Supply Chain Management Review – 2020 NextGen Supply Chain Robotic Solution Provider Award
  • Postal and Parcel Technology International Awards 2018 – Sorting Centre Innovation of the Year
  • Beyond! – 10 Innovative Robotics Solution Providers (2019)
  • CIO Review – 20 Most Promising Robotic Solutions Providers (2019) Awards felicitated to Tompkins Robotics & t-Sort: