Mobile robots deliver big benefits for retail giant Kmart

Tompkins tSort robots
A pod of Tompkins tSort robots queue up to pickup items to be sorted. | Image credit: Tompkins Robotics


Kmart Australia manages more than 300 stores in Australia and New Zealand. The retailer deals with a wide range of products and varying packaging across all of the different store inventory items that it stocks. Kmart had issues sorting a combination of both individual items as well as product cases in its regional distribution centers.

Kmart wanted a scalably solution that would enable it to prepare for store growth, and handle the increasing unit volume as more regional stores open in the future.


“The initial challenge was finding a cost-effective solution that improved safety and increased output in our facility to support our growing store network and volume,” said Justin Boyd, Kmart Head of Assets, DC Design and Automation. “Tompkins Robotics’ tSort system offered an optimally aligned solution that we were able to deploy rapidly to sustain our evolving distribution network.”

Kmart selected Tompkins Robotics’ tSort automation solution to optimize its Auckland fulfillment operations. The implementation project started during a global pandemic, thus Kmart looked for vendors who had a global sales and support network and the ability to install and support the solution remotely.

Tompkins tSort robots
Tompkins tSort shuttles carry individual items and deposit items into outgoing crates. | Image credit: Tompkins Robotics


Implemented in less than 5 months, Tompkins Robotics’ tSort System immediately improved the scalability of Kmart’s distributed logistics network, requiring a lower investment and utilizing 60 percent less operational space.

Tompkins Robotics’ tSort solution was installed, tested and commissioned utilizing mostly remote resources while in the midst of the pandemic, and has successfully supported the operation since its go-live in May 2021. Supporting the reduction in manual handling activities on site, the solution increased production to meet Kmart’s store growth and volume and improved inventory accuracy.

“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,” said Thompson Brockmann, VP Operations, Tompkins Robotics. “Implementing tSort to redefine item and case sortation provided Kmart with a 100 percent modular, scalable, configurable and portable robotic solution to process goods to orders.”

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
  • The 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

“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,” said C. Thompson Brockmann, VP Operations with Tompkins Robotics.

Tompkins tSort robots
Image credit: Tompkins Robotics


The Tompkins Robotics AMR solution, tSort, provides a wealth of benefits for retail replenishment, including:

  • Rapid deployment: This allows for faster installation between peak seasons for minimal disruption to Kmart’s operations.
  • Low capital investment: The tSort solutions cost approximately half the cost of large tilt tray or crossbelt sorters and additional robots.
  • Scalable & portable: All elements and robots can be easily added, removed or relocated at any time to meet changing demands.
  • 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.

Finally, this tSort system and program was implemented remotely across multiple time zones including the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and India. This was achieved through the challenges of a global pandemic with strong collaboration and teamwork.

About Tompkins Robotics

Tompkins Robotics is focused on the robotic automation of distribution operations. tSort, consists of autonomous mobile robots that sort a wide range of items and parcels to consolidation points. tSort is a portable, automated material handling sortation system that is creating a huge paradigm shift in the supply chain and how the basic distribution function of order fulfillment is accomplished. Tompkins continues to expand this core system with complementary robotic systems to automate processes in fulfillment operations. For more information, please visit

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Written by

Mike Oitzman

Mike Oitzman is Senior Editor of WTWH's Robotics Group, cohost of The Robot Report Podcast, and founder of the Mobile Robot Guide. Oitzman is a robotics industry veteran with 25-plus years of experience at various high-tech companies in the roles of marketing, sales and product management. He can be reached at