Being globally focused yet firmly established in its home market is part of the DNA of the KION Group. Lukáš Bartík and others like him have all the qualities you’d expect of a good mechanic: an eye for precision and a passion for technology and commercially outstanding products. We are the market leaders in Europe thanks to employees such as Lukáš.
There are certain headaches that no factory is immune to: a problem with a machine is holding up the production process. Something isn’t right with an axle that’s already been made. An employee calls in sick at short notice. So you can consider yourself fortunate if you’ve got someone like Lukáš Bartík in your ranks. The tall 31-year-old is the man for all occasions in the assembly of electric drive axles at Linde Pohony (Lipo) in Český Krumlov, in the far south of the Czech Republic.
In a 2,000 square metre space in hall M1A around three dozen men assemble electric drive axles for the KION Group’s forklift trucks. Almost 28,000 electric drive axles and 18,000 hydrostatic drive axles are delivered annually to truck plants of the KION brand companies Linde and STILL in Germany, China and the USA. Electromobility, the technology of the future, has long been part of everyday life here. Hydrostatic and electric drive axles are at the heart of the Linde and STILL trucks – ensuring their exceptional precision. They provide the basis for the strong position of the KION Group in its home market of Europe and increasingly in the growth markets too.
“Quickly solving problems”
Bartík has worked on all three production lines at Lipo – the assembly fitter has been there since 2007 – and so can be used flexibly wherever his capabilities are needed. “If there’s a problem, I try to solve it as quickly as possible or I find someone who can help,” he says. “I try to make sure that people are able to do their work and don’t have to worry about anything else.” The engineering enthusiast isn’t daunted by difficulties, quite the opposite in fact: “There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had in sorting out a problem.”
People don’t tend to associate Český Krumlov with cutting-edge industry. In its historical town centre, the narrow lanes and beautiful market square teem with tourists. They take photos of the pretty little baroque and Renaissance houses along the meandering Vltava river, gather in the traditional pubs and visit the medieval castle where they can watch the brown bears that live in the moat. Český Krumlov, known as the pearl of the Bohemian forest, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. Every year its 14,000 residents are joined by over a million tourists.
»There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had in sorting out a problem.«
Quality control: an eye for detail is everything
Lukáš Bartík with head of production, Karl Fritsch
Axles from the Lipo plant: the heart of Linde and STILL trucks
Efficiency and precision
But there’s more to Český Krumlov than history and tourism. It’s not even ten minutes’ drive from the bustling old town, up the hill, past the hypermarkets and into Tovární – the factory road. On behalf of the KION Group, Lipo has been making electric drive axles here since 1998 and hydrostatic drive axles since 2010. Visiting Bartík at work after strolling through Krumlov’s centre offers quite a contrast. In this functional building, in which everything is focused on efficiency and precision, the cosiness of the old town seems a world away.
The first plant on the current Lipo site was built before the fall of the Iron Curtain. In the mid-1980s, Jihostroj made turned parts here for the Czech arms industry. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the site produced chassis components for Porsche, before Linde Pohony was founded in April 1997. The company currently has 273 employees.
Fascinated by technology even as a boy
This is Bartík’s world – the abundance of highly technical devices and machinery, the geometrically arranged workstations, the fitters bustling around and the hum of the forklift trucks. Bartík has been fascinated by machinery and technology since he was a little boy. His father František, a car mechanic by trade, got his two sons interested in engineering at an early age. One now builds motorbikes, the other electric drive axles.
Bartík, who lives just a few miles from the factory with his wife and his husky dog, even found his way to Lipo through his father: “My father was still working here when I started,” he says, smiling. “Ever since I was little we’ve always tinkered around together. So the fact that we were then able to work together was something really special for me.”
Attractive market with growth profile above GDP.
The KION Group operates in an attractive market that is growing faster than global economic output.
The worldwide market for industrial trucks grew at roughly 1.4 times the rate of the global economy between 1980 and 2013. Industry experts reckon that this pace is set to accelerate slightly over the period up to 2017.
This scenario is being driven by three global mega-trends:
- the industrialisation of the emerging markets,
- the advancing globalisation of world trade and, as a consequence, the increasing transportation of goods around the world,
- the growing fragmentation of supply chains and value chains: just-in-time logistics and purchases from online retailers create demand for the KION Group’s products and services.
A global leader– strong home base ...
Measured in terms of new trucks sold, the KION Group is currently number one in the European market and number two in the market worldwide. And with a presence in more than 100 countries, the company is the world’s biggest specialist provider of materials handling trucks and associated services.
Our strong position in western Europe, where we have a market share of 35 per cent (2013), is the basis for the global expansion of the KION Group. The foundation of our business is stable in this region because of replacement purchases and a strong service business.
After plunging into a deep crisis, Europe’s market for industrial trucks is now recovering. Since 2010 the KION Group has benefited from this trend with a double-digit percentage increase in revenue in Germany and the rest of Europe.
... and well positioned in growth markets.
The KION Group’s leading position in emerging markets such as India, China, South America and eastern Europe means that it is excellently placed to fully exploit the growth opportunities available there. In 2013 the KION Group’s brand companies sold 35 per cent of their new trucks in emerging markets – and this proportion is set to rise sharply.
A case in point is China, which is the world’s largest individual market for the KION Group’s products. The Company has been firmly established here with its offering of development, production and services for more than two decades and is the leading non-domestic supplier. The KION Group is the third-largest player in this market, where it employs some 3,200 people. China is now the Company’s second-biggest market in terms of unit sales (behind only Germany).
Technology leadership drives premium positioning ...
The KION Group is right in the vanguard when it comes to technology and innovation. By spending in excess of €114 million on research and development in 2013, the Company is a leader in its sector.
Over 900 people work at ten research centres in Europe, Asia and the Americas to devise forward-looking solutions; more than a quarter of them are based in China so that they are close to their market. This continuous R&D investment means that clients in all markets and segments can expect to have a fully customised range of trucks and services to choose from.
In 2013 the KION Group launched more than a dozen new trucks and truck families in the market, thereby providing added impetus for 2014, and a number of new products and services are set to be introduced this year as well.
... and customer value.
Customers of the KION Group particularly benefit from the industrial trucks’ good handling capacity and very low running costs throughout their lifecycle.
The cost benefits for customers mean that the KION Group can set prices at a level that enables it to achieve higher margins than its competitors. After all, personnel expenses and the cost of operating a truck over its lifecycle constitute a significant portion of the purchase price, especially in highly developed markets.
The proximity of the KION Group’s brand companies to their customers also ensures a high level of availability for the trucks. Around the world, around 12,900 inhouse and external service engineers work for the KION Group. This business offers considerable potential also outside of Europe: in China, revenue from services has risen substantially in recent years.
Robust integrated business model with high contribution from services.
This provides the basis for the KION Group’s lasting business success. Customer services, truck rentals, used trucks and spare parts together contribute more than 40 per cent of revenue. This business is very resilient to fluctuations in the economic cycle. Moreover, it generates particularly good margins for the KION Group.
There are around 1.2 million KION trucks in use around the globe, forming a broad basis for a strong and integrated service business.
A comprehensive network of more than 1,200 sales and/or service outlets worldwide ensures that the KION Group is never far from its customers. This creates strong customer loyalty, which in turn offers more potential for growth and provides a lasting competitive advantage.
Strong profitability – well prepared for future value creation.
Constantly improving efficiency and profitability is a clear objective for the KION Group. Size and synergies – a combination that makes the KION Group stand head and shoulders above other truck manufacturers.
This involves collaborating on research and development, improving plant structures and fully exploiting the economies of scale created by a worldwide production network. Other areas of focus are the optimal use of shared, cross-brand modules and platforms and the ongoing expansion of the service business.
Highly motivated and qualified employees with proven track record.
International, highly qualified and highly motivated: the KION Group’s more than 22,000 employees, who demonstrate dedication and creativity day in, day out, are both the heart and the backbone of the company.
Their hard work underpins the operational success of the company and ensures a strong financial performance. This was one of the key elements in the successful stock market flotation of the KION Group in June 2013.
The company’s growth strategy is reflected in the structure of the workforce. In 2013, the Group recruited extra staff for its service and sales operations and notably invested in new employees in the emerging markets and growth regions. The KION Group is increasingly hiring local management in all its markets in order to utilise their strong market knowledge and expertise.