6 Research and development (R&D)

Despite the tough economic conditions, the KION Group stepped up its research and development activities – involving 827 developers – in 2010 and pushed ahead with important projects. Total spending on R&D in 2010 amounted to €104 million. This equates to 2.9 per cent of total revenue or 5.5 per cent of its relevant revenue from new trucks and hydraulics, making the KION Group an industry leader in this regard. In 2010, the KION brands Linde, STILL and OM submitted 75 new patent applications. A total of 95 patents were registered. This enabled the brands to secure the fruits of their research for their own benefit – an important step in maintaining and enhancing the KION Group's technology leadership, as set out in its strategy.

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The R&D unit again intensified its cross-plant and cross-brand collaboration within the Group. KION generates valuable synergies by sending its staff to work at different sites. This transfer of knowledge and technological expertise often enables processes to be redesigned more efficiently, as well as boosting performance and product quality. The organisational structure provides a solid basis for innovative technological solutions. The strategy of designing components to be modular places less demand on resources and continuously lowers product costs. In the longer term, the resulting reduced complexity and variation will increase both the speed of development and product quality. By reducing product life-cycle costs early on in the research and development stage, the foundations are laid for sustainable product efficiency. The close cooperation between the purchasing and development functions is also proving to be very effective.

One of the highlights of 2010 was undoubtedly the establishment of the new KION Asia research and development unit in Xiamen, China. It is specifically tailored to the Asian market, which enables the particular requirements of customers in Asia to be taken into account in the development of new products. A case in point is that the average body size of people in Asia tends to be smaller, which calls for a different ergonomic design for the driver's workstation. The KION Asia plant's portfolio covers the entire range, from pallet trucks to container reach stackers, and enables it to fulfil individual customers' specific requirements locally. Linde, for example, will offer customers in Asia locally tailored solutions based on the H35-50 model. However, localisation has a key role to play, not just in the truck segment but in the warehouse equipment segment too: Linde offers the stand-on reach truck BR1123 in China and has added the P30 tow truck to its local product portfolio.

The KION Group brands continue to successfully implement the global strategy of offering products that cater to country-specific requirements. For example, Linde has expanded its range of 346-series electric trucks by introducing four-wheel drive versions for the US market. STILL launched the CXT on the Brazilian market last year.

During the first quarter of 2010, STILL also presented the first fuel-cell powered reach truck in Germany, which is being trialled at BASF. STILL began investigating fuel cells back in 2003 and has gained in-practice experience of using them over the course of several projects. A STILL fuel-cell powered truck has been used by HHLA Logistics at the Port of Hamburg since 2008, and two STILL fuel-cell powered tow tractors have been deployed to transport baggage at Hamburg Airport since the end of 2006.

At the CeMAT trade fair in May 2011, Linde will present a new series of electric lift trucks with load capacities of two to five tonnes. This new series incorporates more than a dozen technological innovations aimed at reduced energy consumption, high productivity, driver safety and comfort. The unusual twin-motor front-wheel drive gives the trucks the highest installed output in their class. The two AC motors drive the truck at 9kW and 11.9kW respectively, enabling it to reverse quickly and reach its maximum speed of 20 km/h in a short space of time. Another major performance feature is the active steering assistance plus the articulated combined axle, which gives the four-wheeled truck the turning radius and manoeuvrability of a three-wheeled truck. The truck rotates centrally on the front axle. This is achieved using a steering angle sensor that, when the rear wheels are turned by more than a certain angle, instructs the motor on the inside of the turn to drive the relevant front wheel in the opposite direction. The active steering means that the truck does not move over its rear wheels and instead rotates within its own dimensions. This results in extremely good manoeuvrability, a high level of stability against tipping when cornering, a low level of tyre wear, little damage caused by bumping into racks and economical energy consumption.

Sustainability is one of the most important research and development topics for the KION Group. Environmentally friendly products and economical processes are therefore assigned the highest priority. KION brand trucks' resource-efficient technology and ease of operation are designed to improve customers' handling capacities.

For example, Linde trucks have three settings for drive control, which gives users the choice between maximum performance and minimum energy consumption. The standard setting enables the truck to operate at full handling capacity. 'Eco light mode' saves energy when negotiating ramps and driving in reverse gear. 'Eco mode' was developed specifically for manoeuvring in tight spaces at low speed and enables fuel savings of up to 30 per cent. The similar Blue-Q concept used in STILL trucks enables individual energy consumers, such as headlamps, to be used as required, which in turn saves energy and thereby consumption. Both brands are pioneers in energy efficiency and technologies for the future.

To remain at the cutting edge of research and development, the KION Group is continuing its traditional university partnerships, which focus on workplace design and drive technology projects.

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