6 Research and development (R&D)

The KION Group stepped up its research and development activities and pushed ahead with important projects in the year under review. Its R&D team of 900 developers included over 70 additional employees compared with 2010. Spending on R&D in 2011 amounted to €120 million. This equates to 2.8 per cent of total revenue or 4.7 per cent of its relevant revenue from new trucks and hydraulics, making the KION Group an industry leader in this regard.

In 2011, the KION brands Linde, STILL and OM submitted more than 125 new patent applications, while almost 100 patents were registered for the applications already submitted. 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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Research and development is a key corporate function in the KION Group. Ongoing, structured expansion of the product portfolio is crucial if the KION Group is to maintain its technology leadership in the sector over the long term. The KION Group's R&D team works steadfastly on designing the Company's material-handling solutions to be even more powerful, flexible and energy-efficient and on responding now to the logistics requirements of tomorrow. Valuable synergies have been generated in the KION Group thanks to its cross-brand, multi-site approach to research and development, intensive sharing of knowledge and experience between the individual R&D teams and close consultation with other areas of the Company such as procurement and production. For example, by developing modular components for forklift trucks, the Company has significantly lowered the manufacturing and product lifecycle costs of major system components. One of the main challenges of this was aligning the individual requirements of the individual brand companies and the region-specific market and customer needs with the common parts strategy so that the intended efficiency increases could be achieved within the KION Group's value chain. All of this contributes to the overarching objectives of rapid development, excellent product quality and sustained efficiency for KION trucks.

The focus of preliminary development, which the KION Group carries out in close cooperation with various universities, in particular the universities in Munich and Hamburg, is predominantly the use of alternative drive technologies and the continuous improvement of driver ergonomics and safety in the workplace. Hybrid engines, new types of lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells contribute to reducing CO2 and noise emissions while lowering the costs of drive systems for industrial trucks. Intelligent energy recovery systems that make optimum use of the drive system's energy represent a key challenge for preliminary development, as does the application of the latest findings from medical and workplace research on improving the trucks' safety, comfort and user-friendliness.

To meet differing needs worldwide, the KION Group again expanded its international R&D sites in 2011. In October, for example, it inaugurated the newly built KION Asia development centre in Xiamen, which has more than 130 employees. Established more than ten years ago, the research and development unit hired new staff in 2011 to meet the growing demand for localisation and development. The new R&D centre brings together teams that were previously located in different places, thereby further improving the unit's efficiency. Furthermore, the larger premises enable various projects to be worked on simultaneously. This shortens development times considerably. The Asian market is seeing growing demand for warehouse technology solutions, which is why the KION Group expanded its range of such trucks in China last year, adapting them to the needs of the local market. This trend is repeated in nearly all emerging markets and is therefore an integral part of international development projects.

The KION Group has also taken on staff for electric and electronic development in order to maintain its pioneering role in this field. Continuous improvement of processes and the targeted application of expertise enable the Company to remain in its market-leading position. It has been working on implementing software standards from the automotive industry that can be flexibly deployed thanks to their modular design. The focus of preliminary development in the electronics field has been ways to make trucks even easier to operate and the introduction of safety systems. In addition, the KION Group has optimised its electronics testing unit, speeding up processes so that it can run the tests faster and at lower cost overall. The product innovations revealed at CeMAT, the world's leading intralogistics trade fair, which took place in Hannover in May 2011, reflected the Company's development work of recent years in the form of even more powerful, more energy-efficient and more ergonomic material-handling solutions. These achievements encompassed nearly all areas of the KION product portfolio.

The KION Group publicly showcased the Linde, STILL and Baoli brands' latest technological innovations at CeMAT in Hannover. A new generation of electric forklift trucks with load capacities of 2 to 5 tonnes was the main talking point at the Linde stand. The Linde E25 Li-Ion prototype is powered solely by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and boasts a load capacity of 2.5 tonnes. The particularly small batteries, whose individual cells can be installed completely flexibly, resulted in extra space that was used to make improvements to the truck's ergonomics.

Another highlight was the presentation of the world's first series-production hybrid truck in the most important market: IC trucks with a load capacity of 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes. Sophisticated management of the energy flows in the truck, combined with intelligent energy storage technology, have reduced consumption by STILL's RX 70 Hybrid truck by up to 20 per cent. Energy efficiency and the reduction of CO2 emissions represent one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century, one that STILL is tackling successfully with smart and resource-efficient product solutions. Besides its environmental benefits, hybrid technology has also become attractive from a commercial perspective. The higher investment will pay off within two years assuming that the truck is operated for 1,500 hours per year. Work on refining hybrid technology will be a key focus due to the exclusively beneficial effects of its use.

In 2011, KION presented a study of a tow tractor with fuel-cell technology and a new warehouse truck concept with a lithium-ion drive system. These innovations mean the warehouse trucks produce zero emissions and little noise, making it possible to use them in almost any area.

Besides the development of resource-efficient industrial trucks and warehouse trucks, the KION Group's R&D activities also focus on the intelligent use of software to manage and control intralogistics. STILL's Fleet Data Services offer various software solutions for capturing and preparing vehicle and driver data and making it available online. This enables the optimum coordination of maintenance and service because, for example, service-related data can be sent to the responsible service technician ahead of an appointment. The system's day-by-day monitoring of the total cost of ownership provides customers with good cost transparency and valuable information for calculating the profitability of their truck fleet.

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