Research and development

Strategic focus of research and development

In 2012 the KION Group again channelled a considerable proportion of its product revenue into enhancing its portfolio so that it can consolidate its position as a leading technology provider. Research and development (R&D) is therefore geared towards the overarching aim of containing customers' total cost of ownership (TCO) – including purchase price, maintenance and repair costs and fuel consumption – while complying with environmental targets and regulatory requirements. R&D activities also focus on integrating KION's logistics solutions into customers' value chains and harnessing the potential of new application areas.

Brand-specific and cross-brand modular and platform strategies are pursued to ensure R&D is as cost-efficient as possible. KION has taken steps to reduce the complexity and diversity of products and thereby accelerate the development process. The cross-brand R&D platform enables research results and technological expertise to be shared, although responsibility for product development lies mainly with the individual companies.

In the year under review the KION Group continued to expand its international R&D facilities so that it can better cater to the different requirements of customers around the world. A research centre at the new São Paulo plant was set up in 2012 to develop trucks for the South American market. KION also expanded its development departments in Xiamen, China and Pune, India. Following the closure of the plant in Montataire, France, the European development teams for warehouse trucks are now located in Châtellerault, France and Luzzara, Italy.

Key R&D figures

The KION Group spent a total of €120 million on R&D in 2012, the same amount as in the previous year. This corresponded to 2.5 per cent (2011: 2.8 per cent) of revenue, or 4.3 per cent of revenue in new trucks and the hydraulics business. Consequently, R&D costs during the year under review were higher than the industry average. This total included capitalised development costs of €51 million (2011: €53 million), which were offset by depreciation and amortisation of €56 million (2011: €53 million) (see note 18). The 4.1 per cent rise in the amount recognised as an expense was largely attributable to a multitude of new developments and refinements – which required additional headcount, above all in preliminary and series development – as well as higher salary costs and material costs. The cost increases were kept down by improving efficiency, notably through cross-brand cooperation as part of modular and platform strategies and by concentrating CAD services in Xiamen.

The number of full-time equivalents employed in R&D totalled 847 as at the reporting date (31 December 2011: 914, including hydraulics activities). An increase in full-time positions can be calculated on a comparable basis, which primarily related to the expansion of the KION Asia development centre in Xiamen (China), whereas there was only an insignificant change in headcount in Europe.

External costs predominantly related to engineering services, materials for prototype development and IT. LMH and Linde Hydraulics have begun to collaborate closely on developing new hydraulics products for the future.

Total R&D spending, including depreciation, amortisation and impairment, as well as capitalisation of assets, amounted to €120 million in 2012.

Total R&D spending

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R&D spending as percentage of revenue




KION takes comprehensive measures to protect the products it develops against imitations. In 2012 the KION companies registered a total of 63 patents. The number of patent applications totalled 96, of which 50 were submitted by LMH and 41 by STILL. The decrease year on year (2011: 125 patent applications) results from the disposal of the hydraulics business. On a comparable basis, the number of patent applications increased moderately compared to the previous year.

As at 31 December 2012, the companies of the KION Group held a total of 1,495 patent applications and issued patents (31 December 2011: 1,720 patent applications and issued patents).

Focus of R&D in 2012

Reduction of emissions and fuel consumption

In light of the stricter exhaust emissions standards, LMH and STILL undertook significant projects to reduce emissions (see in the sections Regulatory situation and Sustainability).

For example, LMH put new engines into its counterbalance trucks in the 2.5-5 tonne weight category and fitted them with a particulate filter system as standard in order to meet the European Stage IIIB limits for diesel-powered forklift trucks with an output of 37kW or higher, which came into force in January 2013. Trucks in the Linde EVO series produce emissions at a far lower level than permitted limits and achieve double-digit percentage reductions in fuel consumption. Series production will begin in early 2013. Another major project at Linde was the development to production readiness of a new reach truck. This truck also offers lower fuel consumption and a variety of attractive new product features. In addition, LMH expanded the range of model variants in its electric forklift truck series in the 2-5 tonne weight category.

A focus of development activities at STILL was the new reach truck, which is based on the Group's platform concept. Two diesel counterbalance trucks in the 4-5 and 6-8 tonne weight category are also being developed. They will go into series production in 2013 and will also comply with the new emissions standards.

Drive technology

Development of new drive technologies centred on powerful lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid trucks. Various sizes of battery for hand pallet trucks and towing vehicles were refined at the development centre in Châtellerault, France. LMH and STILL expect to offer the first trucks fitted with lithium-ion batteries at the end of 2013. They store considerably more energy and can be charged faster than lead-acid batteries.

In addition, LMH and STILL are also pushing forward with the development of lithium-ion batteries for counterbalance trucks in higher weight categories. Another project, which LMH is working on with a strategic partner, is concerned with developing high-performance booster batteries for hybrid trucks. In 2010 STILL was the first manufacturer worldwide to go into series production with a hybrid truck. This truck combines a drive system based on an internal combustion engine with a breaking-energy recuperation system from an electric truck, enabling it to achieve very low emissions values. Customer testing of the trucks provided feedback for product development. In November 2012 the hybrid truck won the new Federal Ecodesign Award from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Environment Agency.

In 2012 LMH's Electronic Systems & Drives (ES&D) unit teamed up with a strategic partner to develop the Rotrac E2, an electric trolley for pulling very heavy loads. It can be used to shunt rail vehicles, for example. A prototype of a container loader with an eco-friendly drive concept for use at airports has been undergoing field-testing since mid-2012.

KION is also participating in a government-sponsored research project (E-LOG-Biofleet) to improve handling and environmental friendliness using a fleet of industrial trucks with a fuel-cell hybrid solution. As part of the project, Linde equipped a fleet of ten trucks, which a customer has been putting through field tests since the end of 2012. The strategic partner for this project is a manufacturer of battery charging systems. STILL continued its longstanding international fuel cell activities for industrial trucks in 2012, putting an additional six trucks into operation for two clients.

Workplace safety and ergonomics

The safety features of the industrial trucks continued to be refined in 2012. The new models in the Linde EVO series are the world's first diesel trucks with a 'curve assist' system fitted as standard. This system adjusts cornering speed depending on the steering angle. An automatic parking brake has been developed for electric trucks, thereby improving convenience and safety. STILL developed a new restraint system, netProtect, which operates automatically so that the driver does not have to fasten or undo the seatbelt manually.

The KION companies are also working on further reducing human vibration and other vibrations, including by improving the seats and cushioning.

Region-specific and customer-specific design

In 2012, KION's R&D centre in Xiamen focused on adapting truck concepts to meet the specific requirements of customers in China and other emerging markets. A basic, low-cost variant of a new counterbalance truck, which has a drive unit with a torque converter, was almost ready for series production at the end of 2012. LMH will use a platform concept to offer three models with different drive systems in different price categories. Progress was also made with three types of warehouse truck and a smaller towing vehicle that can pull loads of up to 2 tonnes. It will be marketed in China and elsewhere rounding out the product range at the lower end.

In 2012 customisation of industrial trucks to meet customer requirements featured more heavily in R&D activities than in previous years. The modular concept is intended to help KION to fulfil customers' requirements with even greater flexibility and speed in future.


The KION Group is working on refining material-flow management systems (MMSs) to meet the growing demand for automated solutions. At the Hannover trade fair in April 2012, STILL showcased a prototype of an autonomous reach truck that can independently navigate through a warehouse and respond to changes in the environment. The prototype was built in cooperation with partners as part of a project sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

The order-picker truck that was launched in 2012 can also navigate independently. The STILL PalletShuttle was launched in 2012: this semi-automatic storage and retrieval system can be integrated with STILL's MMS. Presented at CeBIT 2012, the Fleet Data Services software solution from STILL enables vehicle and driver data to be intelligently captured, formatted and made available online. Since February 2012 LMH has offered an extended logistics train programme, providing a more flexible way of optimising production, warehouse and transport logistics.

Represented by STILL, KION is participating in the IdentProLog research project, which is examining how to optimise the flow of goods by using radio frequency identification (RFID). The aim of the project is to establish consistent standards for RFID across the industry.

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