Research and development

Strategic focus of research and development

In 2013, the KION Group again channelled a considerable proportion of its product revenue into research and development in order to enhance its portfolio so that it can secure its position as a leading technology provider. Total R&D spending, including depreciation, amortisation and impairment, as well as capitalisation of development expenses, amounted to €114.2 million in 2013 (2012: €120.2 million). The decline is essentially attributable to the sale of the hydraulics business. 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. Another aim is to integrate the KION Group’s logistics solutions into customers’ value chains and harness the potential of new application areas.

Brand-specific and cross-brand modular and platform strategies are pursued to ensure research and development is as cost-efficient as possible, the complexity and variety of products is reduced and development times are shortened. 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.

Key R&D figures

The KION Group spent a total of €114.2 million on R&D in 2013, a similar amount to the previous year. As in 2012, this corresponded to 2.5 per cent of revenue, or 4.5 per cent of revenue from new truck business. Spending on research and development was therefore higher than the industry average once again in 2013. The total includes capitalised development costs of €45.7 million (2012: €51.2 million) as well as depreciation and amortisation in the amount of €45.1 million (2012: €55.5 million) (see note [17] in the notes to the consolidated financial statements).

The number of full-time jobs in R&D teams stood at 944 at the end of 2013 (31 December 2012: 847). There was particularly strong growth at the R&D centre in Xiamen (China), which had 232 FTEs at the end of 2013. This centre carries out cross-brand development work, focusing mainly on the economy and value price segments in emerging markets.

External costs predominantly related to engineering services, materials for prototype development and IT. Linde Hydraulics, which was spun off in 2012, and Linde Material Handling collaborate closely on the development of new hydraulics products. >> Table 032

Total R&D spending*



>> TABLE 032

in € million





Total R&D spending for 2012 was adjusted due to the retrospective application of IAS 19R (2011)





Research and development costs (P&L)




Amortisation expense




Capitalised development costs




Total R&D spending




R&D spending as percentage of revenue



The KION Group takes comprehensive measures to protect the products it develops against imitations. In 2013, the KION companies were granted a total of 85 patents (2012: 63). As at 31 December 2013, the companies of the KION Group held a total of 1,596 patent applications and issued patents (31 December 2012: 1,495 patent applications and issued patents).

Focus of R&D in 2013

Reduction of emissions and fuel consumption

Both Linde and STILL launched updated diesel trucks at the start of the year in response to new EU emissions standards (97/68/EC stage IIIB). The pollutants produced by Linde’s H20 to H50 (EVO) series of IC counterbalance trucks are well below the maximum permitted statutory limits thanks to new, low-emission engines as well as a particulate filter fitted as standard. The value for emitted particulate matter (PT) is 84.0 per cent below the limit, hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are 26.1 per cent below the limit and the figure for carbon monoxide (CO) is 99.5 per cent below the limit. As a result, the trucks are even suitable for use in enclosed spaces. The new trucks are also more energy-efficient and offer improved driver ergonomics and safety. An analysis of exhaust emissions in the year under review found that the Linde diesel trucks were the cleanest trucks in the highest-volume market segment, i.e. trucks with a load capacity of between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes.

STILL is expanding its RX 70 range with the RX70-60/80 and RX70-40/50 models. The focus is on adhering to emissions legislation, with diesel particulates being reduced by more than 92.0 per cent. Technical aspects – handling capacity, driving performance and the ergonomics of the driver’s workstation – have also been improved. Energy consumption by industrial trucks has been reduced substantially yet again thanks to the tried-and-tested hybrid version and STILL’s Blue-Q energy-efficiency programme.

Region-specific and customer-specific design

In 2013, the KION Group’s R&D centre in Xiamen again focused on developing platform concepts for China and other emerging markets. The core task was to develop three models with different drive systems and in different price categories. A basic, low-cost variant (drive unit with a torque converter) was successfully launched on the Chinese market at the start of the year. The model is now being marketed in Brazil as well, having been adapted to meet local requirements. Two more models in the counterbalance truck series are currently being developed in Xiamen that have more sophisticated drive systems. The Indian company Voltas MH is also collaborating with the R&D centre in Xiamen and is using an axle developed there for its new electric forklift truck.

Bespoke solutions play an important role, especially in developed markets. In the year under review, Linde Material Handling pushed ahead with customising industrial trucks in accordance with customer requirements in the western European market, resulting in a new generation of reach trucks, Linde R14 to R20, which have a load capacity of between 1.4 and 2 tonnes. A far greater number of mast, chassis and battery variants, combined with optional features, enable customer-specific solutions to be created from series production trucks. At the same time, the chassis and other modules form the basis for other models of the KION Group. This is in line with the Group’s modular and platform strategy, which involves a higher proportion of common parts.

Drive technology

As in the previous year, development of new drive technologies centred on powerful lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid trucks. LMH and STILL launched the first hand pallet trucks and towing vehicles fitted with such 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 is concerned with developing high-performance booster batteries for hybrid trucks.

The KION companies are also conducting fundamental research into alternative drive technologies. In a field trial for the production of the BMW i, the KION Group is currently working with the BMW Group and Munich University of Technology to investigate a hydrogen drive for industrial trucks. The E-LOG-Biofleet research project, which was launched in 2011 to test the suitability of the fuel-cell hybrid drive developed by Linde and Fronius, officially started a year-long field test at DB Schenker in June. Four STILL trucks fitted with fuel cells built by Danish manufacturer H2-Logic are also being trialled at a Danish DIY chain.

The LMH unit New Business & Products, which is responsible for marketing existing electric drive concepts, teamed up with sweeping technology manufacturer Val’Air S.A.S at MobiliTec 2013 to present a compact hybrid sweeping machine for use in city centres and on industrial sites. LMH won the 2013 Industriepreis in the power transmission and fluid technology category for its ROTRAC E2 and E4 road-rail shunting vehicles.


The automation and networking of supply chains remains an important subject. In 2013, STILL launched the iGoEasy system, which can be installed, operated, and adjusted intuitively using an iPad. iGoEasy has been designed for use in plants with low transport volumes where, until now, the best option has been to manage the flow of goods with just a manually operated truck. The system enables simple transport tasks carried out by a single truck to be fully automated for the first time, without the need for specially trained staff.

Workplace safety and ergonomics

To move heavy loads in explosion protection areas, LMH has brought out two new diesel trucks that meet the EC requirements for use in zone-two explosive atmospheres (EN 1755), while the Atex version has been type-tested in accordance with 94/9/EC by TÜV Rheinland.

The LMH and STILL optical driving path warning system BlueSpot, which warns of approaching trucks in aisles and at blind crossings, has also been available with red LEDs at LMH since November, so that the light that stands out most against the colour of the floor can be selected. BlueSpot directional is another new feature: the LED lights project a blue arrow onto the floor to indicate the direction in which the approaching truck is travelling.

To ascertain how the ergonomics of truck workstations can be further improved, the KION Group and students from Munich University of Technology carried out a research project in which they developed a working environment based on the principles of universal design. However, more research and testing are required before the concept can be applied.