Research and development

Strategic focus of research and development

The focus of research and development (R&D) is aligned with the Strategy 2020. The KION Group pursues the primary objective of increasing the customer benefits in all price segments and sales regions and, by adhering to modular and platform strategies, offering high quality at competitive prices. To this end, R&D is designed to be as cost-effective as possible in order to reduce the complexity and diversity of products and shorten development times. 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 premium segment, the focus remains on total cost of ownership (TCO) – including purchase price, maintenance and repair costs and fuel consumption – while complying with environmental targets and regulatory requirements. The objective here is to ensure ongoing enhancement of the portfolio, which will secure the Company’s position as a leading technology provider. Another aim is to integrate the KION Group’s logistics solutions into customers’ value chains and harness the potential of new application areas. In the volume and economy segments, the KION Group is establishing shared, cross-brand and cost-efficient platforms that enable low-cost production yet allow a strong degree of regional differentiation in the industrial trucks.

Key R&D figures

In 2014, the KION Group actively stepped up its total spending on research and development, which amounted to €119.7 million. This constituted a year-on-year rise of 4.8 per cent (2013: €114.2 million). The KION Group therefore channelled 2.6 per cent of total revenue (2013: 2.5 per cent), or 4.7 per cent of revenue from new truck business (2013: 4.5 per cent), into R&D and was thus once again higher than the industry average in its R&D spending. Total R&D expenditure included €43.7 million in capitalised development costs (2013: €45.7 million). These expenses were offset by depreciation and amortisation of €49.7 million (2013: €45.1 million) (see note [17] in the notes to the consolidated financial statements).

The number of full-time jobs in R&D teams grew by 79 to 1,023. Within the R&D organisation, the development centre in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen carries out cross-brand development work, focusing mainly on the economy and volume price segments in emerging markets. It is playing a crucial role in bringing the groupwide platform strategy to fruition. That is why R&D headcount at the centre again increased particularly strongly, climbing from 232 FTEs in the previous year to 282 FTEs in 2014. > TABLE 032

Research and development (R&D)


in € million




Research and development costs (P&L)




Amortisation expense (R&D)




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 2014, the KION companies were granted a total of 140 patents (2013: 85). As at 31 December 2014, the companies of the KION Group held a total of 1,689 patent applications and issued patents (31 December 2013: 1,596 patent applications and issued patents).

Focus of R&D in 2014

Reduction of emissions and fuel consumption

Tighter emissions standards for diesel trucks and the sustained trend for e-mobility have pushed up demand for zero-emission electric forklift trucks, including those with large load capacities. In response, both LMH and STILL have extended their range of electric counterbalance trucks that can lift up to eight tonnes.

In June, STILL presented its reworked RX 20 with much improved performance capabilities. LMH launched the new E12-E20 EVO electric counterbalance truck models in the 1.2-2 tonne load capacity category. Thanks to this facelift, the new models consume up to 17 per cent less energy than their predecessors. One of the reasons for this saving was the use of different driving dynamics programmes that provide the optimum balance between high performance and low energy consumption for the specific situation.

To provide customers with clear information on how their environmental footprint is affected as a result of deploying a Linde truck, Linde Material Handling worked with the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP) to develop a method for assessing the environmental impact of its forklift trucks and warehouse trucks throughout the product lifecycle. In addition, lifecycle assessments for the company’s seven main product groups were prepared.

Modular and platform strategy

The KION Group is establishing shared, cross-brand and cost-efficient platforms for product development and production that are geared to the volume and economy segments. However, market success depends on these platforms allowing a strong degree of regional differentiation in the industrial trucks. One example is the diesel truck platform developed by Baoli in China, which is used for region-specific economy trucks in India (Voltas) and Brazil (STILL). Another platform, developed in Xiamen, was also launched for the global volume segment in 2014.

In western Europe, the premium brands, Linde and STILL, will continue to use different platforms for their counterbalance trucks in order to maintain the defining characteristics of their brands, but will increasingly deploy shared modules. Some of their warehouse technology products have always had shared roots, such as the very narrow aisle trucks that are produced for both brands in Reutlingen.

Drive technology

As in the previous year, development of new drive technologies centred on powerful lithium-ion batteries for electric trucks. In October 2014, LMH and STILL added warehouse trucks (pedestrian pallet trucks) fitted with lithium-ion batteries to their product ranges for the first time. Both solutions are highly efficient because each truck, including the controls, electronics, battery and charger, forms a system whose different components communicate with each other.

LMH and STILL are also pushing forward with the development of lithium-ion batteries for counterbalance trucks in higher weight categories along with the necessary charging technology. The fuel-cell powered trucks of Linde Material Handling were designated ‘best innovation’ in the industrial truck category of the LOGISTRA best practice: Innovations 2014 awards, which are voted for by readers of the trade journal LOGISTRA.

Automation and networking

In May 2014, STILL received the International Forklift Truck of the Year Award (IFOY Award) in the Automated Guided Vehicles category for its iGoEasy automation solution, the world’s first system solution for facilities with small transport volumes. All configuration, control and monitoring of the system is carried out using an iPad. Last year, STILL also created a raw materials warehouse equipped with all the necessary automated components: for the first time, semi-automated shuttles communicate with fully automated reach trucks so that raw materials can be carried to the right production supply area at the right time.

Growing demand for individualised products means customers need increasingly flexible material flow strategies. That is why more and more manufacturers are deploying tugger trains to move materials around their premises. Both STILL and Linde updated their tugger train solutions in 2014. STILL launched the first tow tractors in its LTX model series in July. Available in many variants, this series provides custom transport solutions for various industries and applications. In May, LMH presented two new logistics train solutions: the Linde Logistic Train and Linde Factory Train are designed for the cycle-based flow of materials found in modern production facilities.

The automation and networking of supply chains remains an important subject. In May 2014, LMH presented the latest generation of its ‘connect:’ fleet management solution. This product family consists of a local database and a cloud-based data portal, new management and analysis software, and a suite of software modules that can be combined to form individual functional packages that are tailored to the specific customer requirements. The solution connects forklift trucks and warehouse trucks with the local database or the servers of the Linde Data Cloud via Bluetooth or wireless. Because it can be retrofitted, the system can be installed on all trucks in a fleet, including older and third-party vehicles.

During the reporting year, ‘connect:’ was used in a self-driving car for the first time. In the XchangE concept vehicle developed by Rinspeed AG of Switzerland, the system uses RFID technology to manage access control and transmits the technical data needed to monitor autonomous driving. It therefore performs the same technical functions that it does in a fleet truck. Another application for ‘connect:’ was showcased in a service vehicle developed jointly with Deutsche Telekom. The interaction between ‘connect:’ and Deutsche Telekom’s Arrival Control app enables customers to track the service vehicle’s current location and estimated time of arrival minute by minute. Deutsche Telekom and LMH have signed a cooperation agreement under which the app solution will be tested by LMH’s customer service organisation. Customers will benefit from more transparency and a greater ability to plan.

Workplace safety and ergonomics

There was a world premiere for LMH in May 2014: the Linde Safety Pilot is an electronic driver assistance system that helps to prevent operating and driving errors when trucks are used at their limits, thereby reducing the risk of accidents caused by trucks tipping over. Not only does the system provide the driver with visual and acoustic warnings, the truck control unit also actively intervenes by regulating the truck.

Another driver assistance system has been developed especially for Linde reach trucks with tall masts, which are becoming ever more common due to increasingly high racks. The Dynamic Mast Control (DMC) system compensates for mast oscillations and deflections quickly, precisely and energy-efficiently. This means the driver does not have to wait for the load to stop moving and can work much faster and more safely. In April 2014, STILL began offering a new reach truck (FM-X) with active load stabilisation, the first to achieve a lift height of up to 13 metres. Active load stabilisation reduces the time that a driver has to wait before lifting a load onto a high rack by up to 80 per cent.

Furthermore, LMH brought out two compact double stackers with enhanced safety features in February 2014. They are designed for light-duty logistics applications, such as in supermarkets. The features include SafetySpeed, which regulates driving speed, and SafetyLift, which prevents the accidental raising or lowering of the lifting equipment. To avoid collisions, the double stackers are fitted with four different braking systems.