Research and development

Strategic focus of research and development

The focus of research and development (R&D) is determined by 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, high-performance products at competitive prices. To this end, R&D is designed to be cost-effective, to reduce the complexity and diversity of products and to shorten development times for new products. R&D essentially works on a cross-brand and cross-region basis, which ensures that research findings and technological know-how are shared across the Group. In addition, special product development teams working for the individual brand companies and in the regions are able to deliver customer-specific solutions.

An example that is helping to raise efficiency is the ‘hardware in the loop’ (HIL) procedure introduced in 2015, with which complex electronic control units and systems can be examined using virtual truck models so that improvements can be made based on the findings. This enables innovations to be brought to production readiness much faster and more cost-effectively.

In the premium segment, the focus for the KION Group’s products remains on total cost of ownership for customers. The objective is to minimise these costs, which include purchase price, maintenance and repair costs and energy use, while complying with environmental targets and regulatory requirements in order to create highly efficient and competitive products for customers. To this end, and to secure the Company’s position as a leading technology provider, the product portfolio of the KION Group is continually being enhanced. Another aim is to integrate the KION Group’s logistics solutions into customers’ value chains and open up new application areas for them. 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 2015, the KION Group’s total spending on research and development amounted to €130.5 million. This constituted a year-on-year rise of 9.1 per cent (2014: €119.7 million). Total R&D expenditure included €40.9 million in capitalised development costs (2014: €43.7 million). These expenses were offset by depreciation and amortisation of €53.3 million (2014: €49.7 million) (see note [17] in the notes to the consolidated financial statements).

The number of full-time jobs in R&D teams grew by 3.2 per cent to reach 1,056. 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. > 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 and pursues a specific patent strategy. In 2015, the KION companies were granted a total of 70 patents (2014: 140 patents). As at 31 December 2015, the companies of the KION Group held a total of 1,641 patent applications and issued patents (31 December 2014: 1,689 patent applications and issued patents).

Focus of R&D in 2015

Modular and platform strategy

The KION Group is establishing shared, cross-brand platforms for product development and production that are geared to the volume and economy segments. This means the industrial trucks can be adapted to different regions cost-efficiently. Development for the volume and economy segments is managed from China, where around one third of the R&D staff are based. In 2015, eleven trucks and three new Chinese platforms were brought to market that not only replace old products of various platforms but also target new customer segments. For example, a heavy truck was developed that can be sold worldwide for the first time, having been optimised with regard to maintenance and transportability. A diesel truck with improved torque converter technology and extended equipment options is to be localised in China for use in other markets. In addition, the electric forklift truck fleet was completely overhauled and given new features.

The premium brands, Linde and STILL, have shared platforms for the Asia-Pacific and Americas regions, whereas their products for western Europe are developed using different platforms in order to maintain the defining characteristics of the brands. In 2015, Linde and STILL established a new platform for warehouse trucks that is tailored specifically to e-commerce and logistics.

All platforms are part of a global module strategy that enables products to be developed more cost-effectively and at a higher quality because of the growing number of common parts. The Group is therefore able to achieve high levels of synergy even in western Europe with its different platforms. This is supported by a centralised procurement function. Wherever possible, local suppliers are used for regional product features. In 2015, key projects in connection with the module strategy focused on the lithium-ion batteries and drive axles used in electric forklift trucks and on the design of a common electrics/electronics architecture for all future trucks made by Linde and STILL.

Since last year, the KION brand companies have also been using a cross-brand, cross-platform development software programme as a means of shortening product development times and efficiently managing the module strategy. The software allows the brand companies to work together to optimise components that are used at multiple sites. In the long term, procurement, sales and marketing are to be brought on board in addition to the development teams so that the entire product lifecycle is represented in a single, standardised software system.

Automation and connectivity

By acquiring Egemin Automation, the KION Group has strengthened its expertise and opportunities in the design and management of complex logistics automation projects and has developed into one of the leading providers of automation and connectivity concepts for intralogistics in the Industry 4.0 era. As well as Egemin Automation’s system solutions for intralogistics and automation, these concepts include the STILL iGo automation solution, the STILL FleetManager and Linde connect: data solutions and the geo-navigation solutions from Linde Robotics.

In 2015, Linde Robotics partnered with Balyo, in which Linde holds a stake, to launch onto the market the first self-driving trucks that can guide themselves around a warehouse using laser sensors to detect structures such as walls, racking and pillars.

Linde’s fleet management solution connect: came onto the market in March 2015 after a successful test phase. The connect: system provides fleet managers with transparent data on drivers, trucks, their use and their location. It therefore contributes to improved driving safety, better availability and greater productivity. In 2015, Linde worked on a special app that helps drivers to check the condition of their truck before beginning their shift and on a Wi-Fi connection as a second alternative for transmitting data. In China, connect: was presented at the Storage and Transport Forum in Wuxi under the name Connected Solutions. Linde MH has already successfully implemented the solution at several major Chinese online retailers.

STILL extended its FleetManager 4.x system with a function called OptiTruck, which automatically allocates trucks to drivers and thereby makes better use of a fleet’s capacity. A central terminal is used to collect and return the trucks, meaning the drivers can quickly access vacant trucks. For the iGo system, which enables industrial trucks to be controlled remotely, STILL also developed an app-based solution last year that should be appearing on the market soon. STILL strengthened its leading position as a provider of tugger trains and process-oriented material flow concepts by acquiring LR Intralogistik GmbH. LR Intralogistik specialises in the development of bespoke tugger train systems, including the accompanying trolleys, with a focus on process optimisation, cost-efficiency, safety and ergonomics.

Drive technology

The development of new drive technologies is focused on lithium-ion batteries. STILL and Linde are working together to establish a lithium-ion standard for various electric forklift trucks and warehouse trucks and to gain a competitive edge in this important future market.

After the first warehouse trucks fitted with lithium-ion batteries had been incorporated into the product ranges of both brand companies in 2014, further trucks with larger lithium-ion batteries were added to the product portfolios in 2015.