Innovative solutions and customer benefit

The overarching commitment to deliver efficiency, safety and ergonomic comfort also influences the KION Group and its operating units’ approach to innovation management. The main focus is on the possibilities and opportunities of increasing digitisation, frequently referred to as Intralogistics 4.0, which arise for the KION Group, its brands and above all its customers. Once again, there are many examples of the strength of the Company’s ability to innovate in the current reporting period too.

Innovations for greater safety and ergonomic comfort

The Linde Load Management safety system was launched recently. Above a nominal load of above 50 percent, the Linde Load Assist (LLA) function actively intervenes in the front tilt angle and the lifting speed of the industrial truck as soon as the second mast is reached. In addition, overload protection and load-dependent speed restriction provide even greater safety during operation.

Linde Speed Assist recently entered mass production. The system adapts the truck’s speed to suit different environments by means of a ceiling or radar sensor. For instance, when the truck enters a hall it slows down; outside the building, full speed is available again. The next generation of the system is currently in development, which will operate on a zone basis.

When revising the Linde T20 P, particular emphasis was placed on ergonomic comfort. The entire driver platform has been decoupled to substantially reduce human body vibration on the driver. Similarly, reducing human body vibration was right at the top of the list of requirements for the product development of various warehouse technology solutions for loading and unloading, such as the T20 R. They now have a fully sprung platform, and are particularly ergonomic to control via a joystick.

At Linde Material Handling EMEA, work is continuing on the next generation of the Linde BlueSpot, where a graphic warning symbol will be projected on the ground instead of the current blue spot. And because even small measures can have a big impact, additional lighting elements will make the Linde and STILL brand products even safer in future.

Automation and networking

With the inclusion of Dematic in the KION Group now provides the full range of Intralogistics 4.0 solutions. These range from smart industrial trucks to fully integrated, automated intralogistics systems that can integrate autonomous industrial trucks as components. Strengthened by the Dematic and Dematic Egemin R&D teams, the KION Group is in an excellent position to support its customers with tailored turnkey solutions. In terms of sustainability, the new solutions increase safety and support accident-free operator-machine interaction.

In the reporting period, Dematic further developed its multishuttle warehouse system and also completely revised its automated guided vehicles. In the past three years, the automated very narrow aisle trucks (VNAs) and the Flexfork 900, 1800 and 2500 counterbalance trucks have been completely redesigned and switched over to the FlexTruck universal mobile platform. The new FlexTruck can include a robot arm, pallet lifter or conveyor, enabling it to pick the correct units from a pallet containing a single type of item to load up a stable, mixed-order pallet. This new Dematic model series also comprises several modular, interchangeable components, such as cable harnesses and Li-ion/hydrogen fuel cell options, as well as all of the new reflector-less navigation features. In doing so, the systems take account of both environmental aspects and safety requirements.

In the reporting year, STILL EMEA brought to market the first self-driving order picker, the iGO neo CX 20. The truck interacts with its operator and automatically follows him during the picking process. This can result in time savings of up to 30 percent and a faster pick rate because the operator does not have to keep getting in and out of the truck. This enables the picker to focus on the task at hand, and reduces physical strain. For safety, sensors track his movements – they can even differentiate between the operator, other people and obstacles. In the case of obstacles, they are either bypassed or the device is stopped if the path is completely blocked. If a slower vehicle is travelling ahead or if there is a traffic jam, the speed is adjusted to suit the situation. Once the path is free, the iGO neo CX 20 catches up automatically. Intersections are crossed automatically only with the operator’s approval.

Since early 2017 Linde Material Handling EMEA has also offered a semi-automatic picking solution, the N20 OptiPick. It enables employees to focus fully on their picking activities, avoid unnecessary routes between the truck and rack, and thus work more productively and ergonomically overall. A smart bracelet serves as a remote control for this purpose. Using this device, the operator can programme individually adjustable travel commands, whereupon the vehicle moves autonomously at a predetermined distance parallel to the rack and stops when it has reached the defined distance. Smaller obstacles are bypassed. The low-level order picker will stop automatically when it reaches the end of the aisle. A comprehensive safety system is provided by smart sensors, a circumferential foot protector, an emergency stop switch, and a multi-colour lighting column which indicates different vehicle conditions to the operator.

In the reporting year, STILL EMEA also presented an automated forklift-free solution for on-site materials transportation in the form of its LiftRunner tugger train system. Besides improved efficiency thanks to a lower number of vehicles and operations, the environment also benefits thanks to the lower energy consumption.

In addition, the KION Group and its operating units expanded the Company’s range of fleet management solutions. STILL introduced the new neXXt fleet software, which intelligently merges datasets from different applications and areas so that customers can analyse their fleets accurately and comprehensively – also in terms of environmental aspects such as energy consumption. Linde Material Handling EMEA added the ‘pre-op check’ app to its ‘connect:’ fleet management system. A smartphone or tablet can now be very easily used to carry out the check that is required each time before a truck is used, as stipulated by the rules of the DGUV (German Social Accident Insurance Association). In addition, it developed a new localisation technology that pinpoints the location of trucks and transport containers to within centimetres in real time.

Stocktaking by drone coming soon

The use of drones will radically simplify the process of stock-taking inventories. Just how this will be taken care of in future was showcased by Linde Material Handling EMEA in March 2017 at the LogiMAT trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany.

The Flybox drone measures around 50 centimetres wide and is equipped with six rotors, a camera, barcode scanner and telemeter. But what is unique is that by coupling the drone with an automated Linde pallet stacker – the L-MATIC – continuous power supply and precise tracking in the warehouse are guaranteed. The drone and vehicle are connected to each other via a voltage converter and a self-adjusting cable.

The drone presented at LogiMAT is still a prototype, which Linde Material Handling developed together with the French automation expert Balyo. The market launch of the Flybox is scheduled for 2018 at the earliest. The Flybox will then be able to radically simplify statutory inventory processes, thereby saving companies time and money. According to experts, companies in Germany are currently spending up to eight percent of their inventorised stock value on paying temporary staff or their own employees, obtaining the necessary forms or providing auxiliary equipment. At the same time, the manual counting process interferes with operations and errors, accidents or damage to goods and equipment occur time and again.

These problems could soon be a thing of the past with the Flybox, as the drone is designed to work completely autonomously and carry out stocktaking outside regular working hours – at night, at the weekend or during the Christmas holidays, for example.