Research and development

Strategic focus of research and development

The KION Group’s innovation strategy is an integral element of KION 2027. Research and development is set up so as to provide the best possible support for the KION Group’s objective of becoming the world’s leading supplier of integrated, automated supply chain solutions and mobile automation solutions. The innovativeness of the portfolio is being significantly increased by concentrating even more heavily on automation and robotics solutions that are based on an overarching software platform and enable fully automated warehouses to become a reality. The focus areas selected for product development will push forward the integration of autonomous trucks and automated guided vehicle systems into end-to-end solutions for warehouses. This means an even stronger emphasis on new drive technologies and automation / robotics solutions. Another area of focus is the refinement of the warehouse management system.

Given that the digitalisation of solutions and processes is of the utmost importance for the KION Group’s future portfolio, research and development form part of an overarching digitalisation strategy. The KION Digital Campus is helping to significantly accelerate projects to digitalise the existing core business and ensure that they are fully aligned with the requirements of the Operating Units and their customers.

At the same time, R&D will continue to be structured cost-effectively. The complexity and diversity of products will be further reduced and development times for new products will be shortened, despite the wider range available to customers. 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. Building on this, local product development teams working for the individual brand companies and regions develop customer-specific solutions.

Key R&D figures

Total spending on research and development came to €212.3 million in 2017 (2016: €147.1 million), which equates to 2.8 per cent of revenue (2016: 2.6 per cent). The increase was predominantly attributable to Dematic being consolidated for the whole of the year. Total R&D expenditure included €75.4 million in capitalised development costs (2016: €50.6 million). Alongside this addition to capitalised development costs, there were amortisation and impairment charges of €69.0 million (2016: €57.0 million) (see note [17] in the notes to the consolidated financial statements).

At 1,533, the number of full-time jobs in R&D teams was up by 3.8 per cent compared with the end of 2016. > TABLE 037

Research and development (R&D)


in € million




Research and development costs (P&L)




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 dedicated patent strategy. In 2017, the KION companies applied for a total of 101 new patents (2016: 93). As at 31 December 2017, the companies of the KION Group held a total of 2,808 patent applications and issued patents (31 December 2016: 2,689 patent applications and issued patents).

Focus of R&D in 2017

Automation and connectivity

The two segments have developed numerous products aimed at further improving the automation and connectivity of warehouse and logistics solutions. This enables customers to speed up their processes even more, seamlessly integrate all stages of production and logistics and use the same floor space more efficiently.

One of the products launched by Linde is the new Linde R-MATIC reach truck, which autonomously fills shelves with goods and replenishes them with a high level of process reliability. The development and production of automated trucks is also the objective of the alliance with French robotics developer Balyo, which was extended in May 2017. The new Linde K-MATIC order-picker truck and other products have been introduced under this partnership. Automated versions can now be supplied for virtually all of the main warehouse trucks and very narrow aisle (VNA) trucks. Also available is the new Truck Call app for digital order management, which enables transport tasks to be managed more effectively. Digitalisation extends to safety features, too. Linde Safety Guard, an assistance system for alerting pedestrians and avoiding collisions, and Linde Safety Scan contribute to the safety-conscious management of the entire material handling process.

STILL has added an automated tugger train solution to its portfolio of automation solutions as a new member of the iGO product family. The iGo neo CX 20, a self-driving order picker launched in 2016, has been integrated with solutions from Dematic (e.g. the Pick-to-Voice system) and added to the portfolio. The product range for efficient and rapid warehouse processes and picking is rounded off by the innovative horizontal and vertical order pickers and the very narrow aisle trucks with swivel traverse or telescopic forks that were introduced on the market in 2017. Another efficient piece of equipment for the warehouse is the new ECU 15 C electric pallet truck while, for the medium to long-distance transport of goods, sit-on low-lift and high-lift pallet trucks along with double-decker pallet trucks are now available with powerful lithium-ion technology. STILL also teamed up with Audi and Dematic on an innovative project to create a smart factory incorporating the automated transport of bulk carriers – from the high rack warehouse to the packing line.

One of the new developments from Dematic is an automated, low-energy solution for fulfilling orders of refrigerated and frozen foods, the Multishuttle 2 Freezer. This means that a complete line of products for the cold chain market can now be offered. Dematic has also unveiled a new automated truck configuration that forms part of the compact range. This product range is based on a modular system that offers particularly fast delivery times and low up-front costs.

Warehouse management system

The Supply Chain Solutions segment also focused on refining the central software solution, Dematic iQ. In the second quarter of 2017, Dematic published an update for its Dematic IQ software (version 2.4). Among other benefits, the update enables stock to be replenished more quickly on the shop floor, reduces product damage and allows more products to be stored in the same space. The iQ 2.5 version released in the third quarter also offers innovative material flow analysis that makes it much easier to manage complex systems on a day-to-day basis thanks, in part, to the clear presentation of data.

Drive technology

In 2017, Linde and STILL equipped significantly more trucks with lithium-ion technology. Customers of Linde, for example, now have a choice of more than 30 warehouse truck models fitted with a lithium-ion battery, including pallet stackers, double stackers, order pickers and reach trucks – thereby encompassing virtually all logistics tasks in the warehouse.