Research and development

Strategic focus of research and development

Under the KION 2027 strategy, 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 heavily on automation and robotics solutions that are based on an overarching software platform. In 2018, the KION Group forged ahead with incorporating autonomous trucks and automated guided vehicle systems into end-to-end solutions for warehouses, among other things. Another area of focus was the ongoing development of the warehouse management system. Moreover, the KION Group has driven forward the integration of research and development into a groupwide digitalisation strategy. The Digital Campus, for example, 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, including through the use of agile processes. This will further reduce the complexity and diversity of products and 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. Building on this, local product development teams working for the individual brand companies and regions develop customer-specific solutions. As a result, a consortium led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT and RWTH Aachen ranked the KION Group among the top five ‘successful practice’ companies in a benchmark study on agile invention. A total of 159 German and European companies took part in the benchmark study.

Key R&D figures

Total spending on research and development came to €221.7 million in 2018 (2017: €212.4 million), which equates to 2.8 per cent of revenue (2017: 2.8 per cent). Total R&D expenditure included €84.0 million in capitalised development costs (2017: €75.4 million). Alongside this addition to capitalised development costs, there were amortisation and impairment charges of €76.6 million (2017: €69.0 million) (see note [16] in the notes to the consolidated financial statements). A total of €137.7 million (2017: €137.0 million) was expensed.

The number of full-time jobs in R&D teams remained more or less constant compared to 31 December 2017. > TABLE 026

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 2018, the KION companies applied for a total of 105 new patents (2017: 101). As at 31 December 2018, the companies of the KION Group held a total of 2,923 patent applications and issued patents (31 December 2017: 2,808 patent applications and issued patents).

Focus of R&D in 2018


Since 2018, lithium-ion technology has been available for virtually every intralogistics and warehouse management application. The advantages of energy-saving electric drives include faster charging times, lower operating costs, higher safety standards and the ability to store considerably more energy. Linde extended the availability of lithium-ion batteries to the six to eight tonne load capacity range, closing the final gap in the electric forklift truck segment in the process. A new rental concept is also encouraging the use of energy-saving drive technology. The benefits for customers are flexibility and financial security over the entire usage period.

A new battery concept was introduced for the new RX 20 electric forklift truck from STILL in 2018. The truck was a winner at this year’s International Intralogistics and Forklift Truck of the Year (IFOY) awards, where it triumphed in the Counter Balanced Truck category thanks to its compactness, ergonomics, performance, precision and innovative assistance systems.

Through its strategic partnership with EP Equipment, the KION Group is expanding its portfolio for the electrification of intralogistics to include entry-level warehouse technology.


Software-based supply chain solutions that use robotics applications are at the heart of digitalisation. The Dematic iQ software, which enables real-time management of material flow solutions, was expanded with the cloud-based asset performance management system Dematic iQ InSights. This new module increases warehouse efficiency through end-to-end facilities management. Using real-time data, Dematic iQ InSights helps to optimise capacity utilisation, reduce lead times and increase operational performance.

Supported by the Digital Campus, Linde and STILL have also extended their digital offerings, in particular for data-based fleet management. Linde’s ‘connect’ fleet management solution is now available for all industrial trucks – including those built by other companies – and therefore provides a comprehensive system for capturing and evaluating data that is also suitable for mixed fleets. Two new assistance systems have also been added to ‘connect’. Linde Safety Guard is a new assistance system that uses acoustic and visual signals as well as vibrations to alert pedestrians and drivers in good time if they are approaching one another within warning zones that can be individually configured. Zone Intelligence uses sensors to identify and avoid situations that may cause an accident and therefore costs. The new assistance systems use ultra-wideband technology to enable communication between the truck’s sensors, static sensors and sensors worn on the person. The highly responsive Active Stability Control (ASC) assistance system from Linde and the Active Floor Compensation (AFC) safety and assistance system from STILL make it possible to drive faster yet more safely in high-rack warehouses, even where the floor is uneven. Furthermore, the innovative Truck Mapping app improves communication between the fleet manager and drivers, thereby enabling orders to be managed even more efficiently.

Another new solution is the STILL neXXt fleet online portal, via which numerous processes involving inhouse material and data flows can be managed digitally – including from mobile devices – in order to optimise industrial truck fleets. The user is given a clear overview of all relevant fleet data and KPIs via a single application that can be accessed online from any device.


Dematic’s robotics centre of excellence, established in 2018, brought the first robotic piece picking module to market that is capable of independently selecting individual items and placing them in the right container at very high throughput rates. The module has already proven itself in the field, and now all stages of the order fulfilment process can be fully automated. Further developments include a very narrow aisle AGV and robotics solutions for use in cold stores.

Dematic also presented the second generation of its pouch sorting system, which is particularly suitable for the handling of returns and for picking, e.g. in e-commerce. Hanging and flat goods as well as flat-packed items and boxes can be stored, sorted and staged. An improved goods-to-person picking solution was also launched. Combining the advantages of the Dematic Multishuttle with patented inter-aisle transfer technology, the solution enables more intelligent, faster and ergonomic order processing for high volumes of goods.

The Industrial Trucks & Services and Supply Chain Solutions segments particularly focused on product development aimed at improving the automation and connectivity of warehouse and logistics solutions. Linde entered the automated guided cart (AGC) segment with the new Linde C-MATIC, which autonomously manoeuvres through the warehouse and plays a key part in standardising production logistics processes. Another addition to the robotics portfolio was the R-MATIC autonomous reach truck, which operates fully automatically to store and retrieve palletised goods weighing up to 1.6 tonnes on high-bay racks. New rider trucks in the 1.2 to 2.5 tonne load capacity range ensure even more comfortable and productive goods transport and link to the ‘connect’ modular data system. For light transport tasks, Linde also launched three new pallet stackers and a hand pallet truck on the market.