Research and development

Strategic focus of research and development

Under the KION 2027 strategy, research and development is set up so as to facilitate the sustained success of the KION Group as a leading global 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 a cross-segment software platform.

At the same time, R&D will continue to be structured cost-effectively, including through the use of groupwide synergies and 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.

Key R&D figures

Spending on research and development rose to €237.3 million in 2019 (2018: €221.7 million), which equates to 2.7 per cent of revenue (2018: 2.8 per cent). Total R&D expenditure included €81.9 million in capitalised development costs (2018: €84.0 million). Alongside this addition to capitalised development costs, there were amortisation and impairment charges of €82.1 million (2018: €76.6 million) (see note [16] in the notes to the consolidated financial statements). A total of €155.3 million (2018: €137.7 million) was expensed. > TABLE 025

Research and development (R&D)025

in € million




Research and development costs (P&L)




Capitalised development costs




Total R&D spending




R&D spending as percentage of revenue



The number of full-time equivalents in R&D teams went up by 3.9 per cent to 1,583 employees compared to 31 December 2018.

The KION Group takes comprehensive measures to protect the products it develops against imitations and pursues a dedicated patent strategy. In 2019, the KION companies applied for a total of 81 new patents (2018: 105). As at 31 December 2019, the companies of the KION Group held a total of 2,912 patent applications and issued patents (2018: 2,923 patent applications and issued patents).

Focus of R&D in 2019


The availability of lithium-ion technology was further improved during the reporting period. Virtually all new products can, at the customer’s request, be fitted with the new battery system. This includes the new generation of the Linde N20 C low-lift order picker, which makes order picking in the 1.2 to 2.5 tonne capacity range more cost effective, and the new RX 60-25/35 electric forklift truck range from STILL, which also offers improved hoisting speeds. A trade magazine attested that the RX 60 was the first electric forklift truck to offer greater productivity than comparable IC trucks.

The proportion of industrial trucks equipped with lithium-ion technology rose again, in part because of significant new orders, including one for Linde to supply a fleet of energy-efficient pallet stackers. Having a safe and quality-assured all-in-one system comprising the truck, battery and charger is a major plus point. Decentralised chargers enable the batteries to be topped up regularly, which eliminates the need for battery changes.

The fuel cell portfolio was also expanded in 2019. The hydrogen-powered variant of the Linde P250 tow tractor offers the advantages of extremely short refuelling times and long-lasting fuel cells.


iQ Virtual is a new simulation and emulation platform from Dematic that provides a virtual environment to explore new configurations of existing systems. It can be directly integrated with the warehouse execution software Dematic iQ Optimize to test in advance how efficiently a particular system would run under different operating conditions and in different scenarios. The virtual emulation model uses graphical rendering technology to provide an accurate portrayal of labour productivity and the automated flow of materials, thus making a significant contribution to warehousing efficiency with the aid of integrated software control. The innovative iQ Virtual is suitable both for analysing and optimising the design of new facilities and for optimising facilities that are already in operation.

In addition, significant progress was made in integrating fleet management into a single software platform and in digital connectivity. For example, the H20–H35 IC counterbalance trucks from the new Linde 1202 range offer digital networking capability thanks to a data transmission unit as part of the standard specification. This allows information about the trucks’ condition and usage to be analysed by special software that can also be used to optimally plan essential maintenance and efficiently calculate running costs. Linde also presented a new service manager app that allows service jobs to be created on a smartphone.

As part of the digitalisation of internal processes, the fleet management solutions from STILL (neXXt fleet) and Linde (connect:desk) and Dematic’s iQ InSights asset performance management platform were migrated to the corporate cloud. This means, for example, that software can be activated for customers within a matter of minutes and they can be provided with real time analyses and visualisations. The KION Product Development Optimisation (KPDO) initiative, meanwhile, is bringing greater efficiency and greater customer focus to the product development process and helping to bring products to market more quickly. One of the improvement projects, the IC.IDO virtual reality system for visualising integrated products in three dimensions, has already been made available to STILL and Linde and is reducing the need for physical prototypes. Making greater use of artificial intelligence for products and software solutions is a further long-term focus in the field of digitalisation.


The new modular automated guided vehicle (AGV) solution Dematic Compact is one of the ways in which the Mobile Automation unit accommodates the automated point-to-point transfer of pallets, skids, racks, tubs and rolls, including pick-up, transport and drop-off, for low to mid capacity applications. Its compact design makes it suitable for tight spaces and for repetitive material transport tasks in multi-shift operations. The onboard vehicle control software is standardised for all vehicle formats to enable fast and easy configuration. Mobile Automation also focused on developing products for the Industrial Trucks & Services segment that would drive forward the automation and networking of warehouse and logistics solutions using driverless vehicles.

PackMyRide, the world’s first fully automated parcel-loading solution, is revolutionising how parcels are handled prior to the ‘last mile’ stage of delivery. The subsystem collects the parcels from the existing intralogistics system and transports them into mobile racking units that communicate with automated guided vehicle systems. This fully automates the process of loading delivery vehicles, which should mean huge time and cost savings for parcel delivery services and customers from other industries. Parcel delivery service DPD has successfully completed a trial of the system.

Dematic’s micro-fulfilment automation system, which was introduced in the fourth quarter of 2019, is tailored to the requirements of omnichannel retailers with high throughput rates. Orders are put together fully automatically within a maximum of one hour. The micro-fulfilment facilities comprise proven technology such as Dematic’s Multishuttle and goods-to-person picking solutions together with customised Dematic iQ software. The compact design of the fully automated system means that fulfilment centres can be installed close to the end consumer, which brings down delivery times even further.

Efficiency gains are also being achieved with the new subsystem for returns management, which runs on Dematic iQ software: it accelerates all processing steps from inspection to repackaging and allows omnichannel retailers and online retailers to significantly increase the number of returns they are able to handle on a daily basis and thus raise customer satisfaction and productivity. Pouch sorting systems are also being used more and more in e-commerce distribution centres. Thanks to the newly developed automatic pouch emptier, which uses a durable, cost-effective and fully automated mechanism to open the bottom of the pouch, Dematic has significantly increased the speed at which its space-saving omnichannel solution operates.

Since 2019, new and updated automation products have been fitted as standard with the kinds of sensors and communication equipment that will make them suitable for the broad roll-out of IoT services and for better pre-emptive maintenance options as a means of further increasing uptime.