Research and development

Strategic focus of research and development

Under the KION 2027 strategy, research and development is set up so as to support the KION Group’s position as a leading global supplier of integrated, automated supply chain solutions and mobile automation solutions over the long term. R&D activities remain focused on energy, digitalization, and automation.

R&D activities essentially take place on a cross-brand and cross-region basis, which makes it easier for research findings and technological know-how to be shared across the Group. Building on this, local product development teams working for the individual brand companies and regions develop customer-specific solutions. In addition to continuous innovation geared to the needs of customers, another objective of the R&D activities is to reduce the complexity and diversity of the product range and to shorten development times for new products.

Key R&D figures

Spending on R&D amounted to €235.3 million in 2020, compared with €237.3 million in 2019. This equates to 2.8 percent of revenue (2019: 2.7 percent). R&D costs totaling €156.8 million were expensed (2019: €155.3 million). There were also amortization charges on capitalized development costs of €97.1 million (2019: €82.1 million), which are reported under cost of sales (see note [17] in the notes to the consolidated financial statements).

Research and development (R&D)

in € million




Research and development costs (P&L)




Capitalized development costs




Total R&D spending




R&D spending as percentage of revenue



The number of full-time equivalents in R&D teams had risen by 7.5 percent to 1,701 employees as at the end of 2020 (December 31, 2019: 1,583). The KION Group pursues a dedicated patent strategy to protect against imitations of its technology. As at the end of 2020, the companies of the KION Group together held a total of 2,836 patent applications and issued patents (December 31, 2019: 2,912). They applied for 111 new patents in 2020, compared with 81 in 2019.

Focus of R&D in 2020


The development and refinement of energy-efficient drive solutions was again an area of focus in 2020.

STILL’s electric-powered RX 60-25/35 truck matches the performance of a truck fitted with an IC engine. The newly launched model won an IFOY award (International Intralogistics and Forklift Truck of the Year) in the ‘counter balanced truck up to 3.5 t’ category. It was praised not only for its high level of productivity, quietness, and flexibility but also for the low operating costs and low maintenance costs of the electric drive.

The new models of STILL’s compact OXV vertical order picker are available both with traditional lead-acid batteries and with lithium-ion batteries, while eco driving mode can be switched on at the touch of a button for greater energy efficiency.

In addition, Linde unveiled the Linde E10, a versatile stand-on truck for transport tasks that can optionally be fitted with a lithium-ion battery. Customers can also choose between the two battery types for Linde’s three new tow tractor models, P40 C, P40 C B, and P60 C.

The EXH-S 20/25 and EXD-S 20 pallet trucks brought to market by STILL in September, which feature a fixed stand-on platform, can be optionally fitted with a maintenance-free lithium-ion battery that can be topped up at smaller, conveniently located charging stations when the driver takes a short break. The trucks can also be fitted with an optional built-in charger, enabling them to be plugged into a normal electric power socket.


The digitalization of customer solutions – including through the use of the Dematic iQ proprietary warehouse management system – is being accompanied by the digitalization of internal processes and resulting improvements in performance. In this context, the KION Group is integrating software into its solutions and increasingly marketing software solutions as standalone products.

The KION Group significantly expanded Dematic’s intralogistics software offering by acquiring Digital Applications International Limited (DAI), a UK software company specializing in logistics automation solutions. DAI’s core product is a warehouse management system (WMS) that expands the capacity of Dematic iQ automation solutions. The two companies began working together on further developing these solutions in the year under review.

Making greater use of artificial intelligence for products and software solutions is a long-term focus of the KION Group’s research and development in the area of digitalization.

In addition, significant progress was made in integrating fleet management into a single software platform, in digital connectivity, and in the development and implementation of ‘digital twins’ for components in the Linde series 1202 H20–H35. The latter enable more efficient and easier maintenance.


R&D activities in the area of automation are focused on solutions that help customers to achieve their goal of almost fully automated warehousing.

An important step was the strategic partnership with Quicktron, a Shanghai-based manufacturer of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). The partnership was agreed upon in 2020 and underpinned by the acquisition of a minority stake. The technology behind these solutions uses artificial intelligence. Joint development projects between KION Group companies and Quicktron are planned under this partnership.

In the reporting year, Dematic optimized its automation solution for pallet storage. Dematic Standardized Automated Pallet Storage is a modular system of proven components that can be configured to meet specific customer requirements. Since the individual components are standardized, the system can be installed and put into operation in a very short time.

The new version of Dematic’s order fulfillment solution is geared specifically to the requirements of the protein industry supply chain. It can be used to automate picking, distribution, and shipping. It is based on an automated Dematic Multishuttle system that stores, buffers, and sorts the products and sequences them for order picking and packing.

In November, Linde launched the second generation of the Linde R-MATIC reach truck. It also brought out updated and new automated industrial trucks in the shape of the Linde L-MATIC HD pallet stacker. The Linde R-MATIC is the only automated reach truck in EMEA that is available in a hybrid version and can maneuver in aisles of up to 2.90 meters in width. Controlled by software, the truck stores pallets with great accuracy, even at lifting heights of over eleven meters.

Projects as part of R&D partnerships

Three collaborative projects were completed in 2020. In the QBIIK project, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), a mobile robot autonomously stocks the manufacturing supermarket of a company in the automotive industry. The mobile robot was proven to work in a live warehousing environment at application partner AUDI.

IC4F (Industrial Communication for Factories) is also sponsored by the BMWi. This beacon project investigated secure and real-time communication in industrial applications, using the key technologies of 5G and cloud computing. The KION Group played a major role in the project. Together with 15 partners from industry and research, it presented the results in live demonstrations during the closing event at STILL in Hamburg.

The CableBot project also reached a successful conclusion in 2020. In cooperation with Canada’s University of Waterloo, the KION Group conducted research into new cable-based technologies for automated storage and retrieval systems and demonstrated them using a prototype. The KION Group is currently examining options for making further use of the findings.

Further projects are continuing at various KION Group sites. One of these is the Deep-PTL project, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It is enabling the KION Group to put the latest findings from AI research into practice. During a successful interim presentation, the technology’s huge potential was demonstrated in an intelligent assistance system that helps self-driving vehicles to recognize their environment.