Sectoral conditions

The global material handling market, which comprises industrial trucks and supply chain solutions, again grew at a faster rate than the global economy in 2021. The market for industrial trucks recorded strong growth, particularly in the first half of the year, driven by pent-up demand and customers bringing orders forward in the face of looming supply bottlenecks and anticipated price increases. It then began to normalize in the second half of the year. Growth was especially strong in the EMEA and Americas, which were among the regions worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic last year. There was also a further substantial rise in demand for warehouse automation and for sorting and automated goods transport solutions, partly in connection with the creation of extra warehouse capacity for the fast-growing e-commerce market.

Industrial Trucks & Services

The global market for industrial trucks expanded sharply compared with pandemic-hit 2020. The number of new truck orders rose by a total of 42.9 percent to 2,343 thousand units, which was a new record. There were significant year-on-year increases in all product categories. The momentum dropped off sharply in all regions over the course of 2021, which the KION Group believes was mainly because the recovery had already begun to take effect in some regions in the previous year. The rate of growth was 72.3 percent in the first six months of 2021, but 20.6 percent in the last six.

All sales regions contributed to this upturn. In the APAC region (Asia-Pacific), the number of new trucks ordered went up by 30.0 percent compared with the prior year. This was primarily attributable to orders for entry-level warehouse trucks. The Chinese market (up by 28.0 percent) made the biggest contribution here in absolute terms. In the EMEA region (western Europe, eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa), new orders rose by 53.4 percent compared with the (albeit severely impacted) figure for the prior year. The Americas region (North, Central, and South America) registered growth of 60.7 percent, which was mainly due to higher order volumes in the North American market. There was also a steep upward trend in the markets in Central and South America.

The number of new IC trucks ordered went up by 22.7 percent, driven mainly by the Americas and APAC regions. Electric forklift truck orders and warehouse truck orders rose by an even greater amount (up by 56.7 percent and 53.7 percent respectively) and were up significantly in all sales regions. The persistently strong demand for entry-level trucks was a major factor in the increased number of warehouse truck orders, but in terms of revenue, this had only a limited impact on the overall market volume.

The share of the global market attributable to IC counterbalance trucks dropped from 36 percent to 31 percent year on year, whereas electric forklift trucks accounted for 17 percent (2020: 15 percent) of the global order volume and warehouse technology 52 percent (2020: 49 percent).

Global industrial truck market (order intake)

in thousand units








Western Europe




Eastern Europe




Middle East and Africa








North America




Central and South America












APAC excluding China








Source: WITS / FEM

Supply Chain Solutions

Market research provider Interact Analysis reported a sharp increase in the global market for supply chain solutions in 2021. It estimates that global revenue generated by warehouse automation solutions surged by around 21 percent in 2021, after growing only moderately in the previous year. According to Interact Analysis, this growth was partly due to companies working through the high level of orders on hand that had built up in 2020. During the coronavirus pandemic in that year, a significant consumer pivot to online purchases drove up investment in omnichannel approaches and automated warehouse environments. However, the associated revenue growth was delayed to 2021 due to postponements in the completion of projects and restrictions in the supply chain.

The EMEA and Americas regions were key contributors to the growth in supply chain solutions. There was a particularly sharp increase in the volumes of revenue generated in the grocery and general merchandise industries; these were the standout sectors in this respect.

Procurement markets

On the whole, prices for the commodities used by the KION Group rose sharply over the course of 2021. These increases were due in part to restrictions in the availability of materials. The steel price steepened sharply in the first half of 2021 and then remained well above its average for 2020, despite a slight dip beginning to emerge over the course of the second half of the year. The average price of steel over the twelve-month period nearly doubled with a rise of 99.3 percent. Copper prices maintained their sharp upward trend from the prior year. The price of copper ended the reporting year 46.2 percent higher than at the end of 2020. The increase in commodity prices could also be seen in the price of oil, which was 58.3 percent higher on average than the comparable figure for 2020. This was mainly due to the resurgence in global economic growth coupled with a slowdown in production by the OPEC states. The price of rubber was also much higher than its average for 2020.