Market and influencing factors

According to the KION Group’s estimates, the material handling market – comprising industrial trucks, supply chain solutions, and related services – has expanded at a faster rate than real global economic growth in recent years (2017–2022), despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and ongoing disruption to supply chains. The value of the market has increased at an average annual rate of around 7 percent over that time.

Of the relevant market volume, the KION Group estimates that around 60 percent is attributable to revenue from industrial trucks and related services, which play an important role in maintaining global and regional production and supply chains in all sectors.

The remaining market volume is accounted for by supply chain solutions and services, the growth of which is fueled in no small part by the increasing automation and digitalization of production and logistics processes in various industries.

In the past, the material handling market was heavily influenced by macroeconomic factors. Economic conditions in the different regions and the rates of growth in global trade have a major effect on customers’ willingness to invest. Despite the regionalization of some supply chains as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the globalization of many sectors continues to be one of the key growth drivers. Global megatrends – such as automation, demographic change, urbanization, digitalization, and sustainability – are also driving the growth of the material handling market.

The KION Group believes that these developments and trends are boosting demand for decentralized warehouse and logistics capacity in response to value chains and supply chains that are becoming increasingly fragmented as well as demand for smaller warehouses and micro-fulfillment solutions. Digitalization is increasing the connectivity and enhancing the big data functions of intralogistics solutions, thereby catering to the growing demand for everything from networked trucks and systems to predictive maintenance tools, self-monitoring trucks, virtual reality solutions, and automation. The KION Group believes that interest in automated and digital solutions increased again in 2022 because they help to make intralogistics processes safer and more resilient.

Historically, new business in the Industrial Trucks & Services market segment has shown a very strong correlation with the performance of broad economic indicators, such as gross domestic product and industrial output. By contrast, the Supply Chain Solutions market segment tends to be less cyclical owing to longer project cycles, often lasting for several years, and to the solid long-term demand for e-commerce fulfillment strategies. In both segments, the service business is generally more stable than the product or project business as it is linked to the installed base of trucks and systems over their entire lifetime. The economic situation is also affected by competition levels, exchange rates, and changes in commodity prices. Economic trends within individual customer sectors are another important factor. The significant sectors are manufacturing, the food industry, general merchandise and grocery wholesale and retail, logistics services, and pure e-commerce.

Regulatory frameworks have a major impact on the business model, both in the Industrial Trucks & Services segment and in the Supply Chain Solutions segment. The products and services of subsidiaries in the KION Group have to comply with the specific legal requirements in their respective markets. Compliance with the different requirements has to be verified or certified. Many of the legal requirements are enshrined in product-specific standards and other norms (e.g. EN, ISO, and DIN). The KION Group’s management systems are oriented to these requirements.

Legal requirements also apply to the construction and operation of production facilities, including in relation to air pollution avoidance, noise reduction, waste production & disposal, and health & safety. There are also legal provisions pertaining to exports and financing business.

Influencing factors in the Industrial Trucks & Services segment

The value of the global market for industrial trucks (including services) has, according to the KION Group’s estimates, increased by an average of around 7 percent annually over the past five years (2017–2022).

Because the relevant trade association has changed the publishing dates for market data on order intake for industrial trucks, there is currently no data on the overall market that covers the full reporting period.

Measured in terms of units ordered, around 30 percent of the global market was attributable to IC counterbalance trucks in the first nine months of 2022, while electric forklift trucks accounted for roughly 17 percent and warehouse technology 53 percent.

Sustainability and electrification are among the main driving factors in the market for industrial trucks and services. Customers are increasingly demanding solutions for environmentally friendly supply chains, primarily electric trucks. Consequently, the strongest growth in the new truck business in recent years, including in the first nine months of 2022, has been for forklift trucks and warehouse trucks powered by an electric motor. Much of the additional volume in the market for new industrial trucks is attributable to the electrification of manual hand pallet trucks, which are being replaced by entry-level electric trucks in the lower weight categories. It should be noted that, on average, the per-unit price for warehouse technology is considerably lower than for counterbalance trucks, which is why the breakdown by value shows that counterbalance trucks dominate. In the first nine months of 2022, IC counterbalance trucks continued to make up a comparatively high but falling proportion of the total unit volume in growth regions.

Stricter emissions standards and new energy solutions – particularly lithium-ion batteries, but also fuel cells – are also boosting demand for counterbalance trucks with an electric drive and for warehouse facilities.

Furthermore, the increasing automation of warehouses and the resulting rise in material handling are pushing up demand for industrial trucks with an electric drive. Customers are becoming more and more interested in hybrid solutions in which automation technology is added to standard industrial trucks to create automated guided vehicles. These products are aimed at reducing injuries to operators and damage to goods and infrastructure. They also help to improve transportation quality, reliability, and productivity.

Digitalization has led to greater demand for networked trucks, such as fleet management systems and products that use big data to support predictive maintenance tools.

The industrial truck market is benefiting, among other things, from customers’ growing requirements regarding the quality, efficiency, and eco-friendliness of industrial trucks and from higher expectations in terms of service, availability of spare parts, and flexible rental solutions. Customers are more focused on optimizing total cost of ownership and, increasingly, on the ability to integrate the trucks into fully automated intralogistics solutions. The degree of automation in the chosen solution, which ranges from manual or semi-automated to fully automated, is determined by the customer’s processes. Furthermore, the competitive pressure remains high around the world as some manufacturers in the economy and volume segments based in China have been pursuing an international expansion strategy for a number of years now. In mature markets and, increasingly, in growth regions, the large number of trucks in use also provides a strong base for replacement business and rising demand for services.

Influencing factors in the Supply Chain Solutions segment

According to the KION Group’s estimates, the market for supply chain solutions has expanded faster than the market for industrial trucks and services in recent years (2017–2022), owing to growing demand in the main customer industries. Both the project business (business solutions) and downstream services (customer services) have contributed to this expansion. The service business benefits from the growing number of installed systems. Moreover, the complexity of the systems, the greater costs associated with downtime, and fast-changing customer requirements mean that regular maintenance and upgrades are becoming more important than ever.

The growth of e-commerce in recent years has had a major influence on demand for supply chain solutions, including warehouse automation and solutions for sorting and for automated goods transportation. According to estimates by the research institute eMarketer, global online trade (B2C) has expanded at an average rate of 19 percent in recent years (2017–2022). At the same time, omnichannel approaches are becoming more prevalent in all sectors, with general merchandise and grocery acting as the main drivers of growth. The KION Group believes that this has made companies more willing to invest in reorganizing their supply chains in order to automate and digitalize them. This trend is supported by the fact that the level of automation in warehouses is currently still low and by customers’ desire to receive their deliveries within one working day. This calls for shorter lead times, a more efficient flow of goods, a broader product range, and improved process reliability.

The growing shortage of skilled workers is also having a positive impact on demand for automated intralogistics solutions. Many businesses feel the lack of specialist personnel leaves them with no choice but to automate their processes.

The combination of smaller order volumes and more frequent orders requires efficient and automated solutions. This is driving demand for decentralized and smaller warehouse and logistics capacity in urban areas that speeds up delivery times and, due to automated processes, reduces personnel expenses and floor space costs. Consequently, the research institute Interact Analysis is predicting above-average growth in the market for micro-fulfillment automation in the years ahead. At the same time, the focus of technological progress is increasingly shifting toward software and robotics solutions. Interact Analysis anticipates that this will lead to disproportionately strong growth in the market for AMRs and AGVs.