Dematic’s software expertise is an enormous asset to KION

An interview with Chief Technology Officer Eike Böhm about the megatrends in the industry and what the new KION Group can offer.

2017-03-01

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Mr Böhm, you launched the new CTO organisation in 2016. What is the aim of the organisation?

The aim is to bring together all the technical functions under my leadership. Firstly, we want to increase the efficiency and speed with which we implement technical aspects. And the second major point is to generate synergies and to avoid duplication of work.


How far advanced are you with setting up the organisation?

The CTO organisation is, for the most part, already in place. The whole process was carried out in two phases. The first phase in 2016 involved bringing together Linde, STILL, America and Asia. Dematic has also been integrated since November. Our global organisation now consists of more than 2,000 developers, engineers, buyers and quality assurance experts, and we have also defined the processes that will govern how we work together. The team has become well integrated. This would not be possible without the work-related framework; we have to address specific topics. Our KION Material Cost Optimisation project, which aims to optimise material costs across all brand companies, has been a great success.

"Being a technology leader is what drives our business, and it means that our customers can earn more money than they would without these innovations."


Eike Böhm

Member of the Executive Board of KION GROUP AG Chief Technology Officer

Mr Böhm, innovation is key to your organisation…

Without the focus on business innovation, there would be no point to the whole exercise. Being a technology leader is what drives our business, and it means that our customers can earn more money than they would without these innovations. A core element is bringing together developers and engineers who work in creative processes to develop new and viable technologies. Of the 2,000-plus CTO employees worldwide, 1,300 are researchers and developers, who work in various projects at different sites to make progress on major developments such as robotics, software solutions and automated guided vehicles.

What would you say are the major trends in material handling and the supply chain industry at the moment?

In my view, there is one megatrend in our industry: we are seeing more and more end-to-end processes. End-to-end processes, material flows and data flows. It is our job to respond to this. Crucially, because of Dematic, we have now become a company that can implement end-to-end process optimisation for the customer, who in turn saves money. And, of course, end-to-end processes incorporate digitalisation, the topic that everyone is talking about. It also concerns the mechanical integration of processes; for example, trucks that are able to drive autonomously. Everything is based on the connectivity of these components in the supply chain. For that reason, process optimisation is the major issue for our business.


What opportunities do you see for research and development within the KION Group through the acquisition of Dematic?

"Our vision – and we are not far off – is that we could simply dock industrial trucks, that is, forklift trucks and warehouse trucks, onto the software platform Dematic iQ."


Eike Böhm

Member of the Executive Board of KION GROUP AG Chief Technology Officer

I believe that Dematic’s software expertise is an enormous asset to the KION Group. Dematic has more than 200 software developers in Canada, the USA and Germany and they have developed an exceptional software platform called Dematic IQ. Our vision – and we are not far off – is that we could simply dock industrial trucks, that is, forklift trucks and warehouse trucks, onto this software platform in future to create exactly the kind of end-to-end process chains we are talking about. This would be an invaluable asset. The second thing that Dematic brings is exceptionally good knowledge of their customer base. They define their customers in so-called verticals, by industry and sector. And this knowledge will help us to develop even better solutions too. Ultimately, we have only one task – namely, offering our customers something, with which they can earn more money.

What are the major projects in the CTO organisation for 2017?

Switching off the lights in big warehouses is a major talking point. Companies are looking to employ fewer people, or no people at all, and want to rely largely on automated systems. Robots are a central element for lights-out facilities. They come in two forms: stationary robots and mobile robots, which can move autonomously around the warehouse. This is a key project that we are working on. The second is to expand the Dematic IQ software platform so that we can dock our trucks onto it. We are also working on a major organisational project. It is all about increasing our development speeds so that we are in a position to introduce products to the market more quickly than we’ve been able to in the past. These are the three main topics for our CTO organisation.