KION Stříbro

A smart factory on a greenfield site

The KION Group is expanding with an eye to the future. It is about to open a state-of-the-art factory in the Czech Republic.



A year on from the groundbreaking ceremony and everything already looks almost finished. The white building gleams against the blue of the autumn sky. The only visible signs that there are still a few more things to do at the KION Group's new plant in Stříbro, Czech Republic, just 40 kilometres from the border with Germany, are the handful of landscape gardeners carrying out a few final tweaks and the people painting the road markings. Inside, technicians had been busily getting the paint shop, conveyor systems and test rigs up and running. This is where the KION Group is building its most innovative plant yet: a smart factory.

Closer to emerging markets, closer to customers

Stříbro is a pretty little town of around 8,000 inhabitants located near Plzeň in the west of the Czech Republic. Its name means 'silver', recalling the silver mining that took place here in the late Middle Ages. Why exactly was Stříbro chosen as the location for a new forklift truck factory? Firstly, the region has a long-standing industrial heritage. And of course: "The KION Group, along with its brands, wants to grow internationally and gain market share," explains Sabine Neuß, Linde's Chief Operating Officer. "Besides our home market of western Europe and the fast-growing Asian and US markets, we are also targeting eastern Europe. The aim is for us to be closer to our customers."

Building work began on the site near Stříbro in autumn 2014. Within a year, the smart factory had been created: a plant where digitised production of the future – known as Industry 4.0 – can take place. Ultra-modern IT systems, such as EWM (Extended Warehouse Management) and MES (Manufacturing Execution System), provide support for the production processes, for example the automated and digital monitoring and management of assembly. Capital of €14 million is to be invested in fitting out the factory.

Networked processes: the smart factory

"The new IT systems are the foundations of the smart factory," explains project manager Stefan Draude. "The first elements, such as real-time process tracking and networking of the processes, are already in place, and there are more elements to come." Constructing the factory on a greenfield site provided a good opportunity to plan and implement the processes and structures from a completely new perspective.

Draude is satisfied with the progress of the work and with the location. "The Czech Republic is situated right at the heart of Europe," he says. "This opens up a great deal of potential for the future." The labour market, he continues, offers qualified workers in an expanding economy. The KION Group took a new approach when it came to finding skilled staff. Supported by Linde colleagues in the Czech Republic, the KION Group organised promotional tours and put up billboards along the nearby motorway in order to create publicity about its new site. About 150 people will be employed in Stříbro initially. Production is due to start in January 2016.

The plant in Stříbro has the capacity to build around 12,000 trucks per year. To start with, production of the latest generation of Linde reach trucks will be relocated to the plant in order to launch manufacturing operations and help the new Czech team get up to speed, as Neuß explains. This will also free up the space that is urgently required to modernise the Aschaffenburg plant from the ground up.

The new factory will be a model for other new plants in the KION Group, especially with regard to the IT systems and related processes. After all, this is where the KION Group's particular expertise lies: in intralogistics and the establishment of networked production. And it is even better if the KION Group can fully bring its own strengths to bear in the organisation of its own factories, believes Neuß: "A new factory is almost a one-off opportunity to implement new ideas on a greenfield site and thereby enable the Company to take a huge step forward."