"Future proofing" with KION IoT Systems

When it comes to digitalization and discovering the seemingly unlimited opportunities IoT creates, KION has gone the extra mile, or to be more precise, all the way to the German Allgäu. KION IoT Systems got underway in early 2018, nestled in the mountains around the historic town of Wangen, deep in Southern Germany.

"Our task is to provide a platform which allows our products to exchange data."

Hans Schotte, Managing Director of KION IoT Systems

The topics that the 15-member team led by Hans Schotte, Managing Director of KION IoT Systems, deals with daily include data analytics, cloud architecture, cloud applications, embedded software, testing, and networked machines. “The world around us is changing,” he explains, adding that “It’s moving toward greater connectivity and data exchange. Our task, then, is to provide a platform which allows our products to exchange data.” The platform, the KION cloud, is the hub where the Wangen team’s ideas revolve. It is the interface where all information comes together and is available for intelligent use.

Fluid data exchange for smooth workflows

The cloud is one of many innovations through which the digitalization specialists at KION IoT Systems GmbH ensure that the future expectations of KION brand customers are being met – especially when it comes to networking products or providing performance data in real time and in an uncomplicated format. In this context, the Wangen team is currently working on a variety of projects related to the cloud, user applications, and communication gateways in forklift control units and warehouse technology.

One of the Wangen team’s priority projects is ‘Truck-to-Cloud’ (T2C), which involves putting an infrastructure in place where vehicle data can be continuously transferred to the KION cloud – a pioneering solution offering customers considerable benefits. “Truck-to-cloud provides greater transparency in terms of the capacity utilization of a fleet. If this transparency allows a customer to use their fleet more efficiently, then they will start saving money immediately,” says Stefan Wenzel, Senior Director IoT Systems at KION. Industrial trucks and forklift trucks can also contact the service technicians via the cloud if repairs are required, or to point out upcoming maintenance schedules. T2C is a good example of how the implementation of new technology leads to extended usage options that offer the customer considerable added value – with improved efficiency and greater cost savings.

Unusual methods for exceptional results

Ever since they opened for business, the Wangen team’s mindset has been that a real paradigm shift in intralogistics can only be achieved through new, innovative technologies, services and business models once you move away from conventional approaches when developing ideas and solutions. It explains why they rely on unconventional methods such as ‘agile invention’ – using agile methods to create innovation – and scrum in their projects. Scrum is based on the idea that many development projects are too complex to be put into a comprehensive plan because a substantial part of the requirements and the solution are still unclear at the outset. To avoid running into this wall, intermediate milestones are created which can be used to find the missing requirements and solution techniques more efficiently than would be possible through a lengthy and abstract clarification phase. Scrum helps the team find a solution faster thanks to a pragmatic approach which allows for the greatest possible focus with maximum flexibility.

Collaboration across locations

Collaboration happens in 3-week phases, called sprints, and extends across locations – the group in Wangen works with a sprint team at Linde Material Handling in Aschaffenburg, Germany. Connectivity has been a focus of development for some time here as well since many customers want their trucks to do more than merely transport goods and merchandise. Thanks to the new 12xx generation, which is scheduled for rollout in the fall of 2019, the digitally enabled truck will finally find its way into our customer’s warehouses and production sites. “Digital technology is future-proofing our trucks,” says Stefan Prokosch, Senior Vice President Product Management Industrial Trucks Counterbalance at Linde MH. “Our trucks are becoming more valuable to our customers since they can be integrated into the customer processes.” The trucks can report a problem themselves, actively intervene in hazardous situations, or help customers make their energy management more efficient in the future.

The Linde Material Handling team has taken another important step forward with ‘connect:desk’. The software is part of a modular system which offers customers all the benefits of digitalization in the warehouse, including the allocation of drivers and trucks to individual or multiple organizational levels, the administration of access authorizations depending on truck type, driving license and validity period, maintenance planning and monitoring, the scheduling of training, to name but a few. Using easily retrofittable hardware components, ‘connect:desk’ enables efficient management of the entire fleet at the customer’s site. It is an industry ‘first’ and a considerable competitive advantage since no other vendor currently provides a solution which the customer can operate locally.

A strong network for success

It will not be long before KION offers customers even more cloud-based services, opening further business models which demonstrate the Group’s expertise. A well connected worldwide network with other locations in the KION Group allows the Wangen team to put their strengths to the best possible use and to continue playing a central role. It is what ensures that no question regarding the Internet of Things remains unanswered within the Group.

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