Digitization in logistics: "KION Digital" bundles digital expertise

A campus is usually a place of learning, and that is no different at KION. Founded in 2018 as the Group’s innovation hub, the Digital Campus has since created many digital solutions and gathered valuable experience. The Campus has now been integrated into a new unit, KION Digital, which has a broader remit, more staff, additional expertise, and bigger offices.

The digital transformation in industry, wholesale, and retail demands new solutions, new business models, and new ways of working. The same applies to intralogistics, where artificial intelligence, sophisticated data analysis, innovative software, and agile working methods in flexible teams are becoming the norm. That is why KION set up its own groupwide innovation lab, the Digital Campus, just over three years ago, and a lot has happened since. The number of employees has more than tripled, and new digital units have been added to enable the Group to better exploit the potential of digital transformation. “Since we set up the Digital Campus, an almost revolutionary first in our industry, we have taken its many inspiring ideas, creative methods, and amazing innovations and turned them into a clear and lucrative business model,” says Maik Manthey, head of digital business at KION.

KION Digital pools digital transformation expertise

The Campus has so far worked virtually on its own alongside KION Invest, a Group unit that has so far mainly carried out start-up and technology scouting, but has also supported the Digital Campus in make-or-buy decisions. Together with five other units, it now forms part of the new, overarching KION Digital business unit. “We have pooled our expertise in the internal specialist units ‘Digital Campus’, ‘Digital Business Development’, ‘Digital Invest’, ‘Digital Academy’, ‘Digital Office’ and the ‘Digital Analytics Lab’, which is currently being set up. The resulting improvement in efficiency and new, value-adding digital solutions will allow us to provide the best possible support – both internally and externally – for our diverse customer base as their transformation progresses,” Manthey adds. To achieve this, every digital project is based on a four-phase process: ideate, build, ramp-up, and run. The phases can build on one another, or they can be viewed individually at the start of the project. This facilitates strong interdisciplinary and agile collaboration. “The idea, the customer benefit, and the strategic framework provide the foundation of every project. From the outset, the end user is the key stakeholder in the process. It is important that technical feasibility is monitored at all times and that the market and the competitors are examined in advance,” says Manthey.

The actual process is created during the second phase, the build. “This is where we decide whether to purchase and adapt software to create our planned solution, or develop our own.” Initial tests in the field and optimization of interfaces for the software environment are part of this. In the third phase, the final project team for ongoing operations is put together, the go-to-market is planned, and the software is implemented. “In the fourth and final phase, the overall package is installed for the customer and refined if required. This is when the implemented solution starts to pay off in every sense of the word. Our use case is always based on a business case. The aim, of course, is to generate business and to make a financial contribution to the Group,” he adds.

KION Digital allows us to shape how the Group will be working in the future. We want to be the end-to-end solution provider for the KION Group and its brand companies in an increasingly digital world.

Maik Manthey, head of digital business at KION

„Make digitalization happen“

Manthey and his 30-strong team have one goal: to make digitalization happen. He gives two examples of how they are already doing exactly that: “Our cross-brand fleet management project is establishing the first shared system basis for the truck fleets of our subsidiaries Linde Material Handling and STILL.” This shared platform is designed to create synergies and enable significantly faster development and implementation. “What makes this solution so great is that STILL and Linde MH can still use their existing customer tools. Although we are setting up a new back end, the front end, which is visible to the customer, can be adapted and used by our brand companies according to their individual needs.” KION Digital’s plans for an asset lifecycle ecosystem are also based on synergies and aim to significantly reduce capital expenditure on IT within the Group. “The new ecosystem is designed to optimize the business processes for rental and used Linde MH and STILL trucks,” says Manthey. Thanks to fast and sophisticated planning in the system, the lifecycle, i.e. the period that industrial trucks can be used for, can be extended and efficiency increased considerably. Which pays dividends.

“KION Digital allows us to shape how the Group will be working in the future,” Manthey says. “We want to be the end-to-end solution provider for the KION Group and its brand companies in an increasingly digital world.” To achieve this, he will not only be able to count on more experts on his team in the future. The Digital Campus, which until recently was located in the nearby House of Logistics and Mobility, has become too small for the digital unit’s new, expanded scope. “We have moved closer to the Group’s headquarters and found a new home in the building next door,” he adds. The ultramodern premises might not be a university campus, but he promises they will still be a hub for learning, development, and innovation.

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