Improving Environmental Performance with the Latest Cloud Technology

From sending messages and photos over social networks, to talking to smart home systems, through to streaming movies and music: today, many of our everyday activities utilize the latest cloud technology. This provides countless benefits, not just in day-to-day life, but also in intralogistics. Cloud solutions make the goods flow safer, faster, and more flexible, while also contributing to KION’s sustainability strategy.

They also enable us to easily store data online and access it from anywhere from any device, instead of having to use multiple instances on different hard drives. “For many of us, it’s hard to imagine day-to-day life without this level of convenience. And these solutions have now also become an integral feature of intralogistics processes, in warehouses and industrial trucks,” says Marc Autenrieth, Senior Director Global Cloud Solutions at the KION Group. “Of course, we are also pushing ahead with our digitalization strategy. KION already operates more than 800 IT systems in the cloud.” He goes on to add that subsidiary Dematic has recently concluded a strategic partnership with Google Cloud. The two companies are aiming to improve the supply chains of Dematic customers by migrating offerings to the cloud and also by combining them with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. Scientist Matthew Haley is among those leading the development of AI at Dematic. “Our customers are dealing with a boom in online trade and unprecedented volumes. In light of this, they are searching for opportunities to digitalize their supply chains, in order to keep them transparent,” affirms the software developer. “Intelligent cloud-based software solutions are part of our response to this.”

Modern warehouse and logistics equipment collects and analyzes data on an ongoing basis, making it possible to optimize complex warehouse and transport processes. They are interlinked and have advanced sensors which make them intelligent. Using image, speech, and pattern recognition, empirical values, and learning effects, they can determine the best way to pack goods and the optimal position in the warehouse for storing them. The AI and ML technology calculates the ideal point in time to put together a group of items—every order should function so efficiently that it makes full use of a work area while simultaneously taking the adjacent areas into account. The goal is to balance out the goods flow and thus avoid under- or overutilization, including jams. “Cloud technology ensures better timing, faster processing, and is virtually error-free,” says Haley.

Fast, Flexible, and Cost-effective: Modern Technologies with a Wide Array of Benefits

KION has already been working with Microsoft Azure, one of the world’s largest cloud providers, for several years. It’s not only KION that uses the cloud for its internal IT, but the subsidiaries Linde MH and STILL use it too, e.g., for their respective fleet management systems: Who can use which forklift truck for which tasks? How can full use be made of the forklift truck? When are the next maintenance and inspection dates? Is there a risk of a breakdown due to wear or even an accident? The catchword here is “predictive maintenance”. “It used to be very expensive to provide applications such as this,” says Autenrieth. “With the cloud, we can offer our customers fully automated digital services in a short time period. This allows you to create a “digital truck” and analyze whole fleets remotely—i.e., virtual likenesses of your trucks, which give precise information on a screen about hardware, software, location, usage, and condition of the forklift truck.”

Working with the cloud is not only fast, it also offers countless other benefits. Furthermore, it helps to reduce costs. “We are no longer investing in hardware,” explains Autenrieth. “With Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, we are using a rental model, which gives us a high level of flexibility as the cloud server automatically balances out (project-related) load peaks. It’s a “pay as you go” model. Our staffing costs have also come down. We no longer have to pay for installation and maintenance for our own servers. In the cloud, we only need software updates now, and the providers can assure us that the services will continue to run reliably during these updates.” Stability is a further advantage offered by the cloud. This is because it increases the resilience of the supply chains for the customer: If a server were to fail at any point, another would take its place straight away, wherever in the world this would be.

With the cloud, we can offer our customers fully automated digital services in a short time period. This allows you to create a “digital truck” and analyze whole fleets remotely.

Marc Autenrieth, Senior Director Global Cloud Solutions at the KION Group

The IT experts are quick to dispel the generally widespread concern over whether the cloud is actually secure: “Yes, it is very secure,” says Hansjoerg Heinrich, Vice President Global IT Infrastructure Services at KION Group IT. “Data communication and storage are both encrypted. Cloud providers are investing heavily in security and have cyber defense departments in order to protect customer environments and to make them safer on an ongoing basis. We also have our own internal cyber defense department, which enables us to increase security even further.”

Paving the Way for Green IT

By using Google and Microsoft cloud services, KION Group is also investing in its sustainability strategy and thereby paving the way for green IT. The major cloud providers have invested heavily in sustainable energy supply and an efficient infrastructure. They have set themselves the objective of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. By moving KION’s data centers to the cloud and minimizing the use of local company servers, the company is reducing its individual electricity needs and significantly lowering greenhouse emissions such as carbon dioxide in the process. “In this way, KION Group IT is driving digitization within the Group and making it even more sustainable than it was in previous years," says Heinrich.

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