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Supporting the next generation of IT innovators

As a leader in digital change, KION uses every opportunity to network with other experts, which is why KION was involved in this year’s Industry 4.0 Hackathon in Bremen: both as a sponsor and with a team of six KION Group IT colleagues, who used their extensive expertise and considerable experience to support the hackathon teams.


What happens when you put lots of hardware and software, modules, circuit boards, sensors, control units and a load of Lego bricks in the same room as around 120 young IT enthusiasts from all over the world for 48 hours? You get the perfect environment for an unforgettable atmosphere and lots of great ideas.

This was the experience of employees from KION Group’s IT department who attended the Industry 4.0 Hackathon in Bremen. The focus of the event was on B2B applications. “KION is involved in the hackathon because digitalization, Industry 4.0 and the internet of Things (IoT) are key building blocks in our corporate strategy,” says Michael Schuster, a vice president for Global IT Application Services in KION Group IT. The company is setting the course for digital transformation with its KION 2027 strategy. In addition to the launching of the KION Digital Campus and recent achievements in KION Group IT, such as the company’s own cloud and Workplace 2.0, it also includes participation in events such as the hackathon in Bremen. The events offer new and innovative approaches, provide additional input for digitalization and help the company to understand what the market and the customers need and what they are working on. Last but not least, they also allow KION to expand its network.

For two days and nights, participants from several countries were immersed in the unique atmosphere of the Kraftwerk Accelerator, where the teams battled non-stop to get their ideas onto the fast track and win the competition. They impressively demonstrated what small teams can deliver in a very short time in cloud computing, mobile, and IoT – from the initial idea to a functioning prototype.

The limited amount of time available ensured that participants focused on the essentials and on pragmatic solutions when it came to ‘really rapid prototyping’. “The concept fits perfectly with our customers’ current requirements,” explains Schuster. “The market is less interested in large and complex solutions than in small but rapidly available ones.”

As one of the event sponsors, KION invited the teams to take part in the #LiftnShift challenge, with the task of creating a cloud-based approach to controlling a truck intuitively and from anywhere in the world, linked to sensors that increase safety and influence control. The winning team came up with a solution that communicates with the truck via Microsoft Azure Cloud and a chatbot connection. The miniature forklift truck robot, made mainly of Legos, circuit boards, and control modules, can teach itself; any potential user can use his or her own language, which is then translated into meaningful movement commands. The robot can also carry out several actions on command, such as fetching a pallet. A shock sensor integrated into the fork completes the innovative machine. It detects vibrations and reduces the truck’s speed if the fork is vibrating too much.

The KION employees were impressed not only by the results of the winning team, but also by how quickly the teams came together and developed highly efficient solutions using only basic resources. Benjamin Hoffmann, head of AS Platform & Technologies in KION Group IT, was particularly impressed by the teams’ willingness to help each other. Despite the competitive atmosphere, the teams proactively offered each other help and support with expertise and materials.

It is worth mentioning that every team with a KION employee was among the winners of the competition in Bremen. “We have a much better understanding of how customers and other companies are taking up the challenge of digitalization, and we are using this input to lift KION to the next level,” says Schuster, summarizing the outcome of the event. It will be exciting to see how KION translates what it has learned into new products and services. One thing is certain: there won’t be a long wait for innovations. Just like at the hackathon in Bremen.