2020-04-08

Facing down the standstill together

‘We keep the world moving’ is KION Group’s official claim. However, in during the pandemic, it is much more than 'just' a motto. It is a promise the Group must live up to, along with its brands, now more than ever before. Because as the world's leading provider of material handling solutions and industrial trucks, KION plays a truly key role in securing supplies to the public.

What do we actually need in your daily lives when it really matters? What items can we do without in an emergency? And how can we ensure that the necessary goods are available in sufficient quantities; at the right time and in the right place? Just a few weeks ago, no one would have guessed that these questions and many others would soon be on practically everyone’s minds around the world. However, since the moment COVID-19 began its global spread, the systems which ensure supplying the various global populations have been receiving special attention.

Relevant industries in the current situation include healthcare, pharmaceuticals, food production, logistics and food retailing. And these are precisely the areas which represent the lion's share of the Group's customers. The industrial trucks from KION brands, such as Linde Material Handling and STILL, as well as the supply chain solutions from another KION brand, US-based Dematic, ensure an optimal flow of material goods and the smooth delivery processes for them; both in their ordinary daily business and in states of emergency.

"Our workforce is putting in an enormous amount of effort to ensure that we can provide our customers with the best possible service, even in a difficult and constantly changing environment," notes Gordon Riske, KION Group CEO, adding, "It also applies to service and spare parts supply, which are of the utmost importance to our customers, especially now. And they are available in full regardless of the production of new vehicles."

Thus, the Group is making a vital contribution to maintaining public supply.

Securing basic needs

In times of lockdown, the food retail industry assumes a special role worldwide. Whether it’s in France at Carrefour, Italy’s MD S.p.A, in England at Morrisons and ASDA, or at many retail chains in several other countries worldwide, the industrial trucks from STILL and Linde Material Handling are managing the flow of goods in the gigantic warehouses belonging to food wholesalers and they are ensuring that the supply for the large supermarket chains does not come to a complete standstill.

A special challenge here is the customer’s altered purchasing behavior: Their demand for some products is enormous and retailers have had little time to prepare for it. More than ever, supermarkets need support to cope with the current workload. Many are turning to rental concepts used by manufacturers to add to their fleets on such short notice. Two major supermarket chains in the UK have rented dozens of vehicles from Linde Material Handling in the past two weeks to cope with the load. "To support the industry during this period, we have drawn on resources across our network and delivered vehicles to all parts of the country," notes Eamonn Parker, a vice president of Sales and Marketing for Linde Material Handling UK.

Our workforce is putting in an enormous amount of effort to ensure that we can provide our customers with the best possible service, even in a difficult and constantly changing environment. Thus, they are making a vital contribution to maintaining public supply.

Gordon Riske, KION Group CEO

Keeping supply chains running

Whether its food, beverages or hygiene products, what impact does the altered purchasing behavior have on manufacturing companies? Apparently, a rather tremendous one. German toilet paper producer Hakle has ramped up production so that it can quickly ensure supplies for the constantly empty shelves and Linde Material Handling vehicle operators load as quickly as possible the mountains of rolls. Meanwhile, driverless transport systems from Dematic on the other side of the world make sure there are ample supplies of diapers for babies and toddlers for delivery.

How do these goods get into the shops and then the hands of the consumer? This is where the logistics service providers behind the large supermarket chains come in to play. They also rely on the support of KION’s brands. Looking at rail logistics provider DB Schenker demonstrates just how well cooperation works – even in times of a pandemic. Numerous forklifts from Linde Material Handling were used to load 500 pallets of pasta from Italy to transport to 650 German Aldi-Süd supermarkets. "Particularly in difficult times, we do everything we can to see that our customers' supply chains do not break down," states Christophe Lautray, the managing director of Sales and Service at Linde Material Handling. "We play our part in ensuring that our customers can continue to do business and that consumers do not stand in front of empty shelves," he adds. The group's sister company, Hamburg-based STILL, also works closely with various large logistics companies, including The Netherlands’ Detailresult Logistiek, who is behind Dutch supermarket chains Dirk van den Broek and DekaMarkt, or in Germany at Leipzig/Halle Airport’s DHL Express Hub since cargo planes are still allowed to take off and land even during the pandemic.

"Intralogistics is what keeps our economy moving, which is absolutely essential for our society," explains Henry Puhl, chairman of the management board at STILL, adding, "Without it, our world would come to a standstill with serious consequences. Thus, our employees remain on duty every day to keep our customers' fleets running. We do this as a matter of principle and with even more motivation in times like these."

Finally, our supply chain specialist, Dematic, also makes sure all processes can run smoothly in intralogistics by equipping warehouses and distribution centers with automated systems such as its popular multi-shuttle solutions and systems for conveying, sorting, sequencing and picking. The KION subsidiary makes goods available for dispatch in the shortest time possible.

Serving the healthcare industry

KION brand products also ensure smooth processes when it comes to pharmaceuticals and medical goods. In pharmacy wholesale, the comparatively light, small-sized deliveries are often made using Linde Material Handling's handy storage technology equipment. While at the University Medical Center in Mainz, the LiftRunner tugger trains from STILL ensure that 4,500 meals are on the tables of in-patients every day, which is an enormous relief for the hospital staff.

However, one of the most critical issues of this pandemic involves supplying hospitals and doctors' surgeries with respiratory masks and protective clothing. When two million masks and 300,000 protective gowns arrived in Germany via detours in Leipzig in early April, vehicles from Linde Material Handling helped the German Armed Forces to guarantee the fastest possible transport to Berlin so that the goods essential for survival could be distributed to hospitals and doctors' practices in Germany's largest city.

Supporting official aid organizations

What else can be done to provide the best possible support to states, provinces and municipalities in the current situation? Lots, actually! Because where humanitarian challenges require rapid and efficient action, aid organizations and armies currently rely on a logistics chain that is at least as efficient as that of industrial companies. In many areas across Germany, the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) is currently responsible for the distribution and transport of respiratory masks, disinfectants, gloves and respirators. For loading the valuable freight into the ubiquitous blue trucks, THW counts on Linde Material Handling and STILL trucks in various German states.

The Swiss Army has also gotten involved in containing the coronavirus. Its fleet includes roughly 150 Linde Material Handling vehicles used to secure its own supply chain. To keep them fully functional and to be fully operational for civil defense measures in the event of an emergency, the Swiss Army brought forward all service orders for the logistics vehicles at an early stage. A sensible measure, which Linde Material Handling's service staff in Switzerland supported with all their might.

Having an answer to every question

Indeed, KION Group helps to keep the world moving. It does so with high-performance products made for the toughest demands and with flexible services that help customers move ahead at the right moment. And by being there whenever we are needed, responding wherever it is necessary at any time and in any situation, no matter how difficult.

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