Where is the coziness in intralogistics?

The air is getting cooler, autumn leaves are piling up on the ground, and an eventful year is drawing to a close. Now is a time for reflection. And the KION brands are working tirelessly to ensure that their products and solutions bring peaceful autumn days and a cozy winter atmosphere. After all, a crackling fireplace is just as essential to wintry wellbeing as a steaming stew, a cozy evening on the couch, or wrapping up in fluffy clothes. Our KION insight reveals just how big a part intralogistics has to play in achieving this cozy feeling – and where the products and solutions of the KION Group fit in.

The fire flickers and crackles – but coziness means more than just warming yourself by the hearth. I’ve been a KION employee since the very beginning, with strong links to the brands of the KION Group, so I see things from a very particular perspective: intralogistics is everywhere. Just yesterday, my husband and I were discussing how comfort and complexity go together in intralogistics: the more comfortable things are for the consumer, the more complex the demands imposed on the supply chains that make this coziness possible. From firewood to ingredients for hearty autumn meals, from candles to warm winter coats: the pursuit of coziness means that supply chains have to achieve exceptional feats. Today, my coziness mission has me making several stops: firewood and Christmas presents need to be bought, and there are preparations to be made for the cold months. There’s no denying the fact that with the days growing shorter and the nights drawing in, there’s one thing that we want our homes to be: cozy.

Linde forklift trucks at work in firewood logistics

I head for the firewood and packaging supplier Beckenz GmbH to pick up wood for the fire – an essential ingredient in cozy evenings curled up with a book or in front of the television. On my way, I find myself thinking about the supply chain behind firewood logistics. There are more than ten million fireplaces in Germany – that means hundreds of thousands of tons of firewood that has to be moved around during the winter season. And the products of the KION Group also play an essential role in making sure that fires crackle merrily in fireplaces and stoves up and down Germany.
On site at Beckenz GmbH, I see how enormous bundles of oak, beech and ash are moved around by forklift trucks bearing the Linde Material Handling brand. Normally, my husband doesn’t like it when I chat away with colleagues. But he’s not here today, so I get talking to Steven Tammen, the production manager on site. He gives me an idea of the volumes and dimensions that his business handles on a daily basis, and talks about the role that the products from KION subsidiary Linde Material Handling play in everyday firewood logistics.

Hi there, Mr. Tammen – there’s a lot of firewood being moved around here.
Absolutely – we don’t operate on small scales here. During the heating season, we shift quantities of up to 400 cubic meters a day. From late July through to March, people really stock up. We normally receive the timber from suppliers for further processing, then dry it to a suitable moisture level for firewood. We then store the firewood in our dry warehouse. And finally, we deliver it to the kerbside with our trucks.
What role do the forklift trucks play in this?
Forklift trucks are an indispensable part of our processes here at Beckenz GmbH. We have a total of five trucks in operation – three H35 and two H50 IC trucks from Linde Material Handling, so that means both 3.5 metric ton and 5 metric ton trucks in action moving firewood around the various stations in our warehouse. They’re impressive bits of machinery, and really reliable. We also have one Linde lift truck, a Linde MT15, which is extremely reliable and nimble. This allows us to handle virtually any material.
So the Linde IC trucks H35 and H50 are a permanent fixture here?
Without a doubt. They run for eight hours a day, often at full capacity. We don’t really have any machine or truck downtime during the day. Of course, we also use the forklift trucks for our other products too, so they’re in action all year round. As for the practical details, we stack the firewood on pallets to a height of around 1.20 meters, and use film material for stabilization. We generally build stacks three pallets high, and load quite a few stacks next to one another. We then collate the orders and deliver them all at once. This adds up to around 60 pallets a day— a fairly huge amount!
And the forklift trucks manage that along with the other products?
Yes, reliability is definitely a major selling point for Linde Material Handling. We’re extremely happy with the trucks, they never let us down. Of course, there’s always wear and tear depending on the skill of the forklift truck operator. But all in all, they’re highly robust pieces of equipment. And the system for obtaining spare parts from Linde Material Handling works really well too. We have a direct contact person and a service technician who is on site within a few hours if there’s ever a problem. And they always manage to find a solution. Simply put, Linde Material Handling offers the complete package.

I thank Steven for our nice chat and load the firewood into my trunk. Next, I want to surprise my husband Thomas by buying him a sweater that he noticed while we were watching a series together—a nice, warm cotton sweater. So the next stop on my coziness mission is the shopping mall.

Dematic software solutions in action

One hour later, and the stress of shopping is beginning to bite. I stand in line and notice just how many coats, sweaters, and shirts are changing hands. I start to wonder about the intralogistics requirements that underpin these vast quantities. Keeping ranges and stock up to date, handling orders and returns quickly, ensuring customer satisfaction – all of this places huge demands on the customers of the KION Group in the retail and e-commerce sectors. Many of these customers rely on software solutions from KION subsidiary Dematic to keep their supply chains moving. I want to understand how Dematic does it, so once I’ve finished my shopping I call my colleague Jennifer Tabbert, Director of Software Sales at Dematic, to get her thoughts on the matter.

Hi Jennifer – I’m on a shopping mission and I’d like to find things immediately, at the press of a key. And I can’t be the only one. Things have changed quite a bit in retail and online trade in the past few years, haven’t they?
There’s no question— the pandemic has fundamentally changed the consumer behavior of many customers. Shoppers like you have not only become much more demanding, they also have less patience – even a small delay is enough to make someone look elsewhere. For this reason, real-time information is extremely important to our customers. For exclusively online retailers and physical stores alike, supply chains are undergoing a profound transformation.
Consumer behavior has changed – and now the supply chains are following suit?
Exactly – and so the software is also adapting to these new challenges. The pandemic accelerated some developments. Accuracy and speed are paramount. For this, our customers need networked software that operates in real time with consumer-led flows of information. This improves transparency and boosts flexibility. For the retail trade as a whole, this shines a light on consumer behavior so that better purchasing decisions can be made.
So this means that software solutions are needed that combine all of these factors?
More than ever. But many people are not aware of the potential—plenty of customers are still asking where they can find the software that they need. What we provide: the answer to their question. One solution that the Dematic Operate software offers, for example, can unite operations, maintenance, and analysis in a comprehensive ecosystem. The benefits of this holistic approach are plain to see: warehouse operations are transparent from start to finish, and retailers can track important KPIs in real time. A lot has been achieved in the retail and e-commerce sectors – and there’s more to come!
Thanks for the insights, Jennifer!

So, the more comfortable and cozy things are for customers, the greater the challenges for the underlying supply chains – this is especially clear in retail and e-commerce. It seems that software solutions from Dematic are particularly useful here. Fascinated by everything that I’ve learned, I pack the sweater in the car and set off for home – just then, my phone rings. “Can you pick up some vegetables for the soup?” my husband asks. I’d almost forgotten all about them. Next stop: the local supermarket.

Transformation in the food and beverage industry with Dematic Solutions

Coziness comes with certain expectations – be they expectations about products, food, or their carbon footprint. I drive to our local supermarket, where densely packed shelves are the norm. As a KION insider, I know that the food and beverage industry is in a state of upheaval. Customers are placing ever more importance on healthy and sustainable living. And this is something I’ve noticed in myself, too: my expectations have changed significantly, and I’ve been trying to create sustainable shopping habits – but it’s not always easy. I want to know where my food comes from, and I also want to be able to trace its journey without a great deal of effort. As I hunt for fresh vegetables for Thomas and me, I can’t contain my curiosity this time either. Fortunately, futurologist Max Thinius has time to explain the transformation underway in the food and beverage market to me. So I get him on the phone:

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Mr. Thinius. As a speaker at Dematic Events, you’ve already covered quite a lot of ground in this area. I’ve noticed that my expectations of the food industry have also changed significantly: I want sustainable products, ideally delivered conveniently to my home. Am I the only one?
Of course not. Sustainability is a driving force behind the changes in the food industry. Over the long term, I mainly see a trend toward regional or local production of food and drinks. This goes hand in hand with the fact that production lines are becoming narrower. A good example is the beverage industry: where an area of 200 to 300 square meters was once needed, just 20 to 30 square meters are required nowadays to handle the same quantity of bottles. This remarkable fact demonstrates that a transformation is underway from huge, industrial production operations to more local, streamlined production lines. People are rethinking what production and supply mean in the food and beverage industry. And this is thanks to new technologies that help meet the changing demands.
Can you outline the role of the new technologies in this transformation?
Of course. Here, too, the main aspects are data and information – not just the data in the supply chains of the food industry, but also the fact that everyone now has easy access to plenty of information on what it means to live a conscious lifestyle. We can make use of this treasure trove of information via our smartphones. Apps give us tips on how to live healthier lives. These volumes of data provide information about our consumer behavior, and they will become even more important for the food industry as a whole in the near future. Not only are customers using the information available to them to make more conscious lifestyle choices, they’re also better equipped to assess whether the goods that they consume have a negative or positive impact on the climate, in other words their sustainability credentials.
And where exactly does automation factor into all of this?
Automation should be understood not just as a process within the production line, but also as an important interface between companies and logistical systems. For instance, these interfaces can obtain information and data records from urban areas, so that production lines can be tailored to demand automatically and in real time. What does that mean in practice? Well, it means that the right goods can be produced, provided, and supplied at the right time. This will be the biggest change for the food and beverage industry over the next few years!

Christmas Tree: STILL forklift trucks in use at GROEN

Enlightened by the exciting insights from Jennifer Tabbert and Max Thinius, it’s back to home sweet home, where I find my son relaxing on the couch. But there’s no rest for me: “Haven’t you forgotten something?” asks my husband Thomas – and he’s right: there’s something still missing from my cozy scene. Christmas is just around the corner, and as the saying goes: the early bird catches the worm. So it’s already time for us to think about buying our Christmas tree. The three of us set off, and with the festive firs still barely visible in the distance, my KION instinct kicks in once again. We like to buy our Christmas tree from our local tree retailer, who purchases them from GROEN Direkt. Within the space of a few weeks, this wholesaler from South Holland produces hundreds of thousands of Christmas trees—and is particularly reliant on counterbalanced trucks from KION subsidiary STILL in order to achieve this mammoth feat. I leave my son in charge of finding the perfect tree while I phone Mitchell Hoegee, Account Manager at STILL to ask him why STILL forklift trucks are the key to tackling the Christmas tree business.

Hi there, Mr. Hoegee – are things busy for you right now?
Oh yes. During autumn and the Christmas period, we don’t get a moment to catch our breath. Throughout the year, the site here in Hazerswoude-Dorp is essentially a huge garden center. But from November 1 through to the end of December, we mainly handle Christmas trees – using forklift trucks from STILL. Everything has to run smoothly on our side. This includes the Christmas cash & carry service, which is aimed at private households, or the delivery of extra-large Christmas trees for markets.
Got it – which trucks does GROEK Direkt use?
GROEN uses the following forklift trucks during this seasonal period: the RX60-35 and the RX60-50, so a 3.5 metric ton truck and a 5 metric ton truck, both all-electric with a lead-acid battery drive. There’s also one STILL LPG in use too. Starting in November, GROEN takes delivery of huge quantities of Christmas trees, sorting them by size and type in the warehouse so that it can present them to customers. That alone is a highly laborious task. The storage area for this is quite large and extends over the entire site. The RX60-50 is used to handle the particularly large Christmas trees that are aimed at the B2B sector, while the RX60-35 is mainly responsible for the smaller trees. The trucks have to be highly flexible and durable – sometimes at low temperatures too.
How long is the working day for the STILL forklift trucks? And how many trees are handled during this period?
Generally the trucks are in operation from early morning until it gets dark – from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., sometimes earlier, sometimes later. To some degree, that’s where the challenge lies: the trucks have to be ready at all times and perform well from one moment to the next. Over the festive period, the total number of Christmas trees handled on site fluctuates between 130,000 and 140,000.
That’s impressive. And what happens if there’s a problem with a truck?
GROEN Direkt purchased our hire package including the repair service. This means, for example, that we replace batteries that are damaged or are more than five or six years old. Our service technicians can be on site quickly and always do great work. In any case, GROEK Direkt has been making use of our trucks and our service offerings for many years – and not without reason.
Great, thanks for talking to me, Mr. Hoegee!

Back at home, the vegetable soup is bubbling on the stove, the tree is up, and a fire is crackling away in the fireplace. But it’ll be a few more weeks until I hand Thomas his sweater under the Christmas tree. Right now, an eventful but tiring day is coming to an end for me. I’m looking forward to curling up with a book. And while I cozy up on the couch, I think about how intralogistics and the KION brands keep working hard to bring me – and many others – this coziness.

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