World of Material Handling 2016 got off to a successful start and is now offering an expected 6,000 visitors from all over the world an abundance of information about the latest challenges in intralogistics. Linde Material Handling has recognised four major trends here – Automation, Connectivity, Individualisation and Power Systems – which will be presented in detail during the fair under the motto “linked perspectives”. How did Linde discover them? The answer is almost too simple to be true: close customer relations!
Close customer relations – an empty phrase?
I’ve really noticed it in all my discussions with the employees I’ve met so far during the event. They fill the idea of close customer relations with life in a way I’ve never experienced before with other firms. Many companies make pronouncements about their closeness to customers in their brochures, but how many of them actually live this idea? If all firms were like that, there would be far fewer bad products and less poor service. Without close customer relations, a company cannot realise good products or keep up with the times and its customers. It is therefore no coincidence that I have heard more than once in discussions with visitors that “Linde is the authority when it comes to forklifts!” This should be understood as an honour, an acknowledgement of the attention to detail and high quality standards shown in realising products and services. People abroad probably describe this as “made in Germany”.
Andreas Krinninger on close customer relations
Andreas Krinninger (CEO Linde Material Handling) explicitly acknowledged these close customer relations when he welcomed a large number of visitors with the words: “Supporting our customers in optimising their material handling performance is our key priority! Our target is to be the company that best understands our customers’ material handling challenges and performance improvement opportunities.”
He said the following about the four trends – Automation, Connectivity, Individualisation and Power Systems: “These four trends suggest a high growth momentum for the intralogistics sector. The four trends will largely determine the further development of our offering. We need a broad-based approach to help our customers optimise their ever more complex process chains.”
What do the four trends mean in concrete terms?
Christophe Lautray, Linde Material Handling’s Chief Sales Officer, outlined them in greater detail for visitors. Let us sum up what he said here:
The key to increasing efficiency is no longer only the vehicle itself, but its integration in processes. Based on an increasing number of sensors and communication systems, the world of intralogistics is increasingly becoming an interconnected operations system. You could even regard it as a kind of operating system. No matter which machine is being operated or which software is being used, the operating system ensures all the components are connected.
The steadily growing range of autonomous industrial trucks capable of driving and lifting without an operator is accompanied by a clear paradigm shift: the boundaries between manual and fully automatic operation are becoming increasingly fuzzy. What’s more, the concept of the “smart factory” already indicates where things are heading. Automated vehicles communicate not only with WMS and ERP systems, but also with other devices, roller conveyors and gates as well as machines and equipment.
Ultimately, dwindling resources, stricter emissions regulations and higher sustainability and efficiency standards are leading to the introduction of alternative power systems. Today, customers like BMW are already relying on vehicles powered by fuel cells or lithium-ion batteries to put the principle of sustainability into practice throughout the production process. More and more customers are asking about alternatives to lead-acid batteries. A significant proportion of vehicles will use lithium-ion technology in the foreseeable future.
The growing e-commerce market is resulting in a steady decrease in batch sizes while simultaneously bringing about a fundamental change in the requirements for order picking and product handling. As a result, there is increasing demand for larger numbers of models, options and custom manufactured products to be able to keep up with competitors while simultaneously increasing efficiency, improving safety and reducing costs.
What comes next?
So now we know the four major trends. But what do they mean in practice? So much for the theory. Next, during the event, I will illustrate all four areas with practical examples and applications, and also interview fair visitors – customers, experts and partners – to make this as lively and concrete as possible.