KION Warehouse Systems (KWS), one of the oldest companies in the greater Reutlingen area, celebrates its 125th anniversary on Sept. 15. A gala event with guests of honor Barbara Bosch, Reutlingen's mayor, Dr. Eike Böhm, KION's Chief Technology Officer, and Dr. Henry Puhl, President of STILL GmbH, will kick off the celebrations, which will be followed by a family day at the site in Reutlingen-Mittelstadt. Around 380 employees currently work at KWS, which serves as the KION Group's center of excellence for very narrow aisle trucks (VNAs).
The site's origins can be traced back to the late 19th century and the founding of Ernst Wagner Apparatebau in 1893. The company soon recognized the potential of the growing market for logistics solutions and developed an extensive product portfolio. It was a leading innovator in the warehouse truck market in the 1980s and 1990s, when the company's automated guided vehicle systems raised its profile around the world. As a logistics pioneer, the company has had a considerable influence on the automation trend now known as Logistics 4.0.
This pioneering role brought the company to the attention of Linde AG, which acquired a 100 percent stake in 1991 and made the company part of its Hamburg-based subsidiary STILL in 1996. Over the following years, the company manufactured sit-on, stand-on, and reach trucks for STILL and order picking stacker trucks for Linde and STILL. In 2004, the flagship VNA, the MX-X (man-up), was fully redesigned and launched on the market. Its modular design allowed customers to create a truck to match their individual requirements - a unique feature at the time.
Following the spin-off of the material handling division from Linde AG in 2006, the Reutlingen site became part of the newly established KION Group AG, a global provider of supply chain solutions, forklift trucks, warehouse technology, and related services.
KION expanded the plant in Reutlingen into a multi-brand site in 2010, and KWS became the center of excellence for VNAs. The KWS plant was the first to develop and produce VNAs for multiple KION brands and has become a role model for other sites in the Group. There has been continual investment in machinery since 2010, and thanks to the site's 40-strong development department KWS now has one of the most modern VNA fleets on the market. The latest product, the modular MX-X/K combi truck, enjoyed a highly successful launch in spring 2018. Just under 1,000 units have been sold since the model went on sale. As always, the trucks manufactured in Reutlingen come in manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic versions and meet the requirements of Logistics 4.0 in full.
The offering from KWS includes worldwide technical support for the VNAs and is complemented by the KION VNA Academy. Established in 2012, the academy provides training for service technicians and sales people from the KION brand companies STILL and Linde. The academy's training is being extended to other regions and is now also available in China and South America. Around 700 service technicians and sales representatives are trained in Reutlingen every year.
Since a strategic realignment, the volume of units produced annually has increased by more than 50 percent. This success is also reflected in the number of employees, which has increased by around a quarter in the past years. At its Mittelstadt site, KWS also provides training for mechatronics fitters, skilled metal workers and industrial clerks, and participates in the 'Reutlingen Model' BEng degree program.
Barbara Bosch, mayor of Reutlingen: "KION Warehouse Systems evolved from a long-established local business. The long history of the company is testament to the innovative strength of the city and of its residents. I am particularly pleased that we have an international market leader like KION based here whose products - made in Reutlingen - are sold around the world."
Marc Lehnstaedt, managing director of KION Warehouse Systems: "The fact that the company is celebrating its 125th anniversary underlines its ability to continually reinvent itself and adapt to changing conditions. In recent years, the trend towards a global flow of goods and the growing importance of e-commerce has led to a sharp rise in demand for VNAs made in Reutlingen. The global sales network of KION's Linde and STILL brands allows us to sell our products around the world. We are proud of our product portfolio and of our leading role within the KION Group. I would like to thank our employees, whose support and ideas make us such a successful company."