German Forklift Maker KION Buys Wisconsin Robotics Firm for $2 Billion

Image via Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Image via Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

The giant German forklift maker KION Group has purchased the Wisconsin-based Dematic company for a reported $2.1 billion.

Dematic, which is headquartered in New Berlin, a suburb of Milwaukee, builds integrated automation technology, software and intelligent intralogistics systems for various industries. Dematic’s physical products include automated guided vehicles (AGVs), palletizers, and robotic storage and retrieval systems.

Move Towards Automation

The purchase allows KION, the world’s second-biggest forklift maker behind Toyota, to establish itself as a global leader in advanced material handling solutions, including “smart” automated storage and retrieval systems, sorters and conveyors for fully automated warehouses.

Dematic currently has about 6,000 employees worldwide — including more than 3,000 engineers in software development, research and development, engineering, project management and customer service — and annual revenues of about $1.8 billion, with an average 12 percent annual growth since 2013. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year.

“The purchase of Dematic will establish the KION Group as a global leader in Intralogistics 4.0,” the company said in a news release announcing the purchase. “Leveraging its sales and service networks, technologies and resources, the enlarged company will be able to seamlessly offer the full material handling product and service offering to customers of all sizes in a broad range of industries across the world.”

Industry 4.0

By absorbing Dematic, KION Group positions itself as a “one-stop supplier for intelligent supply chain and automation solutions”, giving the company the ability to exploit megatrends like Industry 4.0, digitalization, and the e-commerce boom.

The purchase comes less than a year after KION Group bought Egemin Automation and Retrotech, two other firms that combine material handling and info-technology. The acquisitions were the German company’s way of adapting to a changing business environment, according to KION CEO Gordon Riske.

“We are becoming a unique provider of products, services, and solutions,” Riske said. “Like no other company in our industry, we can accompany every customer seamlessly on its journey to Industry 4.0 and Intralogistics 4.0 now and everywhere.”

Industry 4.0, Industrie 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution, is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things and cloud computing. Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a “smart factory”.

Wisconsin-Based but Global Customer Base

Dematic — which developed the world’s first stacker crane and produced its first storage and retrieval machines in 1959 — has implemented more than 4,500 integrated systems for various sized businesses around the world.

KION Group, which is headquartered in Wiesbaden, does business in more than 100 countries and has about 23,5000 employees worldwide, with annual revenues of about $5.7 billion.

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