Case Study

Linde Material Handling

Campaign management and a digital twin for the digital truck.

Fully digitalised forklift truck to cloud

The H20-35 of the 1202 series from Linde Material Handling is the first fully digitalised forklift truck on the market. Compared to previous vehicle generations this model is fitted not only with various sensors but also with a completely newly developed electrical hardware architecture based on a BUS system and KCU connectivity module (KION communication unit). Here the data, for example from integrated acceleration and load sensors, is processed and transmitted to the outside world via various interfaces.

Linde Material Handling has obtained support from the IoT and cloud experts at Concept Reply for connecting the new vehicle to the cloud. The team took care of the development of a system for planning and rolling out campaigns and for visualising the technical parameters of the vehicles.

The advantages of digital forklift trucks

Using a fully digitalised forklift truck has two decisive advantages: On the one hand, the vehicle can be completely mapped in the digital world as digital twins, including all of its functionalities. This makes it easier to simulate, plan and test its use in a virtual environment.

On the other hand, data can be collected during use, which helps to analyse the vehicle status and plan maintenance in a forward-looking manner. Overall, digitalisation contributes to recognising errors at an early stage, reducing disruptions in real processes, such as unplanned maintenance times and boosting the efficiency of service on the vehicle overall.

Visualisation of the digital twin

The central component of the new architecture is the digital twin, a digital representation of the vehicle. All modifications to the vehicle configuration are reflected in the digital twin. Concept Reply has developed a solution for Linde Material Handling that enables the visualisation of the multitude of technical parameters that a digital twin contains. These include version numbers of the soft- or firmware installed, usage data of the vehicle, general vehicle configurations; even changes in the hardware can be tracked in the digital twin.

The warehouse technology distributed is in operation at customers around the world. To date, the service technicians of the network partners on site were the only way to learn anything about changes to hard- and software or the general status of a vehicle. The KCU now permits the status of a vehicle to be read out or changed 'over the air' i.e. via the Internet connection of the vehicle without the intervention of a technician.

Fleet management

The digital twin for the first time permits fleet management in real time through the continuous connection with the vehicles. Data on usage times, routes travelled and parking positions allows the fleet manager to optimise the assignment of individual vehicles to drivers. Based on the usage times, vehicle software updates and maintenance intervals can be planned to ensure that normal operations are not influenced.

Configuration management

These software updates, which for example include closing security gaps or altering vehicle configurations, are at the heart of the 'campaign management' system developed by Concept Reply. With the help of these systems, service employees of Linde Material Handling can plan and carry out updates simultaneously for a large number of forklift trucks. To do so, the fleet manager creates a campaign in which the vehicles are divided up into so-called roll-out waves.

These are processed successively during the subsequent campaign implementation. The system supports the fleet manager in creating a campaign by checking whether the changes notified can be applied to the series of the selected vehicles. During the subsequent implementation, the fleet manager can find out about the current status via a dashboard - for example, regarding the number of vehicles ready or the distribution of the vehicles according to status.

Furthermore, the system developed serves as front-end for the digital twin and provides service employees with a precise insight into previous and planned changes of the vehicle configuration and software status for each vehicle.

Technical implementation

Previous vehicle generations only had a fixed combination of controllers and the associated software status versions. Thanks to the new architecture with its direct connection (wifi, 3G, 4G or in future 5G) to a vehicle, it is possible to carry out specific changes without direct intervention of a technician on site. The implementation time can be chosen to ensure that operation at the customer is not affected.

A microservice-based approach was chosen for the technical implementation. All applications are hosted in the Microsoft Azure Cloud. Kubernetes is used in order to be able to react dynamically to changes in system capacity utilisation. Communication between services occurs via REST or using message queues. The latest technologies like TypeScript, Nest.js and React are used both at the backend as well as at the front end.

The continuous saving and version creation of all vehicle statuses within a digital twin permits mapping of the complete life cycle of a vehicle, beginning with production on a conveyor belt until decommissioning without any gaps in its history. The solution developed by Concept Reply enables users to compare the configurations of their vehicles and easily understand the changes between individual versions of a digital twin.

Within a digital twin, the so-called "as built status" represents the configuration of a vehicle after the production was completed. If a change is to be applied to a vehicle, a "desired state status" is generated, which is installed by a service technician on site or 'over-the-air' in the vehicle. The 'as-maintained status' describes the current configuration of the vehicle.

A glimpse into the future

The permanent connection to individual vehicles opens up many new possibilities for customers. They can now monitor and manage their complete fleet. In future, useful software features can be activated remotely on customer request by updating the KCU firmware.

Thanks to the installed sensors, the vehicles deliver a continuous stream of data, which can be analysed and processed centrally in order to boost the efficiency of the vehicle service and reliability. Furthermore, the data enable the development of new digital business models.

Linde is one of the leading manufacturers of forklift trucks and warehouse technology worldwide. Since 2006, Linde has been part of the KION Group, the second biggest manufacturer of industrial trucks worldwide and one of the leading providers of automation solutions for intralogistics. Linde is represented with its own branches in over 100 countries worldwide. The international network of the company includes more than 700 distribution and service locations.

Concept Reply is an IoT software developer specialised in the research, development and validation of innovative solutions and supports its customers from the automotive, manufacturing and smart infrastructure industry as well as other sectors in all questions relating to the Internet of Thing (IoT) and cloud computing. The goal is to provide end-to-end solutions along the entire value added chain: from the definition of an IoT strategy, testing and quality assurance to implementing a specific solution.