With over 1700 installations around the globe, the KNAPP group ranks among the world’s leading suppliers of logistics automation systems and software. KNAPP designs, installs, maintains and upgrades material handling solutions that feature state-of-the-art storage, picking and conveying technologies. Headquartered in Graz, Austria, KNAPP has 35 locations spanning all continents. Employing more than 3000 staff worldwide, the group achieved a record turnover of 582 million euros in the year 2015-16.

Craig Rollason, Managing Director

WLN – As a top Warehouse Automation supplier, what have conditions been like in the past year for your business?

The market for automated systems has been buoyant this year and the KNAPP group yet again achieved record turnover for the year 2015-16, with revenue up by almost 25 per cent to over 580 million euros and profit also significantly increased. As usual, KNAPP also invested a considerable sum – around 35 million euros – in research and development.

WLN – What are your flagship products and services?

The shuttle-based storage concept that KNAPP pioneered – our OSR Shuttle™ system – continues to form the heart of many of our solutions. The OSR Shuttle™ serves ergonomically designed workstations from our Pick-it-Easy range that are tailored to the needs of specific industry sectors. At these, staff select items from two source totes and distribute them into up to four target totes according to directions from KNAPP’s pick-to-light technology.

The other solution for which demand has dramatically increased recently is the Pocket Sorter system. With versatile pockets suspended from an overhead conveyor system, the Pocket Sorter uses matrix sortation to sequence the pockets – containing picked items of flat-packed clothing, accessories or other small goods – into the precise sequence required by the packing stations. As the solution can transport and sequence hanging garments and other goods together, the Pocket Sorter is ideal for e-commerce applications.

WLN – What makes you the ‘go to’ supplier in your category?

KNAPP has a reputation for delivering efficient, flexible and robust solutions that give clients a competitive edge in the supply chain. As well as having deep knowledge of the market demands of the core sectors in which our clients operate, we have invested in the development of leading-edge technologies and software. The final piece of the jigsaw – and increasingly valued by our customers – is our Customer Service network. Most of the larger systems we deliver are supported by a contract that includes a resident team of KNAPP engineers on site. Clients today want to evaluate lifetime costs so the operational resilience, energy efficiency and ease of maintenance of our systems are key factors in securing orders.

WLN – How do you help customers improve their business performance?

Our solutions are designed around KNAPP’s key concepts of the Low Complexity Warehouse and the Zero-Defect Warehouse. In the Low Complexity Warehouse, the variety of technologies used is reduced and warehouse processes are simplified in order to minimize the costs of operation and maintenance. The Zero-Defect Warehouse concept is a recognition that the later an error is detected, the more expensive it is to correct – assuming that it is detected at all. At KNAPP, we build quality control into warehouse processes by using our KiSoft Vision image recognition and processing technology.

WLN – How have you changed your offering to customers in the last 12 months and why? Have you added anything new?

We are working on a number of exciting projects that combine two of our key technologies – shuttle storage and pocket sortation – to secure huge savings for omnichannel retailers. Such a system has been installed recently for the US outdoor products supplier, Recreational Equipment, Inc. At the company’s new distribution centre in Goodyear, Arizona, the OSR Shuttle™ system, supported by the Pocket Sorter, fulfils the direct-to-store, direct-to-customer and click-and-collect orders.

WLN – Have you made any enhancements to your customer service?

Customer Service is a major part of KNAPP’s success. Our System Support 360°+ offering allows us to tailor an individual service package for each customer in order to achieve maximum performance capacity and availability for the system. Our hotline support is offered in no less than 8 languages and is available 24/7.

A real highlight for KNAPP UK’s Customer Service division this year has been reaching the 10-year milestone for our resident team at the national distribution centre of British Gas in Leicester.

This is the second KNAPP UK system supported by a resident team to achieve 10 years of operation – the KNAPP engineers at the DC of global shoe supplier, Clarks, celebrated 10 years on site last year. As well as the teams at British Gas and Clarks, we have a further seven resident teams at customer sites across the UK.

WLN – Which markets are your customers in? Which ones are growing fastest?

Our core business sectors include retail and e-commerce for general merchandise, food retail, fashion, healthcare and industry. The impact of e-commerce continues to be significant for many of our clients in retail markets and this is driving demand for flexible and future-oriented solutions to meet the increasing complexity that omnichannel and pure play retailers are facing.

WLN – Can you name some of your major customers and tell us what do you do for them?

Key clients in the UK include John Lewis, M&S, Boots, Staples, Clarks, British Gas, Well (formerly The Co-operative Pharmacy) and Alliance Healthcare. A major project this year has been the installation of automated systems – including garment-handling technology, a high-bay pallet store and a YLOG-Shuttle store – in the second warehouse at John Lewis’ Magna Park site in Milton Keynes, known as MP2. The hanging garment automation – supplied by KNAPP group member, Dü?rkopp Fördertechnik – enables John Lewis to consolidate clothing and small items for omnichannel fulfilment.

WLN – What’s been your most memorable recent project?

This has to be the other major project that we delivered this year – the automated handling system at the new M&S national distribution centre in Bradford, which has been designed to optimize the efficiency of store replenishment. The sheer scale of this facility – at over 100,000m2 – is mind-blowing. An enormous OSR Shuttle™ store – featuring 350 shuttles – forms the heart of the solution.

WLN – What were your other major achievements in the last 12 months?

In addition to the major projects for John Lewis and M&S already mentioned, we have delivered a number of other solutions this year. The conveyor-based picking system supplied to Draper Tools Ltd for its distribution centre in North Baddesley, Hampshire, went live during the summer.

We also installed an A-frame automatic picking machine and conveyor-based fulfilment system for Sigma Pharmaceuticals plc at the company’s warehouse in Watford. On the international stage, winning an order from adidas this year was a major coup for the KNAPP group. The project is to automate the company’s new Campus North distribution centre in Germany, which supports the sports giant’s European e-commerce business.

WLN – Are you branching into any new areas, targeting new customers and taking on more people?

KNAPP has a new division – Industry – that focuses on meeting the intralogistics needs of manufacturing businesses. This is a sector in which our Open Shuttle driverless vehicles and YLOGShuttle storage system are ideal solutions. For example, KNAPP is delivering a YLOG-Shuttle system to the engine and drivetrain components specialist, Pankl Racing Systems, at its new production facility for high-performance motorcycle gearboxes in Kapfenberg, Austria.

The number of staff at KNAPP UK has risen yet again this year, to nearly 200 employees. Continued growth led to the decision for the company to move to brand-new, purpose-built offices in nearby Chalgrove. The new premises, which will provide 8,000 square feet of space over two floors, will be ready in January.

WLN – How important is staff development and training to your growth?

Training and development are extremely important across all aspects of our business. In particular, we have had a successful apprenticeship programme over the past few years that has helped us to develop the new talent we need for our Customer Service teams.

WLN – Looking ahead, what factors do you see affecting your business? How are you turning these into opportunities?

There was an initial shock to the logistics market from Brexit but nerves are definitely settling now. As Internet connectivity continues to increase globally, achieving efficiency in omnichannel logistics will become more important and this is where a number of KNAPP solutions – notably the efficient OSR Shuttle™ store and the Pocket Sorter solution – continue to score highly.

WLN – Which major trade shows and other industry events are you involved in over the next year?

KNAPP will be exhibiting at IntraLogisteX on 15 & 16 March at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena and the Internet Retailing Expo on 5 & 6 April at the NEC in Birmingham.

WLN – What headline news from KNAPP can our readers look forward to seeing in Warehouse & Logistics News in 2017?

Hopefully we will announce the first Pickit- Easy Robot installation in the UK. KNAPP has supplied several robotic picking systems in Europe – for a dental wholesaler in the Netherlands, an electrical supplier in Germany and a pharmaceutical company in Spain – but we have yet to deliver one here in Great Britain.

WLN – And finally, in our social media age, if you had to sum up your company in a 140-character tweet what would you say?

A reliable #logistics partner, delivering intelligently designed and qualityengineered #WarehouseAutomation to secure competitive advantage


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