Celebrating 20 years of operation in the UK market this year, KNAPP is a leading global supplier of logistics automation systems and software, with over 1700 active installations worldwide. KNAPP designs, installs, maintains and upgrades automated handling solutions that feature the latest storage, picking and transport technologies. Headquartered in Graz, Austria, the KNAPP group employs more than 3,300 staff worldwide and achieved a record turnover of 632 million euros in the past business year.
Craig Rollason, Managing Director at KNAPP UK Ltd, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
WLN – What are your best-known products and services?
Our OSR Shuttle™ solution – the shuttlebased storage concept pioneered by KNAPP – forms the heart of many of our handling systems. The energy-efficient OSR Shuttle™ store serves ergonomically designed workstations from our Pick-it-Easy range that are tailored to the needs of specific industry sectors. Another KNAPP solution that is increasingly in demand – especially for e-commerce warehouses – is the Pocket Sorter, which uses matrix sortation technology to arrange pockets on an overhead conveyor system into the correct sequence for packing stations. Other key KNAPP solutions include intelligent conveyor systems, A-frame autopickers, Open Shuttle AGVs and robotic picking systems.
WLN – Which market sectors and countries are your customers in? Which industries are growing fastest?
Core business sectors for KNAPP include retail, e-commerce, fashion, healthcare, food retail and industry. The group has over 35 locations that span all continents, offering sales and service to customers worldwide. The e-com and retail sectors are without doubt the fastest growing for KNAPP UK, although we continue to secure significant business from our pharmaceutical clients.
WLN – Who are your major customers and what do you do for them?
The blue-chip brands that we serve in the UK include John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Boots, Amazon, Staples, Clarks, British Gas, Alliance Healthcare, JP Boden, Primark and Kuehne + Nagel. Many of our retail clients are attracted by our ability to combine expertise in hanging garment logistics – through the automated systems of KNAPP group member, Dürkopp Fördertechnik – with automated handling of other goods.
WLN – How do your products benefit your customers’ businesses?
Our solutions are designed in accordance with our slogan – Making Complexity Simple – and combine the optimum system layout with intelligent software to ensure maximum efficiency. The result is simplified warehouse processes and minimized costs in terms of both operation and maintenance.
WLN – Why should customers choose you as their main supplier?
We have a reputation for delivering solutions that are efficient, flexible and robust, giving our clients a competitive edge in the supply chain. A critical factor in many projects is our Customer Service offer; many of the larger systems we deliver are supported by an on-site team of KNAPP Customer Service technicians who carry out preventative maintenance as well as dealing swiftly with any operational issues that may arise.
WLN – What’s business been like in the past year?
The market for automated warehouse systems has been incredibly buoyant this year and we continue to receive sales enquiries. There was a period of reflection after Brexit and the sales that have progressed since then have been genuine projects with investment secured to proceed, based on clients’ business forecasts.
WLN – What were the business highlights for you in the last 12 months?
2017 marked a milestone for KNAPP UK, as we celebrated our 20th anniversary. It has also been a phenomenal year in terms of system sales, with a large number of orders received from major brand names in the retail sector. Although we cannot disclose the clients at this stage, it has been particularly pleasing to win business from new customers and we look forward to developing long-term partnerships with those retailers. In addition, we have won significant business in the pharmaceutical industry again this year. Handin- hand with the system sales has been growth in our Customer Service contracts, which is a source of real business resilience for the future.
WLN – What’s been your most outstanding recent project?
It is tempting to mention one of the multimillion- pound projects secured this year but in fact some of the smaller systems we have installed have been outstanding – not only in terms of the solution design but also the speed of delivery from initial enquiry to go-live. An example that springs to mind is the system for JP Boden, which was successfully delivered to meet very tight timeframes. Featuring seamless integration of KNAPP and Dürkopp systems, the JP Boden system demonstrates the agility of KNAPP UK’s project team.
WLN –What recent enhancements have you made in customer service?
We are seeing growth in our ‘resident team’ model for Customer Service, reflecting the need of our clients for maximum system availability and rapid response to customer orders. Listening to our clients’ requirements for flexibility in support of their automated systems, we have also developed some innovative, customised Customer Service solutions this year that have been very well received.
WLN – What new products have you brought out?
The continuing commitment of the KNAPP group to R&D in solutions and software is paying real dividends. We revealed the latest generation of our shuttle storage concept, OSR Shuttle™ Evo, to clients invited to our ‘MOVE’ event in Austria in the autumn. This new solution is based on our experience from 250 shuttle systems delivered worldwide, with over 25,000 shuttles. Designed for optimum performance – in terms of speed, durability and availability – OSR Shuttle™ Evo is truly scalable, with capacity increased simply by integrating additional shuttles. Handling cartons, containers and trays of various dimensions either single- or multi-deep, Evo keeps the workload balanced across all workstations and features simple pre-zone integration. Featuring energy-efficient design and energy recuperation technology, Evo is a sustainable solution with low lifetime costs. OSR Shuttle™ Evo takes care of storage, picking, buffering, replenishing, supplying and sequencing, and KNAPP’s KiSoft Vision can be added for applications requiring complete traceability. Another new product launched this year is Open Shuttle Fork, a free-moving automated guided vehicle for the flexible transport of pallets. The Open Shuttle Fork is able to take care of transport tasks traditionally carried out by forklift trucks, securing significant cost savings.
WLN – What factors do you see affecting your business in the coming year? How will you turn these into opportunities?
One factor is the anticipated effect of Brexit on the availability of labour, which is already driving a trend towards automation and robotics. This presents a fantastic opportunity for KNAPP and we are currently recruiting to meet this demand. The availability of warehouse space is another factor that is increasingly coming into play; with building programmes on the wane, lower availability of distribution space means that firms need maximum productivity from minimum footprint. The third factor that is favouring automation is the continuing rise of e-commerce volumes. This all bodes well for 2018 and beyond.
WLN – Are you investing in new premises and extra staff? What about staff development and training?
We are continuing to grow in all areas of our business; this is true for KNAPP in the UK and globally. We have a strong pipeline of orders and are taking on more employees to meet what we believe is sustainable growth. The number of staff at KNAPP UK has risen yet again this year and now totals just over 200. This growth led to our move into brand-new, purposebuilt offices in January. We continue to invest in apprenticeships to help recruit and train the engineering employees that we need for our resident Customer Service teams and we are looking at expanding this programme to include apprentices in other areas of our business.
WLN – Are you involved in any major trade shows or other industry events over the next year?
KNAPP will be exhibiting at the IntraLogisteX show in February and, in Europe, KNAPP will participate in the LogiMAT exhibition in March and the CeMAT fair in April.
WLN – What big news from KNAPP can our readers look forward to seeing in Warehouse & Logistics News in 2018?
We look forward to being able to disclose information on the orders we have secured this year, as the projects take shape and are successfully handed over to customers.
WLN – And finally, if you had to sum up your company in a tweet what would it be?
A reliable #logistics partner, delivering intelligently designed and qualityengineered #WarehouseAutomation to secure competitive advantage
KNAPP UK LTD