KNAPP has been a leading global supplier of logistics automation systems and software for almost 70 years, with more than 3000 active installations. The group’s 5500 staff worldwide develop and deliver customised supply chain solutions, powered by advanced software including AI. Key clients in the UK include John Lewis, M&S, Boots, The Very Group, Wincanton, Clarks, British Gas, DHL, Alliance Healthcare and Well, all of which have resident KNAPP service teams. Solutions, delivery and aftercare are all managed by KNAPP in the UK.
Craig Rollason, Managing Director at KNAPP UK, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
What products or services does your company offer?
We describe ourselves as a technology partner for the entire value chain. In other words, we provide the right automation, information and services for every step in the value chain to ensure optimal operation. We develop, deliver and support tailored logistics solutions based on our advanced technologies and leading-edge software.
Which industries do your customers operate in?
We have customers in all sectors – from retail, e-commerce and fashion to healthcare, wholesale and industry.
Has your company celebrated any milestones this year?
In the UK, we celebrated 10 years of taking on apprentices, which has helped us to grow our Customer Service team over the years. Globally the number of KNAPP employees exceeded 5000 for the first time, and now stands at 5500, while the total number of active KNAPP installations worldwide now exceeds 3000.
Do you have any examples of projects you have recently completed?
As a group, KNAPP delivers over 200 projects a year, ranging from small extensions of existing systems to vast, brand-new distribution centres. Projects recently delivered in the UK include systems for The Very Group, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Boots and DHL.
How did your company react to the Covid-19 pandemic?
Many of our customers in the healthcare and e-commerce sectors faced a surge in demand, so they relied on our Customer Service teams to keep their systems running smoothly to meet that demand. We also deployed remote vision technologies to enable our colleagues in Austria to support system installations and keep all projects on track.
Do you think some of the trends that began or were accelerated during Covid-19 will become permanent?
Although its rate of growth will tail off, e-commerce will continue to grow. Hence, we’re working on the latest – and largest – warehouse for Next that will service its Total Platform e-com model. Grocery is another growth area, with our micro fulfilment centre (MFC) technology continuing to be delivered to supermarket chains around the world with our partner, Takeoff Technologies Inc. In addition, our Project RetailCX team is developing digitalized in-store automation systems for retailers that will enable a seamless omnichannel experience for consumers through hyper-local fulfilment. You can read more about this in the article on the following page.
In what areas are you making technological advances?
We continue to invest heavily in research and development in line with our culture of innovation. In the financial year 2020-21, the KNAPP group again invested over 5 per cent of turnover – some 54 million euros – in R&D. We are making great strides in developing digitally driven solutions and applying artificial intelligence to the supply chain. Pick-it-Easy Robot, our robotic order-picking system developed with the Californian start-up, Covariant, is powered by leading-edge AI that enables rapid self-teaching.
Another AI application proving highly valuable is our redPILOT software. This cloud-based solution is designed to optimise warehouse operations – creating shift plans, preventing errors and allocating resources – with all experience being used for machine learning. Then there is our KiSoft Analytics tool, which helps clients to transform big data into smart data. With worldwide access to the data platform via a mobile app, KiSoft Analytics constantly analyses client data, visualising KPIs on dashboards to give an instant overview of warehouse processes, benchmark performance and identify trends.
What training do you provide for your staff?
As well as providing formal apprenticeships, we have stepped up our investment in training and development for other staff this year. In addition to supporting employees who want to complete external qualifications to enhance their skills, we are providing some bite-sized training courses on a variety of people management topics that are proving really beneficial. We are taking full advantage of the tools available to support remote learning too, working with our global colleagues on enhancements to the e-learning that is available via KNAPP Academy, our internal learning platform.
What is the company’s commitment to sustainability?
At KNAPP we are conscious of our responsibility to the environment and we strive to remain transparent. We have been publishing key figures – such as energy consumption, waste volume and water usage – for our headquarters in Graz, Austria, and converting these into CO2 emissions since 2010 in order to track our progress. Of course, we also assist our customers in their sustainability objectives by providing energy-efficient solutions that help to reduce electricity usage, packaging, road miles and returns.
What improvements have you made to your customer service recently?
As well as providing reactive Customer Service visits, we have 15 Resident Service Contract sites in the UK that operate on an open-book accounting principle to provide customers with maximum transparency. KNAPP UK has over 230 skilled technicians and we are constantly recruiting and training more Customer Service engineers, in addition to our continuous apprenticeship programme. Using a Computerised Maintenance Management System, we provide a data-driven, proactive approach to service management to help maximize system performance, uptime and efficiency. With these CMMS platforms connected across the globe via the Internet, we are able to combine collated system data with historic data and then use automated algorithms to assess and amend predictive maintenance task frequencies. This allows Customer Service resources to be targeted to where they are really needed, rather than wasting time on potentially unnecessary scheduled maintenance routines, thus bringing savings for our clients.
Are you helping customers boost the level of automation in their business?
Yes, but there are applications where automation is not the right answer. As a reputable supplier and AMHSA member, in this type of scenario we guide customers to the right supplier for their particular needs. Automation is increasingly being applied in traditionally manual areas, however. For example, our Project RetailCX team recently delivered a 24/7/365 automated grocery vending solution with a range of 500 items in a convenience store in Germany.
Will you be investing in your premises over the next 12 months?
The KNAPP group continues to grow, with the number of locations around the globe now standing at 53. Our facility in Leoben, Austria – which focuses on solutions for the food retail sector – is currently undergoing expansion, with the addition of a new assembly and logistics hall and 100 new employees.
Will you be exhibiting at any major trade shows in 2022?
KNAPP will exhibit at LogiMAT in Stuttgart (31 May-2 Jun) and IMHX in Birmingham (6-8 Sep), as well as at a number of other events worldwide.
What industries offer your business the most potential over the next year?
There is huge potential in D2C (direct-to-customer) operations in a variety of sectors including retail, food, pharmaceuticals and veterinary products. Convenience will be the watchword and software-driven automation will be the enabler.
How future proof is your business?
Demand for logistics automation is currently sky high. As a responsible employer and partner, KNAPP is committed to sustainable growth. We value long-term partnership with our clients – more than 70 per cent of whom are regular customers – so we want to grow in the right way and at the right pace to ensure the quality for which we are renowned.
How would you sum up your company in three words?
Making complexity simple.
KNAPP UK LTD