Mhlnews 1173 Ken Ruehrdanz Photo 200

Dematic/HK combo to open world of systems options

Aug. 5, 2010
Customers of both companies can expect a broader selection of offerings and services.

Dematic Corporation, a leading global supplier of integrated material handling solutions and services, has signed an agreement in principle to purchase HK Systems, a North American automated material handling and software solutions provider. This acquisition will make available to customers of both companies solutions and talent they couldn’t access before, according to Ken Ruehrdanz, industry manager for Dematic.

“Where we were competing, we’ll put things together so that one plus one equals three,” Ruehrdanz told MHM. “There will be more infrastructure and more talented people to service a wider array of system types. The HK customers will now have access to voice directed and light directed split case picking solutions from other regions of the globe. Dematic customers will now have access to AGVs and pivot-turning forked AS/RS.”

Ruehrdanz added that this more international mix of solutions is also timely in light of Europe’s growing influence on ergonomic trends in North America.

“America’s demand for ergonomics is going more the European way,” he said. “There’s more expertise in goods to person solutions in Europe so we can draw upon all the different nuances of those solutions. For example, some day there may be a change in the maximum weight a worker can lift, or the total cumulative amount of weight one can lift in a day. This combination of companies opens the door to more of a consultative systems approach to those problems.”

Ruehrdanz is echoing the sentiments of John Baysore, president and CEO of Dematic North America, who cited a growing demand for integrated solutions.

“Companies want to move products and information fast, reliably and efficiently through the supply chains,” Baysore said “By combining the passion, creativity and technology of two synergistic companies, we will continue to drive innovations that help customers optimize their production and distribution operations.”

John Splude, executive chairman of HK Systems, agrees that the need to think globally is changing the material handling industry for the better.

“All the large players in the industry are looking at how they can expand their footprint to be a global player,” he told MHM. “In addition, our industry is changing in that we’re doing a lot more piece-pick and case-pick and the importance of these is growing in the U.S. and Europe.”

Global economies are also affecting the evolution of material handling.

“Some of the issues Europe has faced regarding cost of land, transportation costs and the importance of environmental sustainability, North America is following Europe in many of those areas,” Splude adds. “They have been more sophisticated in some of the technology they apply to making the distribution system more efficient. That all plays together with the strategy we’ve been talking about to blend European technology into US technology.”

And what about the HK brand? Will it survive?

Splude says that although Dematic will be the name on a global basis, the HK brand will survive through HK Logistics, a new entity the company established to offer customers inbound services through various types of logistics centers.

“We will continue to use that name as a subsidiary of Dematic,” Splude says. “But with a larger partner in Dematic and a broader base of financial support we will be able to grow that business faster. We’ll pursue larger opportunities. Because logistics is global we will be able to apply what we’ve learned to a broader market base.”

The acquisition, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2010, is subject to customary closing conditions including regulatory approvals from relevant authorities in the United States.