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Office Furniture Makers Bring Ergonomics Into the Mainstream

Posted in Taiwan on Thursday, 07 April 2011. Print

Functional breakthrough presents new opportunities.

Office Furniture Makers Bring Ergonomics Into the Mainstream

Once the domain of mostly high-end furniture, ergonomic design is becoming deeply embedded in the thinking of most office furniture makers in Taiwan today. Many of these manufacturers have been in business for a decade, two decades or longer, giving them a vast pool of knowledge and expertise in making furniture that meets people`s needs and provides supreme comfort.

(NPIC_13312_l.jpg) King Yueh Cheng makes wooden furniture with low-lead and low-formaldehyde paint and resin to minimize chemical-harm to the human body.

Ergonomic design used to mean adapting the furniture structurally. But producers are now bringing ergonomic thinking into new areas, like materials, to achieve new levels of user comfort.

One example is the use of mesh for seatbacks in place of traditional fabrics and natural and synthetic leather. With its greater resilience, mesh makes the chair more comfortable. Massage devices, once limited to chairs for therapeutic or home relaxation use, are now being added to office chairs by some manufacturers to bring muscle relief to the workplace.

Ergonomic concepts can also be seen in desks, shelves, cabinets and other major office furniture items. Although these items are more restricted than chairs in terms of function and design, makers are finding ways to produce such items in ways that are easier to assemble and move. One way is to replace heavy wood components with lighter metal and plastic alternatives.

Innovative Seatback

WROUGHT Enterprise, a specialized chair manufacturer established in 1997, introduced a new model of office chair with a changeable mesh seatback supported with a Y-shaped back frame.

(NPIC_13313_l.jpg) WROUGHT`s WR-LUXE office chair has a movable mesh seatback supported by a Y-shaped plastic frame at the back to enhance the seatback`s resilience and supporting strength.
(NPIC_13314_l.jpg) WROUGHT`s WR-LUXE office chair

"The mesh comes in five different colors--red, blue, green, black, and gray," said general manager Victor Wu, who is also the chief designer of the company. "Ergonomic thinking goes into everything we do," Wu noted. "We approached this from several aspects in launching the WR-LUXE with the changeable mesh seatback."

Wu pointed out that the mesh seatback provides greater resilience and flexibility to greatly improve sitting comfort. The WR-LUXE mesh seatback is supported by a Y-shaped plastic back frame to enhance the seatback`s resilience and supporting strength.

Wu said that WROUGHT specializes in making plastic chairs because it allows for greater automation of the production process. The company operates its main production line and R&D center in central Taiwan and has a parts factory in mainland China.

A resilient mesh seatback, Wu said, is much more comfortable than traditional solid seatbacks made with fabric, plastic, or leather. "This chair model is especially good for workers who like to rock or extend their body to relax at work."

Another advantage of the WR-LUXE, Wu added, is that the seatback color can be changed. "The seatback mesh can be easily detached and attached," he noted. Consumers can opt to buy additional meshes with the chair to change the color on their own. "Color matters. A different color can give a room a different appearance and feeling," commented Wu.

The WR-LUXE`s backseat, along with armrest, can be tilted in six different positions. The gas-lift device at seat bottom allows easy adjustment of the seat height to match different sitting postures and body shapes.

The seats on all of the WR-LUXE chairs are 52 cm wide (or 66.5cm including armrests), 51 cm deep, and 44 to 52 cm high. The chair has a total height of 94.5 to 102.5 cm and weighs 20kg.

As a veteran chair producer and designer, Wu manages WROUGHT not only as an OEM manufacturer, but also a business partner to provide both production and design support to buyers. "Buyers can give us a rough idea about what they want, and we will work out designs to meet their needs," said Wu.

Building on its success in the office chair segment, WROUGHT is diversifying its product lines to include children`s furniture. The new line mainly involves shrinking its office chair models, meaning that it can tap its extensive production skill and design capability to this business. One big difference, Wu said, is that the company`s children`s chairs are more colorful and cute than the adult offerings.

"Children`s` chairs are normally very simple and most are made without wheels. My company is bringing the sophistication of office chairs to this market," Wu said. WROUGHT has launched several models of children`s chairs that look just like a petite size of its office chairs and also share such features as air lift devices to ensure smooth adjustment in seat height and a seatback that can be tilted in four to six different positions.

Wu is very confident of the children`s market in light of the worldwide sliding birth rate. "The fewer children we adults have, the more willing we are to buy good furniture for them," Wu observed.

Shelves and Cabinets

Compared to WROUGHT, King Yueh Cheng has followed an opposite course. It began as a producer of children`s furniture 30 years ago and since then has gradually diversified into other product lines, including furniture for living rooms, bedrooms, offices, classrooms, and even kitchens.

Despite the broadening product range, King Yueh Cheng has remained true to its focus on wooden furniture. "It`s my family`s tradition to use natural materials for furniture production," said Tommy Wei, the company`s design manager and also the third-generation boss of the company.

"My grandfather started our business as a rattan furniture maker, and my father established King Yueh Cheng, introducing wood as an alternative material when the local rattan supply became rare," Wei recalled. With three generations of experience, the company has a good sense on how to distinguish the value of wooden furniture.

"Take shelves and cabinets. The high-profile items in this niche are all made with wood," Wei pointed out. While dedicated to presenting the value and beauty of wood`s grains and texture, King Yueh Cheng took an early action to use low-lead and low-formaldehyde paint and resin to minimize chemical-harm and ensure the safety of its furniture as early as two decades ago, when few people were aware of the harm of chemical ingredients to human body. The company applies a rubbing-proof resin to allow free, safe, and convenient movement of furniture on the floor.

Safety and convenience, however, are only the very basic rules for King Yueh Cheng which is now managed under a slogan of "Making Life More Beautiful and Comfortable" with WEI`S furniture. WEI`S is the brand that the company has just launched as part of a global own-brand marketing strategy.

Massage Chairs

Gue-li Enterprise entered the office furniture niche from a different industry segment--auto parts and electric massage control devices for massage chairs. Last year, the company launched a new compact electric massage control panel exclusively for office chair use.

(NPIC_13315_l.jpg) A wireless massage control panel allows Gue-li`s massage office chair to move freely.

"A major challenge for making massage office chair is that most office chairs nowadays are made with wheels to ensure easy movement, whereas electric massage chairs need to be plugged into a socket, limiting movement," said the company`s general manager Tseng Chin-chun, who is also the company`s chief designer.

To overcome this problem, Tseng spent seven years to develop a wireless massage control panel for office chairs last year. "The wireless control panel allows the massage office chairs to move as freely as a normal chair," said Tseng. Gue-li`s first massage office chair is 62 cm long, 61 cm wide, and 110 to 117 cm high. Another feature of the chair is the movable seatback which allows backward or forward movement, as well as tilting to various different positions.

Gue-li Enterprise has used its compact control device to make its own massage office chairs. Tseng noted that his company has been developing massage furniture like beds, mattress, and leisure chairs. Gue-li would also like to supply its patented massage control panels to interested furniture makers.

Gue-li was established in 1980 as an auto seat maker, and has since gradually diversified its product line to include massage control panels and massage chairs. The company develops all of its own products and sells them under the "KORICA" brand.

"Sometimes, we get good ideas and inspiration from our buyers," said Tseng. The massage office chair, for example, is developed based on an original rough concept from a German auto seat buyer who, once talking with Tseng about the massage auto seat seven years ago, joked with Tseng as saying, "Is it possible to make a wheeled massage chair?" When the German buyer raised the idea, he didn`t expect the idea could eventually come true.


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