Stages in the life of an office chair Part 6: Test laboratory
As manager of the Klöber test laboratory, every day Gerhard Schwenke is faced with files of standards, all of which have to be met. In this interview he reveals why, as far as he is concerned, the standards do not go far enough and why the GS seal for “safety-approved” could also stand for „Gerhard Schwenke“
Gerhard, your workplace looks a bit bizarre. Where are we, and what are all these things?
We are standing in the Klöber test laboratory, right beside the development workshop and the upholstery department. In the centre of this area we have the check bay and the hydropulser. These are two universal test machines which let us test up to 5 chairs at the same time. The so-called Sedometer is an ergonomic test apparatus for the geometric measurement and upholstery evaluation of task chairs.
So you use all this equipment in your work. What exactly is your job at Klöber?
I test components, assemblies and complete chairs while they are being developed and later when they are in standard production. Before a newly-developed chair goes into production, it obviously has to be tested for conformity with all legal requirements, e.g. standards, guidelines and recommendations, but also with the company’s own thinking and specifications. The various bits of apparatus in the lab help me to work properly in accordance with the standards and to carry out tests: for example the drum test machine, which I designed and built myself – with it, I can test fabric quality and the upholstery composition
What does this machine do?
It simulates the sitting behaviour of an average user, who obviously does not just sit still on the chair. That’s quite natural. There are even names for such people: edge sitters, fidgets, slouchers. Every person has their own way of moving, and the fabric and upholstery composition must withstand all these different movements. During each test run, the drum rolls 30.000 times slowly over the fabric to give the complete upholstery a thorough “going over”. This lets me judge the durability of the assembly. If even after extended tests the fabric has no wrinkles, my colleagues in cutting and sewing can get to work.
Among your colleagues there is a rumour thatt the official GS seal does not stand for “safety-approved” but for “Gerhard Schwenke”. How do you explain that?
(laughs) Well, I’ve been able to gain a lot of experience and to pass it on. If I think that the requirements laid down in a standard do not cover everything, I do my own tests, as the quality of our products is very close to my heart. Visual things such as the development of wrinkles are often not covered by the standards. It was to check this that I developed the drum test machine we were talking about. Maybe that’s why?!
|*Info box GS seal
– The “GS” seal is optional for product manufacturers.
– It stands for “approved safety”
– Ready-to-use products and working apppliances which carry the GS seal of approval meet the requirements of the German Product Safety Law (ProdSG)
– The range of tests for the GS seal covers all the essential product features. For example: electrical safety, use of chemicals and dangerous raw materials, ergonomic considerations, dimensional requirements, stability tests, places where one might catch one’s fingers and even noise emissions.
Yes, that might be it: but you have been with Klöber for almost 39 years, you have lived through about half the company’s history, and helped to shape it. For me you belong on Klöber’s asset register. Gerhard, thank you for the interview!
In the next instalment of our office chair series, we shall be looking over the shoulders of the colleagues in the “cutting and sewing” department.
Do you have any more questions or suggestions? We would be delighted to receive any feedback.