Kinnarps test operations

Our testing operation doesn´t only involve meeting old standards, but also developing new ones. For example, there are currently no standards which cover vertically adjustable tables. As Kinnarps is one of the leading companies in the field, it is quite natural that we are engaged in committed pioneering work to get one established.

In the early 1990s, Kinnarps launched a serious export drive. The offensive was primarily targeted at Germany and the UK.

“Basically, to grow in these markets we were put under pressure to demonstrate compliance to both quality and product safety legislation”, says Tomas Ekström, head of quality and environment at Kinnarp´s since 1997.

In order to obtain credible documentation for our products, we sent them to be tested and certified at LGA and FIRA, the leading German and English testing institutions for furniture. However, it was a costly and time consuming process, says Tomas, and we fairly quickly realised the necessity of having our own testing operation - and not solely as a tool for the actual certification, but also as an opportunity for offensive product development!

In 1994 our new facility was accredited by SWEDAC as Sweden´s first in-house testing laboratory for furniture, and were thus able to issue our own test reports. Since then our operation has been continually developed and refined. Today our products are certified according to all relevant national and European standards, promises Tomas.

For us the operation is not simply about working to existing standards, but also about developing new ones. Product development is continuously taking place and the certification standards do not always keep up, observes Tomas. For example, the strength of work chairs is currently still being tested with the focus on the load at the centre of the seat. Despite the fact that most work chairs have adjustable seats with completely different application points for the critical load. The testing method is consequently outmoded and should be reformulated into a new standard.

You can see another example over here of how the development from need to statutory test is proceeding too slowly, says Tomas, and points towards a Series [T]® desk from Kinnarps.The test is based on subjecting the table to pressure, or rather, pushing it laterally with a force of 30 kilos. 5,000 shoves from 4 different directions; a total of 20,000 shoves!

What will this demonstrate? Well, says Tomas, perhaps 30 to 35 years ago typewriters were used with mechanical rollers. Every time you hit the carriage return to change row you knocked the roller back; a rather violent movement which put demands on a stable and strong table. In other words, a test which has little relevance with today´s IT technology, but which is still standard. On the other hand, Tomas continues committedly, the method as it is, or somewhat modified, could very well be used in a modern application to test the strength of a raised table for example! There are currently no such requirements. Vertically adjustable tables are only are only specified in volume in Scandinavia. As Kinnarps is one of the leaders in the field, it is natural that we are undertaking considerable work to develop such a law. Just a few years ago there were no methods at all for verification, but we have produced some guidelines which have been communicated to other institutes such as CTBA in Paris. We are definitely seeing that others are taking up our proposals and can probably say that certification is on the cards.

Another very interesting area is ergonomics, says Tomas, the establishment of an ergonomic certification for how furniture is to be designed for maximum user-friendliness.

In this connection we are working on the development of a method of measurement to capture the ergonomic properties in a chair.We are not the only ones looking to aid the development, but together with a bare handful of others we are at the frontline of a global effort. At present, preliminary research is being carried out with the aim of standardising a number of different isolated projects. The goal is to achieve harmonisation and in the long-term a joint international approach and standardisation.

Our job is ultimately to develop the safety of our products; i.e. strength, safety and quality; always with the basis in reality and real needs.That´s why we are conducting an extremely intensive dialogue within the company; between the management, the market and us in the lab. We have also employed a production technician so that we have that expertise in our team as well. In general it can be said that a lot of our work is to do with human skills and experience. For example, we carry out manual scratch tests to assess how different liquids, such as detergent, have an effect on different surface layers. We also use the same method to test different properties in new, perhaps more environmentally friendly, products. All of this using the human eye, which is really the only functional measuring instrument.

We are currently accredited for approximately 70 test methods, which easily covers the requirements of our various markets. Naturally, it would be desirable to have one single, comprehensive European standard, says Tomas, and to some extent it exists, but in practice it is reduced to zero through all the different national additions. The ideal would therefore be to establish a completely uniform standard with no exceptions. This would result in a situation without the possibility of protectionism or the cultivation of interests, which do not solely ensure the best for the user. In other words, a highly desirable situation and a development which it is well worth us continuing to fight for at Kinnarps, concludes Tomas Ekström.

GÖRAN HENRIKSSON