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Sue Witkowski

Is your home office as comfortable as it should be?

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager


15th Oct 2013


You may work from home, have children playing video games, or have a workstation in a spare corner. It is unusual to find a desk and chair that will suit everyone in the family and often laptops or gaming consoles are used while sitting on the sofa.

We all need to be comfortable. I know that if I sit for too long in one position that I get very stiff. If I slouch around on the sofa, I get neck and back ache.

It is obvious that poor posture can cause back problems, but there could be other issues with neck, arms, hands and eyes.

For example, just sitting with pressure on the back of your knees and thighs can restrict blood flow – think about how this affects small children sitting on your office chair with their legs swinging clear of any support.

Sore eyes or headaches can also result from poor positioning of a screen or bad lighting.

When a computer is set up in your work environment it is normally subject to health and safety regulations related to working with Display Screen Equipment (DSE). But how many of us think of this when we buy a PC or laptop for use at home?

Does your home office desk and workstation suit the whole family?

We are not suggesting that the regulations apply to you at home (unless you are employed as a home worker, in which case refer to your own employer’s health and safety policy). But it makes sense to make sure that your family is not at risk when using a PC, laptop or gaming console in the home.

Making the computer comfortable for a 5 year old to use as well as an adult takes some planning.

Here are some suggestions.....

Adjust your chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor. This will keep 90° angles at your ankle, knees, hips and elbows. The arms should hang from the shoulder in a relatively relaxed position allowing the forearm to be nearly horizontal and your wrists in a neutral position. Try and keep your lower back supported, but also shift your position regularly or stand up and move around so you don’t become stiff.

place mouse near to keyboardAlter the height of your chair or desk to get this right. If you don’t have this adjustability, consider using a height adjustable keyboard tray and footrest.

Don’t let your children’s feet dangle in mid-air – use a box or low stool as a footrest.

Place mouse near keyboard. Place it nearby and easy to reach to keep your shoulder and arm relaxed. You may also want to have the option of using the mouse on the either side of the keyboard.

Keep your screen about 600mm away from your face. When seated correctly and looking straight forward you should be looking at the top edge of the monitor surround. (A telephone directory makes a very good screen stand or footrest.)

If your desk is too narrow you can use a keyboard arm or tray to move you away from the screen.

Try to reduce any unwanted glare in the screen by re-positioning the lighting.

Laptops

You’ve spent all day at work sitting at a computer then you come home and get the laptop out on your lap playing computer gamesor on the coffee table. Or possibly you’re on a business trip and using the laptop in your hotel room.

I bet that wherever you are using a laptop that you are stooping over it with your shoulders hunched and hands cramped together on the keyboard.

Consider investing in a desk and chair. Put your laptop on a stand and use a separate keyboard and mouse. This will help to get the screen to the correct height and place all the components in a much better position for you to use.

If you’re relaxing on a sofa you may find that a laptop table or tray will make you more comfortable.

Video games

Often people play video games with their head pushed forward and shoulders rounded.

If you or your children are spending time playing computer games then it is probably worth while investing in a better chair or lumber or arm supports. There’s plenty of advice around on the web and the cost of these items is nothing compared to the gaming equipment or your family’s health.

Finally, remember that even an ‘ideal’ posture will become uncomfortable if held without variety for long periods.

There’s lots of good advice on the internet about good posture and ergonomic products. You may also wish to refer to the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work for more information. https://osha.europa.eu.

Images courtesy of Sixninepixels and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Helle Kinning

Thinking global, acting local; a business story from Switzerland

Author: Helle Kinning, Marketing and distribution support specialist


30th Sep 2013


Once upon a time, on a very hot summer afternoon, I went to Switzerland to talk to HW-TEC, who look after the industrial market there, and spoke to their new MD, Patrick Nauer and area sales manager & engineer Beat Schwizer.

Please introduce yourselves.

We are a 30 year old family company, privately owned. We are involved in automation, packaging, machinery, medical, automotive, robotics and the automation industry.

How do you decide what companies to work with as partners and what products to sell? Why Accuride?

The companies would need to have the same passion, attitude and product quality as we do. We decided to work with Accuride as we already work with Rollon linear systems and Accuride filled the missing product gaps.

You have an impressive and large Quick Ship programme with slides available from stock, which fits well into our quality range. Short delivery time is and will be more important and will be a key factor for business.

And the people at your company make the difference as well; it would be hard to deal daily with people you don't get on with.

Any particular differences about the Swiss market compared with other EU countries? For example, culture, market sectors, laws?

Yes, we have some different laws in comparison with other EU countries. I would say, in very general terms, that the Swiss market is known for producing very special fine mechanical machinery in very high quality and precision.

For example, everybody has heard about our famous Swiss watches, but we are also known for robotic handling systems for the medical market. I would also say that Switzerland has more engineering companies for the size of the country than anywhere else in Europe.

But what is also different in comparison with England, for example, is that we have 26 cantons (member states of the Federal State) within Switzerland and each one of them has its own constitution, legislature, government and courts. So if you happen to have lots of money, you may consider in which canton to live depending on how much tax you want to pay...

Yes, a lot of people in Europe think you Swiss are all millionaires.

Well (laughing), it’s because we also work very hard and long hours - but people tend to see only the outside glamour, not all the hard work that goes on in the background. But unfortunately we are not all millionaires!

Has the global recession also impacted Swiss business?

Yes, definitely. We need to export - our own country and market are not that large. Some Swiss companies export 90-100% of their production, so when the collapse happened in the EU, we were affected by it.

The EURO became too weak - or the CHF too strong. The result was that Swiss products became over 20% more expensive! The combination of a recession and having expensive products was an extreme situation.

But I don’t think that the recession within Switzerland was too bad. Although I’d say that recovery has taken longer than in Germany. Having your own currency can be both a blessing and a curse.

Are there any opportunities that have come out of the recession?

Because the recession was not so bad within Switzerland, it didn't create so many new opportunities either. Some companies went into the solar and wind turbine industry as a new opportunity. Well, that applies to all trendy renewable energy industries.

The food industry grew as people started cooking more at home and perhaps eating out rather than going on holidays abroad; but I think this happened in other countries as well.

Unemployment is 3.55 percent at the moment, so being a small country can be beneficial.

And we have amazing chocolates as you know, so if life is not looking very happy eating chocolate always helps! (laughing)

How has HW-TEC remained successful during these times?

Our turnover suffered a little as companies were not investing much into new machinery and other products where our goods are installed - but luckily we didn't have to make any redundancies. Everybody within our company can multitask, even the men! (laughing again!) Staff are capable of doing different jobs.

What are your future plans? Do you see any emerging opportunities?

Future plans? Holidays you mean? (even more laughing) We expanded our staff; we have a new MD and a sales manager for the French speaking side of the country, as that is where we want to grow.

We also plan to increase our marketing activities via a new website - allow our clients to download product drawing files, do more mail shots, etc. It is important not to be satisfied, even if your business is doing well, but always look for new opportunities and find new customers.

What are the general growth opportunities in Switzerland?

The renewable energy industry perhaps? Sometimes new EU laws create new demands for the machinery industry and we are, of course, influenced by what is happening in the EU.

What is your strategy to protect good quality products like yours from the cheap competition from the Far East?

Luckily, a lot of Swiss companies prefer to deal with other local companies. A local market can offer good delivery times and, as Swiss products have a reputation for very high quality, you obviously need components within your final product to match that.

Swiss companies also prefer flexibility. If you are dealing with the Far East you can’t always get the specifications you want or the delivery times you need.

How do you develop new relationships with clients in Switzerland and/or Europe - web advertising, exhibitions, mailings, knocking on doors?

We are going to lots of exhibitions to find new customers. If we have luck with one company in an industry, we simply Google to find out who else is in that same industry and might be interested in our products. Sounds simple, but there is no need to make life complicated! We also encourage our staff to read industry related technical magazines and web articles to get ideas.

Patrick, in your new role as MD, what are your aims and direction for HW-tec?

Definitely update our marketing activities. For example the website, newsletters, new server, better support for our staff with updated in-house programmes to allow them to work in a more efficient manner. I want them to be able to serve the clients faster and spend more time dealing with clients in general, rather than wasting time on paperwork.

Are there any successful case studies you would like to share?

Where do we start? Accuride products are sold daily into so many industries, we could write a different blog story just for that.

But I think we are a distributor who not only sells your product but also invents new ones for you. We always pester you with new ideas! (big grin) We worked very closely with you in developing your linear system 0115RC slide which has opened new markets for everybody.

And finally - what is your motto for life?

Beat - Be happy!
Patrick - agree! Positive thinking! Find opportunities in life.

www.hw-tec.ch

Sue Witkowski

What could happen to your business when a disaster strikes?

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager


3rd Sep 2013


Over the past few months I have been part of an in-house team looking at our ability to get the company back up to speed in the case of a disaster.

We have always had a plan, but we thought that a re-visit couldn’t hurt and wanted to concentrate on business continuity rather than just disaster recovery.

This type of project really makes you think carefully about how the company operates, especially the reliance on IT systems. You also need to be confident that you can continue to service your customers, pay your suppliers and pay your staff.

This was certainly a well-worth project. We’ve looked at the risks and made sure that we have back-up across Europe and a business continuity plan that will work.

I am always keen to pass on good ideas so have put together a few useful pointers on how to go about putting a plan together.

How to start a business continuity project?

First steps are to think about the possible disasters that could happen and analyse the risk to the company.

Not every disaster will impact every area of a business, so this is an important first step to ensure that the recovery plans are appropriate.

For example, consider these possible events; each one will need a different planned response:
• damage to the computing and network resource
• bad weather stopping the supply chain
• a ‘flu outbreak amongst your staff
• flood damage to stock
• power outage
• major disruption to site access

Once you have identified the likely risks you can start to plan appropriately to manage any crisis before it becomes a disaster. This is the essence of ‘business continuity’ rather than just disaster recovery.

Assess the impact

• possible incidents & outcomes
• probability rating
• potential impact level

Develop the plan

• immediate aftermath
• which critical functions need to be resumed & in what order
• identify key individuals & duties – ‘who does what’
• customers – make sure that you have a contact list, know what you will be telling them and who will be making the communication.
• don't forget suppliers
• involve your security company and fire service
• make reciprocal arrangements with other local companies

Test the plan

• this could be a desk test or something more extensive
• audit the plan regularly

Training/communication

• staff training
• documentation

Maintaining the plan

• assign someone to be responsible

Business continuity checklist

• Business continuity project manager’s name and contact details
• Team that will make the key decisions
• Contact details to enable the team to be brought together
• Nominated control centre as a meeting point
• Identification of business critical processes and the resources required to continue them
• General resource requirements, for example IT hardware and software, telecommunications
• Details of how a recovery would be phased
• Telephone divert arrangements
• Emergency contact number for employees to obtain the latest information
• Contacts for internal and external agencies who may support the recovery
• Utility supplier details
• Address of the recovery site
• Contents and storage location of a disaster pack
• List of key customers, suppliers, third parties and their contact details
• Comprehensive team cascade list
• Backup computer data and any critical paper records held off-site
• Network diagrams, building plans and other technical information
• Precautions to be taken in the event of an incident, for example, staff evacuation

There are lots of resources available, such as your local Fire Services, Chamber of Commerce or insurance company. If you are located on a business park you may find that there is an association or management firm that can help.

Let’s hope we never need to test it for real.

Sue Witkowski

Drawer slides – DIY projects for your own home

Author: Sue Witkowski, Marketing services manager


23rd Jul 2013


Usually our drawer slides are sold into large projects – sometimes into cabinetry and sometimes into industrial applications.

But occasionally we hear about some DIY projects completed in the homes of our business customers.

We think that this is really cool; they obviously like our products well enough to bring them into their own homes. This is a pretty good endorsement for Accuride drawer slides.

Pawel works as Quality Manager at Van Keulen, which is a shop fitter.

The company had been using our DZ2132 drawer runners for many years and, when he wanted to install drawers in his own home, he turned to the same slide.

Pawel is obviously a clever cabinet maker and made this unique bank of storage drawers himself.

I’m not sure that child storage drawers is an interior design trend that we encourage (and we do say that slides should not be used to support human weight), but we’ll allow this one exception because the baby is so cute - and Pawel was there to keep an eye on her.

The second DIY project is a sliding wardrobe door that has been neatly fitted beneath the slope of the roof to use as much storage space as possible.

The DZ3630 two-way-travel slide has been used by Ray Fisher, sales director at Häfele UK, Accuride’s exclusive cabinet hardware distributor in the UK.

The wardrobe project was for his daughter and it was therefore very important that he got this absolutely perfect.

Peter Baxter

Why manufacturers should love their distribution partners

Author: Peter Baxter, European sales director, distribution channel


27th Jun 2013


One of the reasons why Accuride has been such a successful company is the continuing strong relationship with our distribution partners.

This sales strategy has allowed us to concentrate on our core business of the innovative design of ball bearing slides and sliding systems.

Our direct sales to OEMs mainly take the form of bespoke, long term projects and so we rely on our distributors to take on the responsibility to service our growing customer base with the off-the-shelf products.

Building a strong and long term relationship with each distributor has been our aim. Accuride sales managers operate in every region across Europe to support and train the distribution network. This front line support has strong and effective backup from Accuride’s customer service group, quality management systems and marketing services.

Why sell through a distribution channel?

Distributors can often offer a better service. The quick delivery of slides to a large number of companies is something that Accuride would find difficult to support. Add to that the sales, technical and logistic support that distributors can offer and it starts to become obvious why major manufacturers take this route to market.

Also, we can’t be everywhere, but the distributor can be. This is important for our customers who need our products fast and can talk to someone locally. Our slides are where they need to be – at a local distributor’s warehouse.

In 1998 I was tasked with developing a Europe-wide distribution network. We already had a successful network in North America and I wanted to make sure that Europe did not fall behind. I can honestly say that this has been one of the most successful sales strategies that we have ever implemented.

Today, the distribution network has grown rapidly to cover both cabinet hardware and industrial/electronics industries with coverage across all of Europe and into South Africa and the Middle East.

Getting the right manufacturer/distributor mix

Choosing the correct distributor has been the main formula for success. Close relationships have been nurtured by the regional sales managers to maintain long term and profitable business.

Häfele is one of the leading international companies for furniture fittings, architectural hardware, electronic locking systems and technical hardware advice. They have been on board as Accuride’s UK cabinet hardware distributor since the beginning.

Their UK sales director, Ray Fisher, says, ‘We all want to be at the top of our game and Häfele’s close relationship with Accuride has been built on shared aims; to be the best in the business. Not just the best for us, but also for our customers. It’s been a winning recipe for everyone.’

Accuride’s future is now closely bound to the distribution channel. Specialist distributors in new regions and markets are constantly sought to ensure that we have the best coverage and local support possible.

What.How.When.

Planning to buy, install or use a drawer slide?
Our 'What.How.When' guide to ball bearing slides is everything you need.

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