People will often say that American manufacturing is on the ropes. And it is undeniable that many sectors have taken a hit in recent years. Yet, there are still segments of American industry that should lead to optimism. I would like to examine control room furniture manufacturing here as an example.
What purpose is there in examining network operations center furniture? First off, furniture is classified as something called a durable good. As you may or may not know, durable goods are used as indicators of economic health. When companies have faith in the strength of the economy, they buy more durable goods. If their confidence is weak, they likely put off purchases of durable goods until later in the year. Put another way, if people are buying items meant to last, they are confident in the national economy for the life of that item. More immediately, there is a strong relationship between durable goods and gross domestic product.
In these terms, here is some good news. When comparing furniture orders this year versus last year, the numbers for this April are up more than 12%. The numbers are usually compared year-to-year like this, since month-to-month can create lopsided data. This April compared to last April, shipments and order backlogs increased by similar percentages. Taking a longer look at the first four months of the year, reveals a more modest increase, but still 5%. A 5% increase is a substantial increase. Consider that Durable Goods Orders usually shift by tenths of a percent year-to-year.
Allow me to point out that these figures are for the consumer furnishings sector. I have reason to think that these numbers are reflective of the wider industry and therefore applicable to the control room furniture sector as well. Shipments of durable goods on the consumer side are factored into GDP. As such, shipments were up more than 5% in the first third of 2014.
Looking at the numbers here, it looks as though American industry is in good health. Actually, it seems to be growing as well or better than ever, if one focuses on specific niche markets like control room furniture. That growth is driven by American companies like Inracks Corp in Buffalo, NY who produce quality products here in the United States.
Have you ever wondered what ergonomics is?
Ergonomics is concerned with the productive interaction of the human body with equipment and systems. The philosophy is often brought into the workplace in order to improve upon employee morale and productivity. This can also be brought into the home to provide safe conditions and other improvements. Either of these locales can provide additional benefits to the users through prevention of repetitive medical injuries or disorders. People with disabilities can also be benefitted by another facet of ergonomics, the intention to overcome limitations.
Evidence has been presented to show Greece in the fifth century BC may have been the earliest civilization to make use of ergonomic principles. Tools better fit to the human hand, being refined over time, provide the foundation of ergonomics in these early times. Historians have also claimed that surgeons in Ancient Egypt had arranged surgical tools in a manner which made their use more practical. Frederick Winslow Taylor is often awarded the title of being the first to organize ergonomics into a strict discipline of optimizing the completion of tasks. He found, for instance, that reducing the size and weight of coal shovels greatly increased the coal output.
Warfare's continual evolution has often presented a good example of ergonomics at work. During World War I aviation was a subject of intense ergonomic study, providing the maximum effect and efficiency of pilots working with their aircraft. This was especially true in designing controls that presented an intuitive means of operation and assisted the pilot to overcome the effects of altitude. Edwin Link had developed the first functioning flight simulator by the 1930s, inspired by ergonomics. By the time that World War II occurred, military scientists were able to use ergonomics research to design highly efficient weapons and equipment for use in combat.
Following the war, the interest in ergonomics (or "human factors") shifted to many fields of study outside of the military. Automobiles and civilian aircraft, for example, both began ergonomic research to improve the function of their machines by operators.
With the dawn of the Information Age, computers as a field would be dramatically influenced by ergonomics. With the development of the personal computer (PC), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) became a driver for the business. A wide range of devices and furniture would follow the PC, most with ergonomic considerations built into the design. Examples from this list include the mouse, which was constructed to mimic the human hand, and command console furniture, which provides comfortability and efficiency. Local government and businesses have optimized their processes by using control room consoles and data center consoles in their offices.
Some businesses and government have opted to employ full-time specialists in ergonomics to constantly upgrade productivity. Finding ways to improve safety in the workplace is another component ergonomists factor into the decisions they make. This can include the specialists considering all elements in a specific environment, such as light, temperature and climate. We continue to see new areas of interest for ergonomics, including fields as diverse as aviation, psychology, technology and highway safety.