Award winning research

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To mark the occasion of 60 years since its establishment, the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) launched a Design and Innovation competition open to all of their member companies looking to become more competitive through design and innovation.

The Award included a £60,000 prize fund with £20,000 going to three winning entrants who were able to use FIRA’s expertise to support design and innovation projects for their own commercial benefit. The overall aim would be that, ultimately, the results would enhance the competitiveness of the industry as a whole.

Mark Richardson (Blum UK Managing Director) said that:

“Blum is delighted to have won the special Design & Innovation Award which marks FIRA’s 60 years of leading furniture testing through research and developments of test methods and setting standards worldwide.”

The innovation project involves the use of FIRA’s services to extend Blum’s international “Product Observation in the Market” project. The goal is to collect data relating to the real-life use of kitchens within the UK, to understand in-depth how kitchens are used and the impact on design, manufacture and installation of furniture fittings. It forms an extension of a worldwide project that Blum have been operating for the last 25 years, and involves the monitoring of a broad selection of kitchens over a long-term period.

Researching how we really use kitchens

Researching how we really use kitchens

The project in the UK:

The Blum-FIRA project is currently monitoring kitchen usage in 22 homes across a full geographical spread of Britain. It will involve FIRA technicians trained by Blum fitting the designated kitchens with monitoring equipment including sensors and 6-digit counters to determine:

  • Loads applied to doors and drawers
  • Cycles of doors, drawers and lift systems throughout an kitchen lifetime
  • Changes in use over time (i.e. moves towards full extension, changing storage options etc)

The project aims:

As part of their competition entry Blum were asked how would the successful completion of the project make a difference to them as a fittings manufacturer?

Blum said that the data would give the greater insight into the specifics of kitchen use in the UK (There are known to be some differences, as yet unqualified). Blum UK says that the data will be combined with information already gained from their wider international project. This would give them a wider sample base and hence a more reliable picture of how furniture is used. This research would enable Blum to continually adapt their quality systems to ensure that products will last and perform for the lifetime of the furniture. Likewise any changes to the way in which furniture is used will influence Blum’s future product developments.

Another criterion asked of Blum was: How will the successful completion of this project benefit the wider membership/furniture industry?

Blum said that they would be prepared to share all information on an on-going basis (i.e. all historic and developing information from the international project and all additional information gained from the specific UK side of the project). This would give FIRA and their membership a real understanding of what doors, drawers and lift systems undergo throughout the whole life of a kitchen. The data should enable furniture manufacturers the opportunity to understand exactly what is required in order to fulfil market requirements. In addition it will be an invaluable source of information for FIRA staff sitting on standards committees.

Project specifics:

The FIRA technicians monitoring the 22 households/kitchens are focusing primarily on the following cabinet areas of the kitchens:

  • Cutlery – main
  • Daily used crockery
  • Daily used glassware
  • Daily used mugs/cups
  • Pots and pans
  • Waste disposal (if fitted)
  • Consumables – tins/jars/packets
  • Utensils – spatulas/whisks/fish slicers/ can openers etc
  • Cling film, foil, bags etc
  • Pet food

Blum says that constant examination allows the exact counting of use/movement of each individual element. Additionally they will be able to determine visual changes and signs of exhaustion during the product lifetime. Defects and mishandling of the products can be detected early, therefore creating the basis for improvement measures for existing and new products.

Pull-outs in the base cabinet

Research has shown that the use of shelves in base cabinets is poor ergonomics. Pull-outs in the base cabinet are a better alternative. Access is simple and easy.

Blum will apply this gathered knowledge for on-going improvements of their testing guidelines which will ensure these are as close to reality as possible.

On being presented the Award Blum UK MD Mark Richardson said:

“Blum and FIRA have always enjoyed an excellent relationship and this collaborative research will strengthen the bond even further.”

For more information please about FIRA please visit www.fira.co.uk

For more information on Blum please visit www.blum.co.uk

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