Will your boss buy you a $600 chair to increase your productivity or buy himself a $900 one to increase his?
Alan Rudd is hoping that executives around the world will spend $5 million for 20,000 of his Cyborg Chairs over the next 12 months.
A chair that costs between $600 and $900? It's the first adjustable office chair that incorporates motion, Rudd explains while seated comfortably on one of them at Rudd International Corp.'s headquarters in Georgetown.
Rudd wants to convince executives that the only remaining way to increase office productivity is to make workers more comfortable. A Danish physiologist, Dr. Svend Molbech, claims that there is a definite relationship between comfort and productivity. Molbech says this and more in a brochure for the Cyborg Chair that identifies him as a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen and as director of testing for the chair.
According to Molbech, sitting still for extended periods produces pressure on the spinal discs in the lower back and restricts circulation at the points where one's body is in contact with a chair. This leads to lower-back pain, stiff muscles and "sleepy" legs, all of which will reduce productivity, the brochure says.
A gas-filled cylinder in the chair alters the seat angle over a range of four degrees at a top speed of a little more than one degree per minute.
These changes force the user to move, altering the pressure points and allowing some muscles to rest as others come into play.
The chair's seat depth, seat height, back height, arm height and arm width also are adjustable. A small control shelf slides out from one side of the chair, with LED displays indicating seat height, angle, depth and back height. The idea is that, after someone else has adjusted your chair to his or her comfort, you can return it to the positions you favor by matching the numbers for those positions. The display is powered by four AA batteries.
The $600 to $900 price range covers models for secretaries, operators and managers. The chairs are available with or without different kinds of arms, with or without the LED display and a mid-back insert, and with different kinds of upholstery.
The chair was developed over three years with the aid of Labofa of Skaelskor, a city outside Copenhagen, at a cost of $1 million. It is the latest product of the company that Rudd incorporated in 1970 to manufacture health-care furniture overseas for sale in the United States.
Rudd studied urban development planning and worked as an architect in Copenhagen for one year, specializing in health care. In 1972 he began selling health-care seating and products for children's institutions and slowly expanded his product line. But in 1975, he ran into a recession during which the big-ticket health-care purchases that were Rudd's lifeblood ended up on the back burner. "When I started to see all those jobs falling away, I knew we had to make some changes fast," Rudd recalls.
He diversified into office furniture, the so-called general contract market, and was one of the first to regularly use laminated wood. But health-care products still account for half of Rudd International's business. It is supplying all of the furnishings for the Meninger Clinic's new 27-building campus in Topeka, Kan., and has sold to Fairfax and Holy Cross hospitals here, the Library of Congress and the Comptroller of the Currency's Office. ood production takes place in Denmark, metal-stamping is done in Italy, and auto-industry suppliers in the United States make other components for Rudd's products. Parts for the Cyborg Chairs are made in Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Japan and the United States.
The chairs will be assembled in Vienna, Va., starting in August, and Rudd will hire at least 10 persons to do the assembly work, adding to a staff of 14 on the payroll and 55 sales people working on commission in 20 sales offices, including Washington, New York and Chicago.
Rudd says that, if sales meet his expectations of 20,000 over the next 12 months, they would be disproportionately large for an office-furniture producer as small as his company.