The Science Behind The Seat
Table of Contents About Kiel North America
The science of comfort, innovation and efficiency
By Jürgen Mill
The science of intelligent absorption
By Jürgen Mill
The science of the three-point seat belt
By Jürgen Mill
Seating works to improve fuel efficiency
By Jürgen Mill
The science of style and design
By Jürgen Mill
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ABOUT KIEL NORTH AMERICA Kiel North America is part of the international Kiel Group, a leading manufacturer of innovative transit seating systems for commercial vehicles and public transportation, including seating solutions for buses and trains on the local, regional, and intercity level. Kiel operates globally with production plants in USA (North America Headquarters), Germany (World Headquarters), Poland, France, Netherlands, and in Turkey. Kiel is synonymous for the integration of tradition and technical know-how with innovation and creativity. It is our mission to be to be client-focused and responsive to their needs.Seating systems manufactured by Kiel distinguish themselves with their high quality, sophisticated technology, and their contemporary design while meeting the highest requirements both in safety and passenger comfort. But Kiel seats do not stop there: Kiel is a also a world leader in providing complete seating systems as well as individualized, client-specific seating solutions for unique applications. It is Kielâ€™s goal to improve passenger safety and comfort with highquality products and to take responsibility for the environment by using only the most innovative technology and the most efficient manufacturing processes. Corporate Philosophy Kiel is dedicated to provide products of high integrity that serve people and the environment in the best possible way. Our high-quality seats are increasing peopleâ€™s safety and comfort. Our resource-efficient designs and manufacturing processes are our way of showing responsibility for the environment. In this context, we pursue our business goal, the manufacture of stylish seating systems for passenger transport that impress also through their sophisticated design and technology. Thanks to the dedication, hard work, team spirit, and focus of all our employees, we are able to achieve this goal.
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THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SEAT The science of comfort, innovation, and efficiency By Jürgen Mill Americans across the United States spent a combined 2.5 million hours in their seats on buses and coaches last year, according to the American Public Transportation Association. One of the great comforts passengers are looking for can and should be an island that happily takes them through time and space on a long journey, a hot spot that lets them connect and be creative when inspirations strikes on the go, or a place that gives them a few minutes of rest during a busy day. If this sounds like an impossible dream, know that Kiel is investing over $5 million each year into the research of this very notion. Today the “science behind the seat” is a sophisticated affair and an art form that combines the expectations of six billion individual passenger rides, the needs and budgets of thousands of operators and the engineering requirements of bus builders into a roughly 16 inch square platform of bliss. The science of design: The center seat of everything Probably no other part of a bus or coach has to satisfy such many different demands to be a perfect fit for a program or fleet. Before bus or coach builders will recommend a seating solution to customers, they will have made sure that the model integrates smoothly into the vehicle. Operators need to know that they are acquiring a reliable, high-quality solution that stays up to date for years to come and helps cut operational and maintenance costs. Customers, no matter where they are going or coming from, regardless of size and age, need to feel secure, comfortable, and safe. Customers are an extremely difficult and challenging audience to impress, and smart seating uses short make-it-or-break-it moments in its favor. From the first visual check to tactile judgments and even audio assessments, bus riders absolutely judge a seat by its cover. It is most important in the science on “median ergonomics” to provide a space of comfort to all segments of ridership at any point in their journey. The science of safety: Fusing form and function Safety is the omnipresent mantra in our industry. Kiel conducts about 200 dynamic crash tests per year and is constantly developing and improving the safety of its seats to offer the securest seat possible. Since the three-point seat belt became a European norm in 1995, we have been striving incessantly to create the perfect balance between a robust seating solutions that can absorb enough energy on impact and be a protective survival space while on the other hand being flexible enough so that no injuries can occur from protruding parts, for example. Once the three-point belt becomes mandatory in the U.S. for coaches in 2016, operators and manufacturers need to make sure that the seat of their choice provides a uniform restraint to avoid whiplash and is a good fit for many different sizes and shapes of riders. While seats that are easy to maintain save operating costs, riders will thank agencies and operations for seats that look as good years from now as they did on the first day.
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The science of savings: Costeffectiveness through quality For many years, European countries have been investing in innovative ways to cut fuel costs. Seating manufacturers have developed sophisticated technologies and materials First impressions count. Whether for a five to cut the average seat minute trip in the city or long-distance traveling, weight about 15 to 20 percent the perfect seat invites riders with a clean and since 2005, a trend that is modern design that feels as good as it looks. likely to be a significant topic in the U.S. as well. A recent project with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, for example, showed that the use of a lightweight coach seat reduces the amount of fuel by an astonishing 4 percent, which translates into savings of over $32,000 annually for the entire fleet of 31 coaches. Surveys The perfect seat is created by combining among the ridership have innovative technologies with extensive testing as well as design and ergonomics research. exceeded the department’s Satisfying the highest standards and ex pectations. While requirements should go hand in hand with an passengers are greatly ergonomic and exciting design. enjoying the comfort and safety of the seat, the fuel saved equals 6,000 pounds of CO2-emissions per bus—a perfect fit for the ambitious GreenDOT initiative. Cost-efficiency goes beyond weight economy, of course. The best modular solutions guarantee time-saving integration into the vehicle and are also flexible enough in design to adapt easily to the special requirements of each fleet. The science of balance: The basics of seating everybody Seventy years of experience in the bus seat sector have proven again and again that the best seat is a successful amalgamation of the needs and wants of riders, operators and bus builders. Whether it is a selfsupporting shell seat for the city or a lush luxury coach model, the ideal seat is a harmonious, well-balanced combination of great design and proven safety, providing operators with a most irresistible “cost of ownership”. Jürgen Mill is senior VP of Engineering and R&D at the Global Headquarters of
the Kiel Group.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SEAT SAFETY, PART 1
The science of intelligent absorption By Jürgen Mill One of the fundamental dualities in the transportation industry is the balance between safety and comfort. At the core of every engineering and design concept there needs to be a consideration how something as visible as comfort can support something as important as safety—and vice versa. To make things even more complicated, seat safety really is a catchall phrase that means a lot of different things to different stakeholders: Owners look for a seat’s compliance with various regulations and recommendations like the FMVSS 210 or 302. Recently, our customers in the bus and coach industry show an increased interest even in Docket A testing for flammability and smoke emissions, which used to be a common requirement for our clients in the rail sector only. Operational safety is most important for the driver and maintenance crew who need to be able to adjust, move, and clean seats easily. Similarly, bus builders prefer seats that can be installed without complicated and possibly dangerous lifting procedures. And of course, passengers of all sizes and mobility levels need to be able to rely on a seat made with fabrics that are inherently bacteria-resistant, seat backs and grab bars that are ergonomically designed to be kind to the spine and hands, and an overall design that will protect riders from injuries and whiplash in case of an impact. Safer materials and engineering technologies are evolving constantly. Kiel for example, conducts extensive durability, fire safety and crash tests based on (among others) homologation standards to continually improve the safety and comfort of its products. A reputable seating provider should also have at its disposal a network of technically advanced, established R&D collaborators and a group of reliable, topquality independent testing facilities. The science of controlled plasticity When safety and comfort form a perfect balance, the best seats create a protective survival space. This means that the seat is strong enough to withstand the forces of an impact but also flexible enough to absorb the energy of the impact intelligently. Based on numerous testing results over a long period of time, we have seen that the approach of “controlled plasticity” is the best protection against whiplash and other potentially serious injuries. In order to comply with and/or exceed high North American safety standards, it is important to understand that one of the pillars of creating a robust-but-flexible seat is the use of high-grade materials that are extensively tested to exceed specific requirements. Within the context of controlled flexibility of materials, Kiel has been pioneering
Passengers of all sizes and mobility levels need to be able to rely on a seat’s safety.
the integration of premium alloy metals like special engineered aluminums that will enter the state of plasticity more voluntarily and with minimal fractures compared to other commonly used metals with strengths of 700 millipascal and more. Obviously, a passenger in a seat in which everything gets bent just so slightly but in a controlled manner has a far better chance of escaping an impact unharmed than in a rigid, stiff “seat machine” that literally explodes uncontrollably. In addition to the carefully engineered plasticity of materials, the seat’s upper-back section needs special attention as well when it comes to the integration of comfort and safety. A clean design that offers as little obstruction as possible in the area of the head and upper-seat back is of greatest importance since something as harmless as a coat hanger or grab bar can become a most dangerous force to the head in case of an accident. These accessories, as well as TVs and tablets, should be positioned on the side or well below the head level in the seat back. Another small but important detail are edges. A minimum of 0.2 inches (or 5 millimeters) as a general rounding rule by which all edges are just slightly curved reduces injuries from components like tables and arm rests tremendously. Lastly but just as important is a factor that is often overlooked: the utilization of skilled workmanship by a highly trained workforce. For Kiel, being able to oversee the entire manufacturing process from research and the initial design stages, to material sourcing, testing, and finally production has been a huge advantage. Employees who have learned their respective trades thoroughly, tend to take great pride in their quality craftsmanship and will give even the smallest details their utmost attention. Jürgen Mill is senior VP of engineering and R&D at the global headquarters of the Kiel Group. Kiel is a trendsetting seat provider to transit systems around the world including seating solutions for buses and trains on the local, regional, and intercity level. Visit www.kielna.com .
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THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SEAT SEAT SAFETY – PART TWO
The science of the three-point seat belt By Jürgen Mill Since the majority of new over-the-road buses will need FMVSS 210-compliant three-point-safety belts, it’s important to note that they are perhaps the greatest single device in making transportation safer. When the first three-point seat belts became mandatory for motorcoaches in many European countries about 25 years ago, we started to develop seats that work in conjunction with seat belts to create the safest solution possible—not only for the passenger in the seat itself, but also for the surrounding riders. Following the principle that the most protective survival space is created when materials are allowed to bend rather than uncontrollably explode, we have focused our research on the “controlled plasticity” of the seat and the seat belt. When it comes to FMVSS 210 testing, several reputable coach builders have started to require suppliers to not only meet but also exceed the NHTSA mandates by at least 10 percent. While this ensures important safety standards for the belt’s strength of anchorage and its ability to restrain the passenger in the seat, it does not take into account that the seat belt can actually fulfill another crucial function. By using its forward-pulling force, the shoulder part of the three-point belt can also initiate a calculated deformation of the seat back to reduce critical head and knee injuries to the passenger in the seat behind. The engineered ‘warp’ of the back of the seat requires not only the use of highest grade materials that will reliably enter this state voluntarily without breaking but also the most rigorous quality management and consistent safeguarding of the Conformity of Production (COP). Even little variances in material behavior can add up, so it’s best to partner with a manufacturer with a healthy habit of ensuring the quality of materials throughout the entire manufacturing process at all times and at all production plants. It has been a general challenge for seating manufacturers to extend the FMVSS 210 safety standards to slider seat models that accommodate passengers in wheelchairs. The seats, which seem notorious for the difficulties in installation and handling they present, need to show the reliability of a firmly installed seat yet be flexible enough to slide away effortlessly—all while complying with current seat-belt safety requirements. Using self-aligning, foot-operated technology with stainless steel legs has allowed us to offer a slider seat that does not only completely fulfill the NHTSA safety standards, but exceeds even the stricter FMVSS 210 requirements mandated by coach builder Motor Coach Industries, for example. Don’t forget two of the most overlooked items when it comes to seat-belt safety in coach seats. It is preferable to opt for seat belts and anchorages that are not integrated into the seat foam itself, for the simple reason that it will take a lot more time and effort to repair or exchange a malfunctioning seat-belt system that is integrated into the seat (as it almost always involves removing the entire seat from the vehicle). Additionally, non-integrated seat belts also allow for the use of a height adjuster for smaller passengers and tend to stay cleaner because dirt cannot get trapped in inaccessible slots. Because only the safest seats save lives, it is also important to ensure that the seat-belt buckles always close toward the aisle. While it 6
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Test dummies in the top two stills are wearing no seat belts (15) and lap belts only (17). A three-point-belt combined with the controlled warp of the seat’s back reduces the risk of injuries greatly for passengers in the front and back seat (70).
tends to be a bit more involved for the seat manufacturer to deliver slightly different seats for each side of the aisle, it is worth ensuring that emergency personnel can access the belt buckle in the easiest and fastest way possible. Those seconds may make a crucial difference. Jürgen Mill is senior VP of engineering and R&D at the global headquarters of the Kiel Group. Kiel is a trendsetting seat provider to transit systems around the world including seating solutions for buses and trains on the local, regional and intercity level. Visit www.kielna.com
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SEAT
works to improve fuel efficiency By Jürgen Mill
The virtues of fuel efficiency Although the use of public transportation is saving over 4 billion gallons of fuel annually that would otherwise end up in the gas tanks of private vehicles, the combined fuel consumption of motorcoaches in North America alone is enough to fill up almost all of the 110 floors of the Willis Tower to its 390 million-gallon capacity. The volatile cost of fuels, combined with rising operational costs, is enough to make operators explore more fuel-efficient options for their fleets. Additionally, state, federal and local mandates for reduced carbon emissions and better air quality push for an ever increasing fuel efficiency in today’s vehicles. Reducing vehicle weight is one of the most effective ways to save on fuel costs, and the EPA estimates that for every 100 pounds taken off a vehicle, its fuel economy increases by 1-2 percent. Less weight can also mean less wear and tear on the vehicle’s axles and breaks, for example, and therefore a longer service life. Science diet for seats An empty 45-foot coach weighs about 50,000 pounds (passengers plus baggage may add another 30 percent) but it is extremely challenging or almost impossible for bus builders to alter their triedand-proven technology to shed off pounds. More likely, it is the seat manufacturer who can bring value into the equation by offering a lightweight seat that fulfills every safety requirement while satisfying customer expectations for exceptional comfort and great design. After all, every pound shaved off one seat quickly adds up if multiplied 50 or 55 times. Over the last 15 years, Kiel seats have lost about 30 percent of their weight and the company continues to invest much of its R&D into the advancement of lighter materials. Kiel’s ESOS for example (a versatile model for city buses) weighs only 26 pounds per double seat, and despite its luxurious looks, the popular coach seat Avance 2050 weighs only 60 pounds (per double seat with aluminum rails). Compared to an average 75-pound double seat, the 15-pound difference reduces the overall bus weight by over 400 pounds per 55-seat set. Saving weight and saving lives A great way to bridge the dichotomy of comfort vs. safety (and to satisfy the strict North American requirements for material strength) is to implement high-grade materials and engineering concepts that absorb energy (e.g., from an impact) more intelligently by entering a carefully calculated state of controlled plasticity.
Lightweight seats save fuel: IndyGo’s new electric fleet is equipped with a low-weight Kiel seat model (25 pounds per double seat) for city buses. Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation.
Metals like high-alloy steel and a special engineered aluminum are crucial for a successful lightweight design, as they can be processed into thinner sheets (which saves weight) while maintaining their excellent plasticity characteristics (which saves lives). The goal of “intelligent absorption design” is always to integrate metals that do not break like a brittle piece of Wasa bread but rather like a piece of chewed bubble gum that has the capability to deform without compromising structure.
The light coach seat model used in a MassDOT commuter program reduced the amount of fuel needed by about 4 percent. Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
What is good for fuel efficiency, it turns out, is equally good for the safety of passengers. The future of fuel-efficient seat design The research of new materials and their usefulness as lightweight design material is an exciting field for engineers and one with considerable depth. The automobile industry has started working with metal foams that weigh only a fraction of traditional metal sheets. In addition to being true lightweight wonders, they also exhibit phenomenal material strengths and safety features as tiny air bubbles sandwiched between the outer sheets act as “mini-airbags.” While their application in the bus and rail industry is still a bit further into the future, it is never too soon to start thinking about new ways to implement these metals into an even lighter seat design. Jürgen Mill is senior VP of engineering and R&D at the global headquarters of the Kiel Group. Kiel is a trendsetting seat provider to transit systems around the world including seating solutions fort buses and trains on the local, regional and intercity level. Visit www.kielna.com
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THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SEAT
The science of style and design By Jürgen Mill Whether it’s a blind date or a job interview, everyone knows that first impressions count. Within the blink of an eye, or one-tenth of a second as research confirms, we subconsciously evaluate a situation and our reactions are greatly based on those judgments—and entering a city bus or motorcoach for the first time is no exception. Before they even sit down, passengers will have decided if the environment is comfortable and inviting, if it makes them feel safe and relaxed. A seat is, as much as we as industry professionals like to extol the safety features or fuel economy of a vehicle, really and truthfully the only aspect of a vehicle that thousands of riders a day will interact with and form a qualified opinion about. The seat as connection to the customer The seat is the part that makes everyone, from bus builder to passenger, an expert – whether they are sitting down just a few minutes during a daily commute or spending many hours traveling in a motorcoach seat. The design of a seat is the connection where all stakeholders come together and where, ideally, ideas and input flow both directions. Just how important the expert opinions of passengers are, is reflected by the fact that many transit systems will launch a survey or use feedback from social media during pilot phases on how riders feel about items like color of the seats, the texture of the cover material, and their overall comfort level to make adjustments if necessary before overhauling or replacing the entire fleet. This is exactly why Kiel has been collaborating with professional designers for many decades who feel that their responsibility is to be the “representative” of the passenger and ensure that technology follows design in order to create a seat that optimally serves the intended purpose, rather than passengers having to compromise their comfort levels adapting to the seat. Contemporary and timeless The challenge is to make a seat’s design as modern, inviting and functional today as well as for 10 or 15 years down the road. Granted, colors and materials that we perceive as trendy now will change over the years as general tastes fluctuate, so designing a seat that can be updated easily and inexpensively to remain modern and harmonious is a crucial advantage. Similarly, the seat’s style needs to appeal to riders from across all ages and backgrounds, and strike a democratic design balance so that, for example, older and younger passenger alike feel like the seat “gets them,” understands their needs and preferences and transports them in a better and more supportive way to where they need to go. In this sense, seats are almost part of an urban design or fashion that ignites the attention of trendsetters as much as getting the “approval” of more conservative minds. However, quality design and style speaks to more than just our visual senses, and again, long before the passenger sits down. Within the first few moments of embarking, riders will also be able to smell, hear and feel a seat’s design attributes. Even the smallest details are essential parts of a seat’s overall success. 8
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1. Modular seating design that leaves plenty of room for customization: passengers judge a seat by its (leather) cover, as in this example with Arrow Stage Lines whose company logo is embossed on a metal plate in the upper seat back. Seat colors reflect the company colors. Copyright: Arrow Stage Lines. 2. Styling that invites the senses: all parts of the seat are equally important in creating a positive experience for the customer. Details like rounded edges and the tactile feeling of grab handles and tables are an essential part of quality design. Copyright: Kiel North America. 3. First impressions count: whether it’s for a few minutes during the daily commute or for long distance travel, a clean and contemporary design makes it easy for passengers to embark on the (design) journey. Copyright: IndyGo.
For example, the tactile sensation of the fabric should be a pleasantly smooth and clean feeling. Sitting down or moving the seat or seat accessories, like armrests and tables, also needs to be as noiseless and effortless for the user as possible. Edges and outlines should feel organic to the seat’s design and invite use through their rounded feel and general unobtrusiveness. Design benefits for bus builders and operators Not coincidentally, these are also features that operators value highly as they ensure that the seat is easy to clean, operate, and maintain for years to come. Lightweight seating design is not only an ideal boon to the fuel-economy of a vehicle or fleet, the streamlined silhouette is also a big plus for the ergonomics of the seat and the ease of operation, especially in the case of a slider seat that glides away effortlessly to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs. Bus builders, too, can work best and most efficiently if the design of the seat ensures an easy, time-saving installation process that works in a variety of different settings. Modular seating solutions have the advantage to adapt easily and effortlessly to fit customized needs while also being budget-conscious. For over 20 years, Kiel designers and engineers have worked closely together to create design-informed quality-engineered seating solutions that work so well because their function follows their smart, well thought-out form. Jürgen Mill is senior VP of engineering and R&D at the global headquarters of the Kiel Group. Kiel is a trendsetting seat provider to transit systems around the world including seating solutions fort buses and trains on the local, regional and intercity level. Visit www.kielna.com.