Interview about the RUCK practice concept

Interview with Michael Fürtsch and Simeon Ruck

Michael Fürtsch and Simeon Ruck Simeon RuckMichael Fürtsch

When did the idea of a new practice concept take form?
SR: From the start, we were determined to re-design an entire practice concept from scratch. The basic idea is about three years old. This may seem a long time, however, it was our aim to present truly mature and innovative products, so we based the entire development process on this idea.

MF: To think outside the box - a concept we embraced ever since we started developing the “RUCK MOBILSYSTEM”. Our customers appreciate this holistic approach. Therefore, we wanted to present a complete practice concept and not just a new chair.

Who participated in the new construction?
MF: In the beginning, it was a company project team. At a later point, external consultants, designers, and engineers were also involved. Of course, project management was Simeon’s and my main task.

SR: It is highly unrealistic to assume that a small team would be able to carry out the complete developing effort of a project of this scope. It is mandatory for the project success to have reliable engineering partners, i.e. the technical department.

MF: ...luckily, we found partners who were able to support us with brilliant technical solutions, i.e. experienced mechanical engineers.

Was there a requirement catalogue for chairs, furniture, stools?
MF: Of course, we first agreed on a rough roadmap. However, it is important to view a development of this magnitude as an on-going process where many steps can only be concretized within the course of the project.

SR: We took a look at the market and drew our conclusions from this observation. The question “How does the customer work” was also important to us. Combining these two factors revealed were improvements or changes were necessary. The resulting specifications with all necessary developments were based on these findings.

MF: It is important to formulate concrete aims. Low entry height, work level, rotatability, etc. are guidelines, however, they do not suffice to really improve a product. To me, it was extremely important to have a “mental playground” to think outside the box. Obviously, it is possible that ideas might fail, however, this is how innovations are achieved. Prototypes are great to provide important insight into function and technology during the testing phase.

Was the developing process trouble-free or were there obstacles?
MF: From time to time we encountered “dead ends”, however, in all cases, we were able to come up with even better solutions. Obstacles encouraged us to find new ways for our project phases.

SR: Example: The chair’s lifting system. The benchmark was a load capacity of 250 kg; something we weren’t able to achieve in the beginning. However, it was a personal aim of mine to realize this specific demand. To me, the basic requirements were low entry height, extreme working level, extreme durability, and few high-maintenance parts. To achieve all this with just one motor is an absolutely innovative feature on the market; patent pending.

MF: Our chairs also profit from the scissor lift construction principle; albeit with only one motor, not the traditional two motors, and therefore maintenance-friendly. We were also able to solve the centring problem with a specific compensatory element mounted on ball bearings that practically replaces the second motor.

How did you come up with the idea of using plywood?
SR: At first, there was the idea of creating a more sustainable product. This requires the reduction of plastic elements; especially the covers and the lining. This is where wood came into play. We decided to make the wooden elements a core RUCK characteristic, to represent the idea of sustainability.

MF: Scandinavian furniture design is a classic example of timeless style. There is a desire for more naturalness, honesty, something genuine in our digital age - wood is perfect for haptic perceptions.

SR: It was exciting for us to learn how to reconcile wood and medical requirements. Most of all, disinfection resistance was an issue. However, cooperating with a renowned plywood manufacturer quickly made clear that our concerns were unfounded. For many years now, plywood elements are well established in clinical and rehabilitation practices and have proven to be absolutely resistant, appropriate varnish provided.

MF: The decisive factor is the mechanical cleaning and not so much the cleaning medium used. All surfaces can be damaged by abrasive methods using coarse synthetic sponges.

SR: Synthetic elements that turn yellow and brittle over time are genuine system-inherent problems. This is another reason why we decided in favour of plywood elements. The varnish is water-based, food-safe, and biologically harmless.

Are plywood elements “just” a design characteristic?
MF: No, in our products, they are load-bearing components, e.g. for back support, and are exceptionally well suited due to their form stability. Screw connections are also adhesively secured and are therefore suited for maximum loads.

SR: Plywood chairs in stadiums or in conference halls are a good example here. Cantilever chairs do not bear other specific constructive features and are resistant to tremendous stresses. Plastic can be worn out, plywood cannot.

MF: Naturally, form stability depends on the production process. Which kind of wood is being used? Which adhesive is used to join the wooden layers and how does the pressing procedure work? Thanks to the cooperation with our plywood manufacturer we can easily guarantee the best possible quality and longevity.

Have there been technical improvements to the chairs?
SR: It was never our aim to reach “higher, further, faster”. We consider final heights sensible as far as they are useful. The customer’s added value is our priority. Optimized entry and final heights are a matter of course. With which part of a chair does a pedicurist work the most? Naturally, these are the foot rests. This is the main element of the chair and therefore, we focussed on it. Teflon bearings, extremely smooth hinges, detachable calves rests, lateral shift - a combination of detailed solutions to facilitate precise work. To me, these are the chairs’ “big points”.

Are optional extras available?
MF: The pedal control via solenoid switch is - compared to the rotary know a major improvement. This is even exceeded by the new pedal control with memory function for three programmable configurations. The many additional ergonomic working possibilities easily justify the extra cost of 350 €.

SR: The new foot pedal is an additional feature optimally suited for both podiatric and cosmetic applications. However, the solenoid switch is certainly the best option for pedicurists. Additionally, there is a “patient's switch” with which she can choose her most comfortable position.

From chairs to furniture. What's new?
MF: We created a new overall concept; a modified appearance with plywood elements, and a new design. The striking features are the metal side elements where waste containers, disinfectant dispensers, or handpiece shelves can simply be attached magnetically.

Is it possible to customize the chairs?
SR: Everything was reviewed in order to determine the necessities. Quickly, it became clear that only a modular system would be able to take all the individual wishes and requirements into account. Which forms and geometries are necessary? The differences between podiatric and cosmetic requirements are vast. Therefore, we developed the “built your chair as needed” approach. The principle is based on a high quality frame, pneumatic springs in various heights, and free choice of seat elements and back rests. Moreover, the tried and tested “Bioswing System” has been integrated in to RUCK’s line of treatment chairs.

Are there practice tests available for the newly constructed products?
MF: Specifically, for the chairs this was a very important development. We have conducted continuous in-house prototype testing. The usability tests stipulate extensive tests through external persons. For many weeks, the new chair was intensively tested in “real-time conditions” in a podiatric practice.

SR: Besides, in order to certify the new chair, standards and regulations had to be met. An independent authority conducts the certification. An example: If the chair’s load requirement is 250 kg; it will be tested with its fourfold nominal load; i.e. 1,000 kg. In addition, life-cycle tests of all moving parts will be conducted under full load.

Have you already received customer reviews for your new products?
SR: We just returned from the trade fair in Düsseldorf, were we presented our new practice concept. I have never seen such excitement for our products before. During the talks and meetings with interested parties, we often heard the statement, “you really thought of everything”. To us, this feedback was highly motivating. In one case, a customer just wanted to purchase a foot care unit. However, she was so excited about the new chairs and the furniture that she spontaneously placed an order for complete practice equipment.

MF: The feedback we received during the trade fair was very satisfying after three years’ of development work. Without the customers’ feedback we would run the risk of becoming too self-involved in our work.

SR: It was also very interesting for us to learn what our customers liked best in our new products. They highly appreciated the magnetic side elements of the furniture that allow for a individual placement of accessories. In the chairs, the liked little things, like the detachable calves rests or - among others - the new foot pedal. This pedal has now become an essential feature of our new chairs.

Are there new developments to be expected at RUCK? May be some more new ideas?
SR: Now, we take the time for a breather. Although we have many more ideas in stock, this new practice concept is a milestone for RUCK. Manufacture and Sales are ready and we will have to wait and see how the market reacts to RUCK’s new practice concept. However, after the first trade fair impressions, we are rather optimistic.