A lecture at Taipei Tech. July 2017

Current situation in Japan of experimental and product ergonomics

― based on 10 years of actual achievements as president of a venture company doubling as a university professor ―

Professor Emeritus Kageyu Noro, Dr. Eng.

Waseda University

Ergoseating, Ltd

Words of appreciation

I’d like to express my sincere respect and appreciation to the nation of Taiwan for their large amount of swift donations for victims of the Kumamoto earthquake in April, 2016.

Objectives of my talk

Presently, Taiwan and Japan are closely connected through economic activities. My talk deals with the significance of promoting ergonomics that is useful for supporting interaction between two countries.

1  Introduction of myself along with self-owned venture company

Affairs conducted as a university professor:

-        Coaching of medical doctors and researchers with its achievements presented mainly at Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft(GfA) ,

-        Development last year and this year of pillows,

-        Announcement planned next year of a newly developed chair,

-        Education and schooling, including lecture and training at Design Department of Munich University of Applied Sciences.

Achievements as a business operator:

-        Examples of product development:

²  Experimental scenes (Oct. 2006) for Daimler “a development of intuitive control devices”,

²  Experimental scenes (2007) in the development of JAL aircraft seat,

²  Experimental scenes of recent seat-development:

  • Seats for planetariums (2015),
  • Surgery chair (2017).

²  Features to be proud of: developed products mostly having a long life:

  • Pelvic support zabuton (cushion), since 2004 up to now,
  • Ergonomic pen, since 2006 up to now.

2  Future prospect and challenges in ergonomics in Japan

2.1 Challenges facing Japan Ergonomics Society

The number of JES members has been drastically getting smaller these five years. A remarkable decrease is seen in the number of those from industries.

Reference Number of members about 2000 (2016)

This is caused from a decline in their expectations toward ergonomic research in academia, running counter to an increase in interest from industries in ergonomics. The phenomenon is linked with a trend in industries for their staff on their own

to conduct their research deemed necessary for meeting their ergonomic needs. This reflects the fact that the academic society fails to enhance ergonomics to a state-of-the-art level unachievable by industry staff alone as well as to publicly campaign significance of ergonomics.

For example, there are a growing number of people nowadays who are interested in how to live a heathy life. However, the roles ergonomics is expected to play for keeping health remain uncertain. Ergonomics useful for bedding design, which is closely related to sleeping as a basic factor of health, is left unexplored. The reasons will include a failure of ergonomics in Japan to get out of physiological and/or technological studies, as exemplified by an insufficiency of collaborative work with medical doctors, especially experts of clinical medicine.

2.2 Necessity of product ergonomics

Ergonomics has an important role to play for supporting economic and industrial activities. For example, Asahi Glass Co., Ltd. performed an ergonomic research on easiness of rolling-overs in mattresses in a bed to make their way to the American urethan foam market by developing concerned material with innovative properties. 1)

In promotion of product ergonomics, lots of affairs have to be clarified in relation to economic situations, including who to bear required funds. A project won’t move ahead unless a variety of issues are resolved, such as an assumption of sales amount and quantity, and how to persuade internal opponents. Ergonomists won’t make any contribution to required solution if they keep staying in laboratory offices of academia. Creation anew of any products, on the other hand, would lead to a meaningful consequence coupled with employment growth.

2.3 Industrial design as a competitor

Forty to fifty years ago, industrial designers made their way where product ergonomics is supposed to create a path. The founding (1957) of Good Design Award by the government is one of the examples. Meanwhile, ergonomics has progressed providing relevant laboratories in universities whereby a large number of students have been given educational opportunities. Therefore, those involved are unfamiliar with means for acquiring customers (enterprises) and/or for public campaign.

In the case of consumer products, excellence in design is regarded in Japanese industries as a generally accepted requirement for attracting customers, leading to a success in product development. Applying ergonomics for product design, however, would lead to an increase in cost of production, which is hated by corporate management.

Ergonomics, when applied to industrial design, has two specific advantages in terms of acquiring interest from industry: one is its higher level of knowledge on musculoskeletal and/or postural systems; and the other provision of scientific evidence in the form of measured data.

2.4  Prospects of ergonomics demand

Demand for ergonomics is growing viewed from a certain perspective. A remarkable growth is seen in recent years in the rate of internet shopping in the EC market and/or mail order shopping. Products for sale on the EC market are treated without any hand touch. This fact tends to emphasize ergonomic characteristics of products   aiming to advance credibility from customers, thereby resulting in a growing demand for experimental ergonomics.

reference: The EC market size in 2016 for Japanese consumers is up 9.9% from the previous year to \15, 135.8 bil., which is expected to expand further from now on, causing an increase in demand for ergonomics. However, the ergonomics asked for at this stage is quite different from the one in the past; research work more closely linked with the market needs, or product ergonomics will be required. What needs to be developed, for instance, is a sofa that would maintain giving the same seat comfort even when it is divided into three pieces.

3  What is required for student education and advising

In addition to conventional ergonomics, suggested is to learn:

-       Means for reducing production cost,

-       How to develop a product that sells well,

-       Knowledge about the market,

-       Methods for communicating with employees from affiliated companies, factory workers, and craftworkers,

-       Knowledge about raw materials and processing methods.

4  Company business model

4.1 Research side                Medicine-Engineering Model

Optimization of the alignment between musculoskeletal system and chair in radiography image

4.2 Sales side                      Old Japanese Cormorant-fishing Model

Our business model is very much like an old Japanese cormorant-fishing model, in which a fisher handles tamed cormorants(ukai) in a skillful manner to get freshwater fish such as sweetfish(ayu)

. Our company deals with sales companies (cormorants) to get loyalty (sweetfish) out of them.

5  Proposal to Taiwan

I’d like to propose development of commercially attractive ergonomic products in collaboration with you.


1.  Mattress Development through a Participatory Ergonomics Approach, Kageyu Noro1, Takayuki Sasaki and Daisuke Kaku2

1Waseda University and ErgoSeating Co., Ltd, 2Asahi Glass Co., Ltd.

Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 53rd Annual Meeting 2009 p630-634

2 Kageyu Noro, Tetsuya Naruse, Rani Lueder, Nobuhisa Nao-i and Maki Kozawa,  Application of Zen sitting principles to microscopic surgery seating, Applied Ergonomics, 43, (2012) 308-319

3 Medical ergonomics: product development based on collaboration between medicine and engineering.

Noro ,Oyama & Toyoda 2014 Industrial Engineering Summit  San Francisco

4 Ergonomic Design of pillows,Hideki OYAMA1, Manami NOZAKI 2, Kageyu NORO3

Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft(Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft(GfA) ) 2017

Corresponding author: HAG02334@nifty.com

Web. : www.ergoseating.jp