A Comforting Invention

September 9, 2007
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ADA TOWNSHIP — From boat seats to stacking chairs, the company’s patent-pending product has a nearly endless list of uses, because everybody sits.

On top of that, it has the potential to change how everybody sits wherever they may be.

The JP Moll Co. has begun to market an ergonomically designed inner-seat concept that took the firm six years to develop. The Ada Township marketer claims its inner seat has broad applications. Consumer industries like the airlines and theaters are just two of the company’s target markets. Off-road vehicle, boating, auto and military uses are on the list, too.

The company’s inner seat product was originally created for the boating industry as a way to reduce or even eliminate low-frequency seating impacts that can cause discomfort in the lower back region. Not too long into the seat’s development, the firm realized that its idea could be applied to all facets of life whether at work, at play or at home, because lower back pain can arise in all settings.

Right now, JP Moll Co. is talking about its inner seat to two manufacturers. The product, though, isn’t really what the firm is selling. The company is promoting the concept of comfort.

“Comfort really comes from reducing or eliminating pressure points as someone sits, which enhances long-term seating comfort. So the design of the system basically addresses that by a simple concept,” said Jeff Wilcox, JP Moll Co. senior project manager, who has 25 years of experience in the seating industry.

“I ended up looking at an inner system because the foam by itself is not very supportive, and certainly, over time, breaks down. That breaking down increases the pressure points, and the pressure points cause discomfort. I would call this inner-seat system an ergonomically, dynamically active seat,” he added.

JP Moll Co. President Jack Moll, who has been with the company since 1976, said the whole process started after his firm heard of seating complaints from the boating industry. The thought was that if the company could deliver comfort to boaters who regularly get bounced around, it could deliver it to everyone.

“When you look at that, you’re looking at speed and rough water, and you’re looking at a particular position that they use to run these boats that really isn’t conducive to a healthy situation for the back and the bottom, and there are a lot of complaints about that,” said Moll.

“Addressing that and having an opportunity to create a better seat is how this was initiated. We worked with a lot of different components like shock absorbers, which really weren’t cost effective, and got into this part of the ergonomic factor that proves to be really beneficial, not only cost-wise but performance-wise,” he said.

JP Moll has developed three versions of its inner seat for boating, non-boating and off-road/military uses, and has trademarked a different name for each. But, eventually, the biggest selling version may turn out to be the one for non-boating uses, especially if the firm can convince the airlines to buy it. That may be a tough sell, though, as airline executives have traditionally been more interested in cabin aesthetics than seating comfort.

A recent national news report, however, said domestic airlines are starting a new exercise program on flights that last four hours or longer. Sitting in an airline seat for that length of time can cause a serious condition known as deep vein thrombosis in the legs of some people, meaning a blood clot forms that can travel into the lungs. The airlines are encouraging fliers to exercise their legs during cross-country and overseas flights. Deep vein thrombosis contributes to the deaths of about 200,000 people annually.

The airlines might be interested in hearing from JP Moll because its product relieves pressure points, which, in turn, improves blood flow. Pressure points can hinder blood from freely traveling to and from the legs, and relieving those points helps to keep arteries open.

“Jeff worked on that extensively with this system and did that with our pressure mapping and to prove that this product obviously contributes to helping that factor. Most of these people are predisposed to blood clotting, but getting on an airplane and flying for an extended period of time exacerbates it,” said Moll.

The current method of seating construction uses foam padding and is known as a sling seat; it has been in use for more than a century. So it would be fair to call the JP Moll concept “revolutionary.” But perhaps the best facet of the firm’s seating system is that it will work for all sizes of bottoms. The system consists of two panels united by a flex area, similar to a hinge, with springs located near the “cheekbones.”

“The distance between the cheekbones is about an inch. When you see people that are very large and you see people that are very small, that distance doesn’t change. The inner structure stays the same; the outer structure and the look changes.

“You can have someone that weights 300 or 400 pounds and that inch difference is about the same as the smallest person,” said Wilcox.

“Using pressure mapping, the very highest loading is at the cheekbones. What we’re trying to do is get a resilient response to that loading so it alleviates or reduces the load and spreads it over a greater area.”

Wilcox said marketing the product so far has been like trying to push a rope uphill, and he thinks the firm needs to make its appeals to end users, like pharmaceutical companies have done, to get the seat off the ground.

In this case, that means talking with suppliers to the airline and other targeted industries. But Moll said they are making progress.

“We are having some very interesting discussions with two local companies. They’re quite large and are in two different venues, as far as their products are concerned. But it will and does fit in their venues quite well, and their interest is pretty good,” he said.

“But it takes time. It takes time for the understanding, to introduce this and to have the recognition of the value of it. It doesn’t have to scream ‘out-of-the-box’ and be in thousands and thousands of pieces. That’s not what it’s about.”    

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