How Amazon’s bookstores are changing the landscape of retail

By now, everyone basically knows about Amazon and how it dominates so much of the online retail market; with them delivering all over the world with the most advanced tracking systems and assurances of security, many have switched to shopping in this way. Yet, now Amazon has made its way into the physical space and this has led to numerous implications for how we consider the distinction between online and offline engagement.

Known simply as Amazon Books, the first store opened in Seattle, at the beginning of this month. As QZ reports, the store “will offer … the chance to thumb through thousands of titles selected by a mixture of big data algorithms and human curators.”

Of course the immediate concern is whether this means shopping online or offline is more beneficial, but, as QZ states “book prices in the physical store will be the same as they are online.”

It is encouraging of physical presence, as The Atlantic notes: “Amazon Books, like a Barnes & Noble of yore, comes complete with plush leatherette chairs for relaxed reading. There are open areas for browsing and chatting. There’s a kids’ area. “ This means it will offer the best of bost worlds: offline and online. That is, offering comfort, indulging in reading and gathering, while operating with the latest point of sale software, updates and reviews, online competitive prices and so on.

There has been a lot of discussion of what this means to retailers all over. Is this a library of the future? Is it a huge threat to the books business or a massive boon? And what does this mean for offline and online selling?

Nathaniel Mott writing in Gigaom notes: “Retailers could [try] emulating Amazon Books’ model of automatically price-matching items sold in their stores to items sold on their websites. Right now there’s no guarantee that a Walmart store will match the price of an item sold on Walmart.com, for example, and other stores have similar policies. It’s almost like retailers actually want shoppers to treat their stores like showrooms.”

As Mott notes, most people use their smartphones everywhere they go, including shopping. When we see an item in store that interests us, we use our phones to check its quality and price comparison to its competitors. Often, if the purchase is not urgent, people will opt to simply purchase it later, for cheaper, online – this means that physical stores do just become glorified showrooms rather than areas where people purchase. This is detrimental to the business since it means the operating costs of a physical space are used to basically just showcase items people will buy online!

Amazon, then, accordingly to experts, has the right idea: it’s recognised that there is no significant distinction between offline and online “life” – but there are aspects to both that can’t be done in the other. For example, you can’t physically interact with a book on Amazon’s site. But by leveraging the benefits of online shopping with offline, Amazon is taking the best of both worlds to facilitate better purchasing and convenience for everyone.

 

Effective ergonomics will keep employees happy – and save money too

workplaceErgonomics is a concept that is being paid much greater heed in today’s workplace.

Whereas in the past employees’ complaints about sore backs or straining eyes were largely ignored, companies now understand that the workplace needs to incorporate infrastructure and designs that make staff as comfortable as possible.

In fact, studies have shown that integrating ergonomics not only leads to a happier and healthier workforce, but also a profoundly positive impact on the financial well-being of the company.

According to renowned ergonomics consultant Dan MacLeod, effective ergonomics programmes in the United States have cut workers compensation costs on average of 60% and as much as 90%.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the largest category of workplace injuries, with compensation claims extending well beyond the $20-billion mark in the US each year.

While unfortunately figures for MSD compensation claims in South Africa are hard to come by, the National Institute for Occupational Health explains that musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limb are recognised as work-related.

“These are disorders of the shoulder, upper and lower arm, wrist and hand. Examples of upper limb musculoskeletal disorders are lateral epicondylitis, extensor tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. The jobs that are associated with these disorders include working in static posture, repetitive movements, extreme wrist flexion or extension and forceful exertions.”

For human resources professionals, it is essential that company owners are kept abreast of the latest ergonomic developments to ensure that everything is being done to eliminate health complaints of this nature.

From control consoles to office furniture, every aspect needs to be closely monitored. It is also worth noting that since each individual is different, taking a “generalised” approach to the purchase of office equipment is never a good idea.

Some of the aspects to look out for in an ergonomic office design include:

Seating: Chairs should be finished with a comfortable cushion, but more importantly, have the capacity to adjust both the seat and back height. The angle of the seating should be such that a worker’s posture is always aligned.

Desk height:  Too many workers sit “above” the workspace, looking down at their computers. This immediately places pressure on the neck, leading to MSD problems. Ideally, desks should be high enough so that the computer screen is at eye level.

Breaks: Ergonomics also takes into account human concentration levels. A person who sits all day staring at their computer without taking a break will invariably make mistakes. It is recommended that employees take a five minute break every half hour to an hour, and HR practitioners should convey this to their bosses. It is no good having high productivity levels if what is produced is riddled with errors.

  • MSDs are the single largest category of workplace injuries and are responsible for almost 30% of all worker’s compensation costs. (source: BLS)
  • S. companies spent 50 billion dollars on direct costs of MSDs in 2011. (source: CDC)
  • Indirect costs can be up to five times the direct costs of MSDs. (source: OSHA)
  • The average MSD comes with a direct cost of almost $15,000. (source: BLS)

The economic and human costs of MSDs are unnecessary. Musculoskeletal disorders are preventable.

In-car safety technology giving drivers peace of mind

cars

In-car technology has become part and parcel of designers’ considerations when conceptualising a new vehicle, but we often overlook that innovation extends beyond sound systems and GPS gadgetry.

For all the flashing lights and satellite correspondence, ensuring driver safety remains paramount in the mind of designers. That is why literally hundreds of hours are spent deliberating how safety features might be employed in the greater design schema.

Great advances have been made in this field, although that is also not to say that “standard” features have lost any of their importance. Rather, engineers have been looking at ways to improve them, so that risk of injury is greatly reduced and a motorist’s only concern would be seeking out the right panel beaters to repair the damaged vehicle.

The following protection systems are increasingly being found in most vehicles.

Crumple zones

As the motor car has evolved, so designers and engineers have come to understand exactly what happens during a collision. The impact in one collision might not be the same as another, which is why they have had to make provision for every possible scenario when crashes occur. The crumple zones, usually at the extreme front and back of a vehicle, are designed to “give way” easily, thereby absorbing some of the energy and protecting the driver and passengers.

Safety belts

The humble safety belt has itself come a long way. One of the first vehicle features identified by children because of their parents’ insistence that they “buckle up”, there is no telling how many lives have been saved because of them.  Modern safety belts have also fitted with pretensioners, which tighten the safety belt in a collision, and limiters which control a crash victim’s movements.

Airbags

Airbags are fitted in most modern vehicles, and are an effective way to cushion the blow of a collision, both for drivers and passengers. While the “bag” feature is what people are most familiar with, the real star of the show is the airbag sensor. According to Top Speed Racer, the sensor is “the mechanism that tells the bag it’s time to inflate, which generally requires the equivalent force of running into a brick wall at 10 – 15 mph.

“Sensors in newer airbag systems are designed to determine whether or not there is a person in the front passenger seat and whether or not the passenger has enough weight for the bag to be safely deployed.”

Pre-crash systems

Arguably the most advanced safety feature in today’s cars, the pre-crash system uses millimeter wave radar technology to “predict” if a collision is about to occur. This can be done in several ways. The radar will be able to detect any oncoming obstacles, or alternatively, some vehicles are able to monitor the driver’s actions and be able to recognise when panic levels are rising. The car automatically will tighten the seatbelts, reposition the seat so that the airbag might be deployed effectively and close windows to reduce the possibility that the driver or passengers will be ejected.

 

 

 

The life of a construction worker

Jonathan Zemeckis was a construction worker in Southern California for almost 20 years. He used to work as a fire sprinkler fitter through a local union based out of Whittier. His hands was all over the job as he designed, installed, and repaired automatic fire sprinkler systems in homes, restaurants, high-rises, and warehouses all over the Los Angeles area.

 

“At the time, the money was fantastic. But the money came with its own price, and I soon realized there were both positive and negative aspects of working as a construction worker. If you or someone you know is considering a career in the construction industry, be sure you know what you’re getting into,” he says.

 

The perks of the job

 

If you’re part of a local union and graduated from their apprenticeship program, you are more likely to earn a better salary than compared to a non-union counterparts. There is no need for sleek back hair-do’s or suits. Construction workers come in their rugged clothing and construction boots. Even if you’re the owner of the company, heavily seeking equipment finance for your company, you can even come to work in everyday clothes. The other great part is that your handwork you get to see every day of your life, developing and turning into something amazing. Your job instantly becomes who you are, you then provide shelter, provide job creation and set the precedent for great work.

 

The not so nice glamorous part

 

Construction sites are dangerous, you can say that it is like an extreme sport. You never know what the day will hold. People have seen many accidents where men step through an unseen hole in the roof and falling twenty feet to a concrete slab below. You may even witness people losing their fingers that are caught in machinery and then almost instantly ripped off. There is no guarantee that you won’t end up in the emergency ward a couple of times, but it comes with the territory.

 

You do end up leaving work exceptionally early every day as a construction worker at time, but on the flip side, it means you are getting up extra early every day, anywhere between 3:30 am and 5:30am. During summer months it’s awful in the hot su, and in winter time there is little to no work for you to do because of the rainy season.

 

There is no such thing as a dangerous job, if it danger that is your weakness. This job may be considered dangerous by many, but the men and women who get up every morning to do it need to be commemorated, because who else will do it if they won’t?

Physical security tips for your business

Cyber security has become more and more important in our digital age but let us not forget the importance of physical security as well. Even small businesses should care about being secure.

Have the right amount of security

Not every business needs the same amount of security. Some businesses need 24 hour surveillance and fulltime security personnel. Other businesses might just need some access control and anything beyond that would simply be unnecessary cost.

That is why you need to be professionally assessed to determine your specific security needs.

Use the right security company

If you are going to use a security company, and there is good reason to, make sure you find the right one. An inadequate security provider could have disastrous consequences. So how do you find the right service provider? Ask prospective companies these following questions:

  • How flexible is your contract?
  • How experienced is the company in physical security?
  • What does the risk assessment entail?
  • What training do personnel undergo?
  • How much security does my business actually need?

Explore access control options

Access control is going to be one of the focuses for your security and for good reason. Not only is access control used for securing the premises and protecting any goods on site, it can also be used to monitor movements, prevent internal theft, regulate pedestrian traffic and control crowds. What you need determines the access control solution for your business.

Access control ranges from turnstiles that control who goes where to man traps that are used in banks or jewellery stores where high level security is needed.

Establish and uphold security procedures

It is important that you plan and implement the necessary security protocols. It is also vital that your staff is aware of what they are and why they are important. You will then need to make sure that your security protocols are consistently being upheld.

It does no good having a security system in place that isn’t being followed to the letter. It only takes one slipup for disaster to hit. Don’t let that happen.

The importance of ergonomics in the control room

We can define ergonomics “as the science of matching work or tasks to the body.” Put in other words, the relationship between body posture and characteristics of work like repetition and force. Efficiency is something most businesses can appreciate; however, the importance of ergonomics is not as well understood yet.

A place where ergonomics is especially important is in security control rooms, where operators need to be attentive for long periods of time.

Why is ergonomics important in control room design?

Ergonomics isn’t just an airy fairy feel good idea invented by hippies. Ergonomics also has consequences for productivity. Therefore, ergonomics and efficiency are not two separate goals.

A control room is going to be operated by people. If those people fail, the control room fails and your security plan falls flat.

Control rooms are typically manned 24/7 and personnel spend long periods of time monitoring data. The application of detailed ergonomics data to the design is therefore of the utmost importance. Take into account the functional reach and interaction with interfaces and the sightlines and legibility of information displayed on screens. It is also important to look at noise, lighting levels and ambient temperature, and of course, the ergonomics of workstations and furniture.

The more your body or a part of your body is kept in an unnatural position, the greater the consequences of repetition and force can be. This can lead to injury or strain that can happen suddenly or happen over a long period, and it could range from the minor to the very serious.

About user-centred design

It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into a workstation if it doesn’t take into account the needs of its users, the operators. We call this user-centred design, which is a top-down approach. It takes into consideration issues like working environments, control consoles, equipment selection, operating practices, and furniture choices, and looks at it from the point of view of its operating demands. In other words, what the operator needs.

While creating a comfortable and agreeable work space, looking at control room ergonomics results in operators that are more alert and are less prone to errors when reviewing or responding to data. This means a tighter, better security plan.

All you should know about dashboard warning lights

 

 

Over the years cars have become more advanced in their technology. What you may see today on your dashboard, may have not appeared back in 1970 – the number of different dashboard warning lights has grown significantly. Modern electronic systems are constantly self-testing their stability therefore it’s important to note whether a warning light requires immediate attention or whether you can continue your journey.

 

Whether it’s pre-owned cars South Africa or pre-owned German cars, if a warning light comes on you should stop as soon as possible in a safe place. The car manual will give you a specific explanation regarding the meaning and action to take. Always ensure that the manual remains in the car at all times.

 

Oil pressure warning light

 

This light should illuminate when the ignition is switched on and should extinguish as soon as the engine starts. When the light happens to stay on after starting during a journey, stop the car and switch off the car and then your vehicle’s engine oil level. Once you’ve established that the oil levels are low, top up straight away. Seek further assistance if the light persists.

 

Battery charge warning light

 

This light should illuminate when the ignition is switched on and should extinguish as soon as the engine starts. If the light persists to illuminate while driving, it’s an indication that the battery is not charged. There may be fault with the car’s charging system. The battery may experience failure due to slack battery or starter terminal, an alternator failure, a broken or loose alternator drive belt.

 

If the drive belt is broken, it must be replaced before you restart the engine. The coolant system relies on the alternator drive belt so the failure could cause the engine to overheat, in turn causing engine damage. Once this occurs, move the vehicle to a safe location and switch off the engine.

 

Brake system warning light

 

This light will remain illuminated when the handbrake is engaged. Illumination after releasing the handbrake may indicate low brake fluid level. The vehicle’s manual will indicate which brake fluid to use, then bring the fluid level up to the MAX mark. Frequently check your brake fluid level to ensure there is no further rapid loss of fluid. You will note that the brake fluid is too low and the brake pedal travel is distinctly longer than usual, when one of the two hydraulic brake circuits may have failed. Always seek further assistance if you note that you have a problem.

What if it’s the last drop?

A boy runs to an outside tap to quench his thirst after playing soccer with his friends. The tap is metres away from the Jukskei River that runs through Alexandra township in Johannesburg; unknown to him is the fact that it is most polluted river in Southern Africa, mainly caused by human waste.

 

Who is to blame for this infringement on a basic right to have access to a sanitary water supply? AfriForum is pointing fingers at the South African government, and it is not looking pretty.

 

The warnings have gone out

 

AfriForum’s Head of Environmental Affairs, Julius Kleynhans has warned Government back in 2012 about the looming water crises that will be affecting all South Africans. They have urged Government to implement a proactive intervention to curb a water shortage.

 

Kleynhans claimed that there is about 3 642 million litres of sewage effluent that is being discharged daily into our rivers and dams, which means that 74% of wastewater management facilities are illegally polluting the country’s water resources.

 

The only solution available

 

There is clear focus on Government to create more civil engineering jobs, and that can only come from introducing scholars to this platform. There is an urgency for job creation, “This in a country where civil engineering jobs are a priority scarce skill,”- according to The South African Institution Of Civil Engineering (SAICE).

 

This of cause is not an immediate solution, but over time the investment in civil engineering jobs will pay off immensely. Until then, Kleynhans will continue to put the blame and pressure on the Department of Water and Sanitation for their  incompetence.

 

Kleynhans went on to say that, “The department only focuses on enforcing the law against the private industry and not against the majority of polluters. Government officials need to realise that the water crisis is due to bad management, bad policies, bad planning and once again, bad maintenance. AfriForum has no faith in the Department of Water and Sanitation to fix the problem.”

 

Pushing for results

 

According to Marcus Pawson, Provincial Coordinator for AfriForum in Southern Gauteng, AfriForum has the knowledge, capacity and direct access to the Municipality to enforce action. They have taken the initiative to solve the sewage problems, as well as the potholes in the town of Vanderbijlpark.

 

“When we see successes in communities, it’s attributed to involved and pro-active residents who make our organisation – which lobbies for civil rights – stronger. All residents of Vanderbijlpark are welcome to join our branch and to help make the town better for all,” says Pawson.

 

The South African Government need to realise that just because we have water from the tap, it does not imply that it is necessarily sanitary. All provinces in South Africa need to come together, for the sake of humanity. South Africans need to save water,especially at a time when there is still water to save.