EasternGraphics GmbH

Dear Readers,

What motivates us as a software company is creating products that support you in your daily work – products that are as inconspicuous as they are efficient. Turning innovative ideas into practical solutions means theory has to learn from practice, and opportunities have to be shared along with experience. A number of customer-specific and standardized solutions from the pCon world illustrate the results that are born of this kind of exchange.

In keeping with that idea, this newsletter will focus on selected technological developments and innovations, and on their real-life applications. The acoustic plug-in is one such example: an innovation that picks up on a major industry trend, the plug-in can be used to promote expert consultation in the sales process. You will also read about generating customized solutions in no time with the Online Configurator and about how new interaction concepts promise to make working with OFML more fun. And finally, to mark the release of the new pCon.planner, you will learn how collaborations with architects can be organized more efficiently and how complexity can be quite manageable.


Happy reading!

Your EasternGraphics team

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An acoustic solution provides sales support

Acoustic design has been an issue in the industry for some time now. Even though rooms make an impression on our ears just as they do on our eyes, we aren’t usually aware of that until the noise level gets too high or we have too much trouble understanding others. No one disputes the fact that the acoustic properties of a room have a critical impact on our well-being and, as such, on our productivity.

The challenge facing the office furniture industry is to develop design concepts that meet the de-mands of a positive work environment – not just in visual terms, but particularly in terms of function. That also means having to select and combine products in a way that creates the right acoustic conditions for the best possible support for office work and communication. And with the emergence of open office spaces, that task has become increasingly challenging.

Room acoustics can be planned. “How a room „sounds“, is usually conditioned by the reverberation time of the room. [...] If room size, use and reverberation time do not match each other, the user will be bothered [...].” [Dr. Nocke, excerpt from "Room acoustic - Introduction"]

The furnishings used and the architectural features of a room are the critical factors influencing its acoustic landscape. Office furniture manufacturers know this and respond with a wide variety of products with sound-absorbing properties. But how can we do a better job of positioning a comprehensive understanding of acoustics within the marketing process, and thus streamline the journey from a functional product to a customized solution?

Selecting the right furnishings can significantly improve office acoustics. As ASSMANN OFFICE FURNITURE demonstrates, good acoustic solutions can also be stylish. Efficient use of products requires professional consulting, and that, in turn, can be simplified through the use of powerful tools.

BSO [Verband Büro-, Sitz- und Objektmöbel e.V./ Association of Office, Seating and Object Furniture] responded to this issue by initiating the development of a software component that helps users assess the acoustic quality of office facilities: the acoustic plug-in for pCon.planner.

Designing room acoustics begins with the planning process. The acoustic plug-in is an OFML-based solution that can be used for visualizing and processing acoustic information – even as early as the planning process, where visualization takes the form of a simplified view of acoustically active sur-faces. The color of the surface tells the user how well or how poorly the object in question absorbs sound at various frequency levels.

Frequency-dependent acoustic representation of relevant areas: Acoustic Mode for 500 Hz, and the color gives information about the absorption, the color scale is at the bottom right of the screen.

The acoustics export feature takes the relevant information from the planning session and copies it to an evaluation form, which performs a rough calculation of the reverberation time. Clicking a but-ton generates the Excel form, which also imports previously created project information so that processing can continue quickly with no loss of information.

Good values, bad values: acoustic solutions require expertise. Those wishing to acquire the acoustic plug-in have to successfully complete training based on a standardized training program and provided by certified partners. This training, in which users learn the basics of acoustics and how to use the acoustic plug-in in their professional work, is the result of close collaboration between pCon experts at wegscheider office solution and Dr. Nocke from Akustikbüro Oldenburg. Training specifically emphasizes building the technical expertise needed in order to provide strategic support for business applications.

Room acoustics is becoming a core sales competency. Furnishing an office involves more than just a visual decision. Any place where people gather requires holistic solutions that take the concrete issue of room acoustics into consideration. This is the basic principle underlying the acoustic plug-in, which delivers acoustic information relevant to a planning session at the press of a button. This tool can help users learn what a room “sounds like” under a given set of circumstances; that knowledge, combined with expert consulting, can then lead to a custom solution. Expertise leads to trust, trust leads to success.

Manufacturers do their part to support the point of sale by augmenting OFML data with acoustic information, thereby allowing acoustics to assume a position of greater importance.


At this point we would like to express our special gratitude to Akustikbüro Oldenburg for the collaboration during the development phase, and to the ASSMANN OFFICE FURNITURE company, which, as our pilot customer, played a key role in moving the project forward and provided the data used for the illustrations in this article.

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Online Configurator: Who says, that OFML cannot be emotional?

Variety without compromising quality. The market has changed – and so has communication between sales and the customer. What has not changed is the customer's desire to find product information that is as concise and up-to-date as possible, and to obtain that information as quickly as possible – before making a purchase decision. The wide variety of models for any given product, along with concerns about how best to represent that variety, poses a challenge that pCon.configurator Online can meet. Companies like Vitra and Palmberg have already demonstrated smart ways of presenting an entire product portfolio on the Web. The following are a few Online Configurator highlights.

We’re visual thinkers – and so is the Online Configurator. One of the most powerful arguments for the online configurator – not to mention one of the most elegant – is the high-quality 3D representation that users can generate on demand for a given configuration. Unlike an unillustrated written description, a product image shows users what the product is and what its features are within seconds. And consumers understand it no matter what language they speak.

Issues such as display type and quality are perennial concerns – after all, poor images that reflect badly on the product should be avoided. Given this background, fine-tuning display quality improvements is a never-ending job: the latest developments have produced an algorithm for calculating soft shadows, and allow users to zoom in on details and view a configuration from every conceivable perspective – this way any variation can convince.

The example above (provided by Haworth) shows the kind of results that the Online Configurator can produce when high-quality OFML data are used.

Delivering solutions made easy. From a technical perspective, the Online Configurator does more than help users configure individual items – it also allows them to configure settings. Pioneering this idea is Bene, a company that has often demonstrated its openness to innovation and its professionalism in sales (see article on intelligent product presentation).

The office furniture industry has long moved away from an emphasis on individual products and is now more focused on holistic solutions. Product sales are quite often responses to concrete problems and include professional consultation. Building on this notion is the concept of configuring typicals, which can produce a complete solution in an instant. Arriving at a professional result is easy: pick a basic type, configure it and adjust the details. This method produces considerable added value, as it allows users with no in-depth knowledge to configure complex combinations flawlessly in much less time than would be possible if they were to start with individual items. Creating practical value from practical experience – that's how the Online Configurator learns.

Select a basic type, configure and determine details. With the configuration of settings a complete solution is created in a short time.
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Innovative interaction concepts enhance traditional OFML standard

Technology is constantly developing, and as it does, users have come to expect more sophisticated operating concepts and more speed. But while that does not mean that we should throw away what we know works, it does mean that we should expand and improve familiar concepts in order to meet changing user expectations and to create a positive user experience.

OFML goes interactive. Even a traditional data standard like OFML is constantly being put to the test and improved. One of these developments involves configuration concepts used for creating significantly more intuitive ways of interacting with planned tables, chairs, cabinets and carpets. pCon.planner already allows you to rotate and shift objects, and recently released pCon.planner 6.7 has expanded its interaction capabilities still further:

[1] Properties of planned objects can now be modified by using a mouse, without necessarily having to enter various values in the Properties Editor. Unlike the concept that has been standard up to now, this new approach offers an interactive configuration platform within the planning area. Commercial attributes are set automatically. This means, for instance, that users can now modify the size of a table simply by using the mouse to drag its perimeter within the defined grid widths.

Changing dimensions interactively within the planning area: dragging the interactors changes the size of the table; the commercial attributes are set automatically.

[2] Users can now use graphical interactors for adding and removing add-ons and accessories. Clicking on one of these graphics allows the user to add objects such as a back panel or CPU mount. These interactors can also show users that they have the option of modifying the properties of less prominent accessories.

Accessories can be added to the furnishings within the planning area by clicking an individually definable interactor.

[3] It is also possible to assign an action to an interactor. Simply moving the mouse opens drawers and cabinet doors, adjusts the height of chairs, and swivels or rotates monitor arms. Doing so highlights properties that, though otherwise hidden, nevertheless define the product and have a critical impact on the purchasing process.
Manufacturers and data creators can define the graphic symbols for these interactions themselves.

Using this innovation for my company. In order to take advantage of these new opportunities, the interaction capability has to be part of your OFML data. Users will be able to save or add this kind of information to their data beginning with version 2.10 of pCon.creator.

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IFC import makes collaboration with architects even more efficient

Professional interior designers often work with standardized, but highly complex formats in order to exchange data more easily with experts from a variety of disciplines. For those who do not have software that can import industrial standards, processing planning sessions represents a tremendous challenge.

One of these formats is IFC (Industry Foundation Classes), an open standard primarily used by architects and builders for generating digital descriptions of building models (BIM: building information model). A number of established CAD systems for architecture, including Revit, ARCHICAD and AutoCAD Archi­tecture, can import and export this format.

In order to allow users to process this format, pCon.planner 6.7 PRO can now load and import IFC data, providing access to a wide range of relevant CAD systems. This means that users can import and process complex 3D planning data, including building elements and descriptive attributes. Implementing the IFC interface is more than just a pCon.planner technical innovation – it also makes collaboration with professional interior designers more efficient.

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Set Articles: making complexity manageable

Products that can be configured are usually those which are distinguished by high complexity and much variability. More and more, instead of producing individual items, the trend is towards imple-menting combinations of numerous items. The consequence is that lists of articles and price quota-tion forms are becoming very complex and unclear.

The new Set Articles option in pCon.planner 6.7 PRO is an innovation enabling the structuring of the articles for commercial purposes. Users can create and administrate these sets directly within the planning session, where the process can be visualized at any time. Any number of articles can be combined into a set.

The set will be shown on the price quotation in a space-saving manner, as a single item. The set can be given specifically descriptive text. It will also display the total price for the individual items it con-tains. The Set Articles are taken account of when the Article List is called up and they are compatible with the set principle found in the pCon.basket. They can be fully made use of if exported or directly transferred using the clipboard for the commercial application. This reduces the time spent in post-editing and the commercial structuring can take place early during the design process.

Visual representation: set of a desk combination composed of three individual items

More details on functions, features and options for processing sets, as well as on notes to more improvements in pCon.planner 6.7 you can read here.

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