5 years on, Karo’s exclusive Idonsa chair for Unilever is still on the shopfloor


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Karo’s Idonsa industrial chair solved a problem for Unilever South Africa.

Unilever’s Indonsa Savoury factory had a recurring and rather expensive problem: their industrial, or factory chairs, kept breaking and needed replacing every three months. In addition, the chairs did not meet the stringent hygiene, health and safety requirements required in a food producing environment.

The bottom line?

Costs and productivity at Unilever’s factory were negatively impacted by their production-line chairs!

In 2015 Unilever turned to Karo

Beverley van der Berg, the Senior Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Unilever SA Pty Ltd (Indonsa) said, “We turned to Karo because we needed robust, H&S compliant chairs that were ergonomically designed by people with knowledge and expertise.”

Karo designed a tailored chair solution: The Idonsa industrial chair to specifically deal with the challenges of Unilever’s factory environment.

Idonsa chair for Unilever | Factory and Industrial chair range
Idonsa chair for Unilever
Idonsa chair for Unilever | Factory and Industrial chair range
Idonsa chair for Unilever

1. The industrial chair for Unilever needed to satisfy:

Karo’s task was to design specialised chairs that met Unilever’s specifications, and then supply 141 of these products to their Indonsa Savoury factory.

As John Karle,  a director at Karo said, “ With industrial chairs, one size does not fit all. A thorough analysis needed to be done of the current working environment together with the customer’s requirements before a solution could be obtained.”

2. The Idonsa chair for Unilever – Design process

Karo went through a rigorous process to create the Idonsa Industrial chairs that met Unilever’s needs. Through close communication with Unilever’s Health and Safety department, Karo reworked initial designs until Unilever was satisfied. Overall, 7 prototypes were developed before Unilever settled on the final design.

John Karle described the outcome, “We combined the casino gaming chair strength and aesthetics – this is an industry we have a lot of experience in – with the adjustability and expertise acquired through the creation of our standard office chairs.” 

Karo took the strength from the casino chairs and made the steel components wider and thicker, made the backrest hairpin stronger than their standard spec, and significantly thickened the wooden seat support.  “All of the components are hardier,” said John.

John added, “There should also be a reduction in staff absenteeism – with the ergonomic design that helps with the repetitive movements. Added to this, it’s easy to show the people how the chair works. We included simple adjustments and the lumbar support on the backrest was designed to fit most body types. Adjustments needed to be quick and easy as there is more than one user per chair.”

3. Some details of the upgraded components:

4. The result

Five years later, all of the chairs at the Unilever Savoury plant are still on the shopfloor!

This is a substantial accomplishment in such a hard-wearing industry where chairs were normally replaced four times a year or more. Barring some backrests where the fabric had torn due to the backrest being knocked against the production lines, the chairs are still working perfectly!

Unilever’s Beverley van der Berg added, “The Idonsa chair that Karo has designed for Unilever lasts much longer….and they look good and are easy to clean!”

After the initial rollout of Idonsa chairs at the Savoury Factory, the following Unilever factories have also installed Idonsa chairs:

  • Lordsview Midrands Ola Ice Cream Factory

  • Boksburgs Home Care Factory

  • Maydon Wharf Soaps and Personal Factory

  • Phoenix Aerosol Factory

Karo’s specialised design and industry knowledge, combined with the use of heavy-duty materials, has led to the robust Idonsa industrial chair that has satisfied the demanding Unilever specifications.

Industrial Chairs from Karo

Worker wellbeing through ergonomic seating results in higher productivity

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