1. Green buildings: is it solving one problem and creating another?

    July 17, 2011 by

    Everyday more and more designers, builders, and building owners are becoming interested and involved in green building. There are various variation for the green buildings but generally, to build a green building the structure should be designed, built, maintained and sustained in an environmentally responsible and resource-efficient design to reduce environmental impacts, lower electricity and water usage and lower the operating cost.

    A recent report from Institute of Medicine brings to light how the integration of green building practices on typical commercial building can present new hazards that must be identified to protect building occupants such as poor indoor air quality.

    Below the media coverage of the report.

    Ahmed Abbas

    The buildings commonly referred to as "green" could actually be hazardous to your health, according to a new report. (AP)

    That's one of many warnings out of a new report from the Institute of Medicine, which tracked the potential impact of climate change on indoor environments.

    The report cautions that climate change can negatively and directly affect indoor air quality in several ways. But the scientists behind the study warn that homeowners and businesses could also be making the problem worse by pursuing untested or risky energy-efficiency upgrades.

    "Even with the best intentions, indoor environmental quality issues may emerge with interventions that have not been sufficiently well screened for their effects on occupant safety and health," the report said.

    To save costs and cut down on emissions, building owners typically find ways to seal off potential leaks and conserve energy. But in "weatherizing" the buildings, they also change the indoor environment.

    By making buildings more airtight, building owners could increase "indoor-air contaminant concentrations and indoor-air humidity," the report said. By adding insulation, they could trigger moisture problems. By making improvements to older homes, crews could stir up hazardous material ranging from asbestos to harmful caulking — though that problem is not unique to energy improvements.

    The report did not dissuade homeowners and businesses from making the energy-efficiency upgrades. Rather, it called for a more comprehensive approach, urging organizations to track the side effects of various upgrades and minimize the "unexpected exposures and health risks" that can arise from new materials and weatherization techniques.
    Source: FoxNews

  2. The Importance of Ergonomics

    June 17, 2011 by

    People are the most important assets in the organisation and ergonomics is the science of making sure that people maximize their productivity through the use of equipment that is designed to match their mental and physical needs. Ergonomics applies to almost any physical human task, from operating machinery to using cutlery.

    The use of ergonomic design can include the use of ergo tools, furniture, lights and can even take into consideration noise, space and air quality of the environment.

    It is important for us to be comfortable while doing our task in order to attain the best possible result for example in jobs done by sitting for long hours it is important to be sitting in a comfortable chair, the table and computer need to be at the correct height, with adequate lighting. See the clip below to see whether you are sitting correctly in front of your computer.

    As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, we sit all the time. Whilst  the shift towards computer-based work has increased productivity, it has, unfortunately, contributed to  an increased risk of heart disease and obesity in the long term. The negative health effects of sitting are starting to weigh heavily against the benefits. Below an infograph from MedicalBillingAndCoding.org shows some worrying statistics about the effect of sitting for long hours.

    Sitting is Killing You
    So what can you do about it? Well, some ideas are shown in  May’s issue of Gulf Lead Consultant’s newsletter. GLC are BPIR’s partner in Kuwait. In this issue, Dr Tariq A. Aldowaisan and Basma Bargal talk about  ergonomics and why it is important. Tips are provided on how  SMEs can implement ergonomics programmes.

    You can download the full newsletter from here:
    Time to Seriously Consider Ergonomics

    Ahmed Abbas
    Benchmarking Researcher, BPIR.com

  3. BPIR Newsletter – No.3 2011

    June 13, 2011 by

    Check out our latest BPIR newsletter:

    Click here to view web version!

    Click here to sign up for our newsletters!

  4. Social Media Assists Small Businesses

    May 31, 2011 by
    Social media and business

    Everywhere you look people are writing about social media: newspapers, magazines, bloggers, news channels, books. After reading a few of these articles you will notice the same key theme coming through; if your business is not using social media then you are missing out on massive opportunities.

    We now operate in a world where hundreds of millions of people are seamlessly connected through devices and the Internet – sharing billions of pieces of content, information and experiences on a daily basis. In many ways social media has become a very powerful way to share information and experience.

    A good case study on the power of social media for a small business is the story of Wendy Maddocks-Jennings a skincare products producer based in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

    After one year of utilising the power of social media Wendy been able to increase sales 25 per cent and that’s due to regular facebook updates, tweeting and blogging.

    Below is the full article.

    Success: Social media helps to reach the world

    By: Christine Nikiel

    Facebook, Twitter, blogs are cost-effective ways to target a specific market, says business owner.

    Wendy Maddocks-Jennings is aiming to use only New Zealand-grown plants in her range of skincare products.

    Two years ago, former nurse Wendy Maddocks-Jennings would have told you that Twitter and Facebook were just amusing distractions for teenagers.

    Now the small-business owner relies on social media to promote her natural skincare products to the world.

    Sales for her Palmerston North-based company, MJ Health, are up 25 per cent on this time last year, thanks to her regular tweeting, blogging and Facebook updates.

    Maddocks-Jennings exports most of her completely plant-based products to beauty salons and spas in Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. She says adapting to social media has allowed her to find customers who would otherwise have been out of reach.

    Twitter, Facebook and blogging are a more cost-effective way for a small business to really target specific groups of customers than traditional print advertising, she says.

    The main cost in using social media is time, says Maddocks-Jennings, who estimates she spends 10 or so hours a week tweeting, updating her blog, responding to comments and posting videos on YouTube. She hires a contractor for media research and the advanced technical stuff.

    MJ Health makes its plant-based skincare products under the Dr Wendy's brand. Another range, Earth's Gift, is mainly sold on Trade Me but uses some non-plant-based ingredients.

    Maddocks-Jennings first recognised social media as a great way to promote brand awareness for her fledgling business after attending a social media marketing course run by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise and the natural products industry body, New Zealand Natural Products.

    During the course she discovered she was the only one of about 20 who had a Facebook page – and she'd only set that up to keep in touch with a friend's plans for a school reunion.

    The number of Kiwi businesses using social media has been a trickle rather than a flow. In March, the annual MYOB Business Monitor showed only 14 per cent of the 1000-odd Kiwi smaller businesses that were surveyed used Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or YouTube to promote their business. Similarly, just 12 per cent of all business owners wrote online newsletters or blogs to promote their business to existing and prospective customers.

    Maddocks-Jennings says the trick when tweeting, blogging and posting is to keep things conversational, and to engage with and inform people rather than do the hard sell.

    "It's definitely not about bombarding people with information. For example, I contribute to conversations in chat rooms where I'm not necessarily saying, 'try my products', but I might be informing people about the ingredients that I use."

    She shares links to various industry-related blogs, news and events, and comments on industry-related news.

    This doesn't just raise brand awareness, but also shows that the company "has a wider consideration than just the business side of things".

    There is some direct promotion. Maddocks-Jennings has a small budget for Facebook ads, and offers products as giveaways at certain events.

    Despite quickly getting up to speed with the technology, Maddocks-Jennings recognised she needed help with some of the more technical and time-consuming stuff.

    She also needed to effectively research and communicate with her most lucrative markets: Hong Kong and Singapore. She hired a Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking intern to surf the net for product reviews and comments, and to do the more advanced technical things such as write html code.

    Maddocks-Jennings, 45, had always had an interest in natural products, and had mulled the idea of starting her own business for years.

    While nursing she had developed some serious allergies to hand cleaning products and latex. She found a teaching job at a local polytechnic and opened a small aromatherapy clinic.

    When an opportunity for voluntary redundancy came up, she knew it was now or never for her business idea.

    She set up the company in 2006 after studying for a doctorate in health science at Australia's Charles Sturt University. She spent 18 months developing a product range under her Dr Wendy's brand, and door-knocked pharmacies, beauty salons and health food shops around the North Island. She found it tough going: the recession was starting to bite and businesses were reluctant to take on a new product.

    On the advice of a business mentor she narrowed her market focus to women over 30 and targeted only beauty salons, spas and therapists.

    Knowing an export market would provide a bigger pool of customers, she successfully launched the product through distributors in Britain, and turned to Asia via Hong Kong, a common entry point to the Asian market because of its location, market size and because English is spoken.

    She ignored Australia, having been advised there were already a lot of local brands with a loyal following.

    Now Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Britain make up 80 per cent of her market and the rest is sold in New Zealand. Maddocks-Jennings aims to further develop the local market with a new range of salon-only products, and will tackle the Korean market this year.

    All MJ Health's products are manufactured in Palmerston North. To cut costs Maddocks-Jennings hires a local commercial kitchen and a handful of staff only when an order comes in.

    Being small allows her the flexibility to customise her range, which is important to her Asian market, where customers have different skin types.

    The Dr Wendy's brand which sells in Asia is altered slightly to suit not only the local skin type but also to ensure the product's longevity in the humid climate.

    Maddocks-Jennings aims to use all New Zealand plants in her products; right now she's at about 70 per cent.

    She's also 80 per cent toward her goal of being completely organic.

    The natural products industry in New Zealand is thriving: industry body, Natural Products NZ, estimates it is worth about $1 billion annually.

  5. Pakistan’s Quality Movement


    The quality fraternity in Pakistan is challenging the status quo and starting initiatives to lead the country to a brighter future. The Pakistan Institute of Quality Control recently held its conference titled “Quality, Performance, and Competitiveness in the current difficult socioeconomic situation”.  

    The 12th International Convention on Quality Improvement and 2nd ANQ Regional Conference, ICQI 2011 was held on May 2-3 2011 in Lahore – Pakistan. The conference was organised by the PIQC Institute of Quality in collaboration with the Quality & Productivity Society of Pakistan and the Asian Network for Quality.

    Over the conference two days around 40 local and foreign speakers presented their papers, research work and many leading companies shared their Best Practices in different fields such as Healthcare, Education and business services. There were also many strategy related papers in which the theory of system, Quality Culture, Human Resource Management, Breakthrough Management, Quality Tools and Leadership for Quality were critically explored and analysed.  

    The Conference Chairman, Dr. Kamran Moosa and CEO of PIQC Institute of Quality, discussed the state of Quality in Pakistan, outlined the need for change, and proposed new initiatives to address the challenges. One big step forward, announced by Khawaja Muhammad Yousaf, CEO of National Productivity Organization (NPO) was the launch of the Prime Minister’s Quality Award. This award is based on the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence which is used in the United States and many other countries. It is envisaged that the award will lead to a greater appreciation and understanding of quality, and greatly assist organisations to improve their productivity and competitiveness.

    You can read more details about the conference here.

    Ahmed Abbas