Properly seated – Wringing more room out of less space

first_imgAirlines and seat manufacturers are far wiser about their seats these days than they used to be. For the most part gone are the days when – as was the case in some coach seats – a metal plate barely embedded in the back cushion would bother some passengers’ backs. Contrary to conventional wisdom, today’s seats – even some economy seats – are more comfortable than ever. It’s the spacing of those seats that annoys passengers. Seat pitch in the back of airliners the world over seems in perpetual retreat as carriers have seen fuel prices skyrocket in the past few years. One way to ease that problem is to add more seats, to squeeze more revenue out of each flight. The trick is how to do that without cutting into a passenger’’ perceived space.Better Than You Think Economy ClassFirst, some perspective. Economy Class ‘seat sets’ (usually three seats to a set) sell for between US$7,500 and US$15,000 absent the in-flight entertainment, or IFE. Despite all the focus on the front of the aircraft, where business class seats cost carriers from US$100,000 to US$150,000, airlines and seat manufacturers are investing heavily in re-working economy class.Some deal with shrinking seat pitch by adding articulated, moving ‘seat-bottom pans.’ They contend the idea seat comfort is automatically linked to seat recline is wrong. Robert Funk, Zodiac Seat US’s vice president of sales and marketing says data show as your seat reclines, if that bottom pan is fixed and doesn’t move, the angle “between where your waist opens up from your thighs” increases. “As that angle opens more and more, it actually becomes more uncomfortable.” That’s why many seat manufacturers use seat bottom pans “that will move a little bit,” dropping down to render the angle comparatively comfortable.With the goal to “own” the economy class seat segment of the airline industry, TIMCO Aerosystems is focusing on airlines that want to improve the comfort of flyers in the back of the aircraft. “The good news for passengers,” says TIMCO Aviation Services Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Leonard Kazmerski, is “there’s a greater emphasis on [seat] comfort and aesthetics.” Despite all-consuming fuel costs and the mandate to cut aircraft weight, Kazmerski believes the pendulum is swinging from “[airline] financial guys who are much more interested in [cutting back] immediate capital costs” and toward marketers, who want to put more paying passengers in more comfortable seats.Most seat manufacturers spend a lot of time up front on ergonomics, ‘pressure mapping’ precisely where seats and passengers meet. That’s where you determine weight distribution of various types of people – short and tall, slim and not-so-slim. Sensors detect where the “hot spots” are says TIMCO Aerosystems President Rick Salanitri. “It’s an amazing science.”One particularly bothersome hot spot lay at the leading edge of the seat cushion, which can rub up against the back of the knee. On longer flights that can be a problem. It would seem simple enough to shave off a bit of seat cushion foam. The issue is, how to do that without violating regulatory requirements regarding cushion flotation capabilities.Violating a larger passenger’s lap space can be a problem too. TIMCO, like many seat manufacturers, sees it customer base as global. Seats have got to accommodate passengers ranging from tall, lanky Scandinavian males to petite Asian females. In testing earlier seat/tray combinations, “Larger passengers found…seat trays sitting on top of their laps,” says Kazmerski. “That can be very uncomfortable.”In response, the company designed a tray table a little bit more elevated. “At the same time, we addressed the cushion height of the seat…[so] the smaller passenger’s feet are not left dangling.”Tweak, tweak, tweak – and, on occasion – compromise. Kazmerski says, “There are always going to be compromises at some level [in] such a confined space.”What Southwest Airlines manifestly didn’t want to do in designing its new Evolve interior was compromise passengers’ personal space. Yet the airline was able to add another full seat row to its Boeing 737-700s without, it says, cutting into it passengers’ living room. “The objective of Evolve wasn’t to see how many seats we could cram into the cabin,” contends Angela Vargo, the airline’s manager of product innovation. “We just wanted to improve the seat.”Southwest’s old bottom seat cushions were too fat, the victim of weighty flotation diaphragms. The carrier removed the old cushions and put life vests under every seat to meet regulatory requirements. As a result, each of its refitted jets shed 635 pounds of weight, saved fuel and boosted the seat count from 137 to 143. In the process it shaved an inch off overall average seat pitch. What was 32 inches is now 31. Still, Vargo asserts “the cubic space around your body actually increased.”Southwest did that by substituting a slimmer bottom cushion, one that “provides more personal space,” she says. “Because all of a sudden you’re sitting further back in the seat.”A couple of added advantages flow from that. First, you now actually feel the lumbar support. The old cushion masked it, because it was simply too plump. You’re also now far more engaged with the armrests. Before, you had to scrunch down to properly reach them. You also had to crane down your neck to see out of the window. Over the course of a long flight that can, quite literally, be pain in the neck.Passenger perceptions of the seat have been “positive” says Vargo, although she concedes, “It’s hard to overcome the [shrunken seat pitch] perceptions people come on board with. It can influence how they feel about the seat.”To see a video of Southwest mechanics fitting a 737 with the new seats click here: to that pain in the neck for a moment. British Airways is attacking the problem by installing hammock-style neck rests in place of traditional neck rests in its World Traveller economy cabin. “The design decision was a direct result of comfort trials with customers,” says Kathryn Slack, BA’s cabin development manager.Pure Premium EconomyBA’s also battling it out in the next higher tier, increasingly popular premium economy. It’s laying on more seat pitch, seat width and – yes-recline in World Traveller Plus to fashion what Slack says is more “living space in a smaller, more intimate and quiet environment.”Don’t mistake some offerings as “true” international premium economy cautions Zodiac Seats US’s Robert Funk. “There are airlines which offer an expanded coach class product, when they identify as ‘premium.’…But all they’ve done is take a standard coach seat and increase the pitch.”True premium economy usually offers about 38 inches of pitch, gives you in a wider seat, and offers more recline – while easing that annoying angle Funk alluded to by employing a movable seat pan. But seat pans are not necessarily the whole answer. Remember, all passengers are not created equal with it comes to physical stature.Funk says designers need to consider the consequences of that forward-moving seat pan. You don’t want “the front edge of the pan lifting your feet off the floor. Because then it will cut off the blood into your legs by bighting into underside of your legs.” That can help trigger Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), blood clots that can form in your legs. The consequences can be very bad indeed.Premium economy seats are largely mechanical – as opposed to the larger, more luxurious, electronically-actuated seats in business class. Premium economy seats cost carriers anywhere from US$20,000 to US$30,000 per seat set (two seats usually).Direct-Aisle Access Business ClassUp beyond the curtain lies business class, the place where dreams come true. It’s also where carriers make a significant amount of their money. That’s why they’re willing to invest so much in their premium product. Ben Orson sums it up best. Business class seats are “far more than something just to take your weight,” says the managing director of London-based JPA Design, a high-end travel design house. They’ve got to be bedroom, office, theater and restaurant – all “in one carefully managed space.”What’s popular just now is direct-aisle access. Window seat business class flyers hate having to stumble over their seatmate in the middle of the night to get to the lavatory. Zodiac’s Cirrus seat is arrayed so you don’t have to climb over the person next to you. The seat was designed by JPA for Zodiac. Its true genius lies in “how you [arrange] the’‘deck chairs’,” says Funk, “whether you point the feet together, whether you angle the feet out.” The result is a 1x2x1 set-up that makes the most of scarce cabin space. Zodiac Seats US’s marketing vp says direct aisle access now “comes up [in] virtually every conversation we have with customers when talking about business class seats.”Orson says the direct-aisle access concept “has gone on to be one of the giants in terms of seat design.” It’s flying on Cathay Pacific, American, Delta, EVA and Air France and Orson says, “there are multiple other customers coming down the pipeline.”First Class – the Final FrontierFirst class suites, fully enclosed and very private, have come of age. Exploring the pleasures and perks of these most preeminent of airline seats is a story in itself, one better saved for another time. Singapore Airlines helped pioneer the concept back in 1998, fitting its 747s with its then breathtakingly new Singapore Suite.It’s in first class that Orson says passenger comfort and national pride meet. Suites are “overtly luxurious,” reflecting both the airline brand and the country from which the airline comes, all in the same instant.Regular RebirthAirlines, the really competitive upper-tier ones, renew their cabins every five to seven years. The focus is firmly on the seat. Perhaps on the way two to three years from now, says Orson without being terribly specific about it, could be seating arrangements that accommodate groups of passengers. “Middle Eastern carriers will tell you that they have a fairly high percentage of families who travel business class; while Asian airlines will tell you [their passengers] place a high priority on privacy.”Orson says JPA is looking at ways to give the former “a chance to enjoy group experiences” such as “dining or watching a movie together”– while nearby passengers particularly partial to privacy get some work done or sleep.And so it is that seat design is a matter of creative compromise – combining smart space management with subtle sex appeal. “I think,” says Ben Orson, “there’s always an appetite on the part of [passengers] to walk into a cabin and say, “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this before!”last_img read more


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Basis, market carry and futures

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The weather in Minneapolis this week continues to be cool and wet. Maple trees are already starting to show fall colors, not unusual for this time of year, but certainly a sign that harvest is approaching.The USDA report showed yields higher than trader expectations, but there are still two weeks of weather that can have a big impact. Realistically, beans could easily trade to $8 or rally to $11. Bulls say the growth in demand for high protein crops (beans especially) have a very promising future. Bears say at some point stock piles need to be moved and processed. It’s still uncertain how much pressure will be placed on the market for the next few months.And then there is basis, which is the lowest its been in 10 years, coinciding with the highest carryout in 10 years. Kansas City, for example, was trading -50 earlier this year when normal values should be +10. These same spread values can be seen in the East and North too.Considering the large crops from both South America and the U.S., it’s relatively easy to understand why beans have remained in a carry market (where the market pays to hold beans) the entire year. However, it’s difficult to understand why bean values have stayed over $9.50 (sometimes $10) for any length of time with such low basis values across the country.I store my beans every year because I can’t logistically haul them to the processor at harvest and I prefer to move them after January. Therefore, I usually wait for a basis rally to move beans later in the year. Considering that last spring beans were trading at profitable levels while corn was not, it was reasonable to expect bean planted acres to increase in 2017, ultimately pushing down bean prices. If this happened basis levels may have eventually improved and I could take advantage.The USDA report showed higher than expected yields and rain is in the forecast for much of the Midwest, so futures have dipped. This helped push basis to the highest levels this year. Therefore, I pulled the trigger on my 2016 bean production, receiving -.55 against Nov futures (picked up on my farm). This was 15 cents better than my local processor’s bid and 25 cents better than my local shuttle loader. And this is after subtracting freight costs and potential dividends (note, I always include all cost factors to be sure I’m getting the best price).While basis levels aren’t where they have been compared to past years, I’m pleased I was able to sell my basis at the highest price of the year. 2016 market summary for beansWith basis levels secured I can calculate my final 2016 bean prices. Every year I analyze how well I did in futures, basis and market carry. Each of these marketing categories move independent of each other, so I want to identify each area of success and missed opportunity. I can then use this information to make better decisions in the future. Following details my cash value by marketing category.As mentioned above, the basis level I set was the highest this year so far. Below is a chart of how basis trended near my farm.Usually basis gets a bump after harvest, but basis remained flat due to huge U.S. and global bean stocks. With harvest just around the corner, the potential of a basis rally is low. Market carryBean market carry is very tricky. Carry is usually minimal (if available) because there is a narrow window when exporters want US beans after harvest, but before the March South American harvest. This year was a bit unusual because there was a fair amount of carry through August. In the end, it was a matter of playing the spread game between all the months.The chart below shows I captured 22 cents of market carry by moving sales to Aug. I then captured another 12 cents moving to Nov futures. I did well, but it’s fair to say there were a few times where I could have made a bit more premium, however I would have had to do things perfectly and capture several inverses too. Once again, I avoided the risk of a grand slam or a strike out possibility and went for the base hit.Futures2016 Average futures prices – $9.33There were several trades contributing to this position. The first started on 3/22/16 for $9.20 and the final was Apr 2016 (prices included 9.21, 9.60 and 10.00). Included in these positions are several options trades that included premium when beans were trading between $8.50-8.80 post 2015 harvest.In hindsight, I’m a little disappointed in the final results of my futures positions. But, I need to keep perspective by reading my notes when I made these trades:1. Everything I sold was ABOVE my breakeven points. Since I want to keep farming year after year, staying profitable is the most important goal.2. Considering the significant carryout in beans, many in the trade (including me) thought there was limited upside potential. (Therefore, refer back to #1)3. When I placed these trade orders in late 2015 and early 2016 futures were $8.72 and many feared $8 was a reality. Many farmers at the time would have considered $9.25 to be a success. Therefore, I took the opportunity when it was presented.4. Most farmers using a risk management strategy had a similar outcome. Risk management is extremely important to the success of my farm operation, so I’m very careful to make sure risk is minimized on all trades. I want constant base hits, not grand slams with a high likelihood of striking out.5. The eventual $11 futures was unexpected considering worldwide events. The South American harvest has a big impact on bean prices. Around 60% of global beans are produced there, so it’s easy to see why. When their harvest was wet and pods opened up and dropped kernels on the ground it had a big impact.6. The way $11 futures occurred was an outlier. It’s not something I’ve really seen before, and it’s hard to plan for. Summary of TradesMany farmers don’t look at the three marketing categories above independently, but they should. Looking at basis, carry and futures individually allows farmers to optimize their grain marketing strategy to more efficient and profitable levels while minimizing risk. Some years (like this one) I can hit the top of the basis market. Other times unexpected events can cause basis to move differently than historical trends suggest and I don’t hit the top. This can be said for futures and carry too.By breaking out the price categories farmers can maximize their profit potential. It’s impossible to predict the market, but farmers can help themselves by taking advantage of every opportunity out there.Jon grew up raising corn and soybeans on a farm near Beatrice, NE. Upon graduation from The University of Nebraska in Lincoln, he became a grain merchandiser and has been trading corn, soybeans and other grains for the last 18 years, building relationships with end-users in the process. After successfully marketing his father’s grain and getting his MBA, 10 years ago he started helping farmer clients market their grain based upon his principals of farmer education, reducing risk, understanding storage potential and using basis strategy to maximize individual farm operation profits. A big believer in farmer education of futures trading, Jon writes a weekly commentary to farmers interested in learning more and growing their farm operations.Trading of futures, options, swaps and other derivatives is risky and is not suitable for all persons. All of these investment products are leveraged, and you can lose more than your initial deposit. Each investment product is offered only to and from jurisdictions where solicitation and sale are lawful, and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in such jurisdiction. The information provided here should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research before making your investment decisions. Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC is merely providing this information for your general information and the information does not take into account any particular individual’s investment objectives, financial situation, or needs. All investors should obtain advice based on their unique situation before making any investment decision. The contents of this communication and any attachments are for informational purposes only and under no circumstances should they be construed as an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation to buy or sell any future, option, swap or other derivative. The sources for the information and any opinions in this communication are believed to be reliable, but Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy of such information or opinions. Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC and its principals and employees may take positions different from any positions described in this communication. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. He can be contacted at [email protected]last_img read more

Terezin Games Mega-Event

first_imgAerial view of TerezinEditor’s note: Geocaching HQ staff are  attending dozens of Mega-Events around the world, shaking hands, sharing stories of adventure, and of course, geocaching. Each person at Geocaching HQ brings their own unique talent to advancing the adventure. Some write code for the website, others design images for the apps, and some shoot videos explaining it all. Eric Schudiske is the Geocaching HQ staff member behind social media and public relations. He recently traveled to the Czech Republic to join nearly a thousand people  in celebrating geocaching and the geocaching community at the Terezin Games 2014. Here’s his story. Eric with local geocachersThere’s something you need to know about the location of this Mega-Event. It’s not pleasant, but it’s important. History has visited Terezin in the Czech Republic in almost all its forms, but perhaps none more than tragedy.The Austro-Hungarian Empire staked a claim here with a city-sized fortress in the 1700’s. Gavrilo Princip, the gunman who triggered World War I with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand died in prison here. There’s more. The atrocities of the Holocaust claimed Terezin when the Nazi Gestapo turned the walled fortress into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp. After World War II, former captors became prisoners. Nazis and ethnic Germans were detained in Terezin until 1948.That’s the textbook backdrop that cannot be ignored. That’s the history of this location and context of this event. Thousands of questions will never be answered about Terezin. But the geocaching Mega-Event offers some help. The event organizers take this fragile piece of shared history off the mantle. They do not hide it. They offer context.Survivor Lisa MikovaGeocaching, at its most powerful, provides a clearer lens into the past by revealing a hidden history. Among the events, one held a special gravity for me. It translated to “Talking to a Witness“. 92-year-old Lisa Mikova spoke for more than an hour. She survived the Terezin concentration camp. She survived Auschwitz. She survived the fire bombing of Dresden. This miraculous woman spoke to two large groups of geocachers about her will to survive and the cost of the Holocaust to her family and culture.Her voice echoed through the rest of the event, and I imagine others will keep her stories with them their entire lives. I know I will.During another event, stories were also shared about the thousands of Austro-Hungarian soldiers who garrisoned the fort in the nineteenth century. Another event told the history of the city itself. I’ve learned this: geocachers are curious and seek to understand locations and the stories they hold.Rooftop viewA firm knowledge and respect for the history of the location helped geocachers create an event which offered an insight into our past and a unity in our present.  With the blessing and support of the state agency which oversees Terezin, the Terezin Games 2014 Mega-Event was planned. More than a 1000 geocachers from across Europe (and one Geocaching HQ staffer from the United States) attended.The games were a type of offbeat marathon, challenging teams of four at every level. It was also what we hope geocaching events around the world deliver: plain fun. It was something else: not normal. There’s perhaps no other place in the world where activities take you deep in the belly of a fort which was built four years after the United States of America became a country, and then off to fire a giant air cannon, or maybe play bubble soccer, or maybe talk to soldiers in authentic period dress. Geocachers know how to entertain, no matter where you find them.Longest towel record breaking attemptThere was also a chance to break the record for the longest towel (of course). The events were perfect conduits to meet the great people who attended (and there were many great people). It’s the same way I feel about crackers and cheese. Crackers are just an excuse to eat more cheese. Events are just an excuse to meet more people. This was a rockstar event. The geocacher who owns the world’s most found geocache was in attendance. A geocacher with about 500 first to finds was also in attendance, and probably won’t read this blog post, because you know; beep beep… first to find alarm, go get ’em.To be honest, the Terezin Games ended up as two events for me. I’ve moved them into two different pockets in my brain. There was the past: honored and respected. And then there was the present: appreciated and welcomed. It’s perfect they’re both reflected in one smiley and Mega-Event souvenir, because both can exist together. Check out the pictures below for a little glimpse of what it was like. A very special thank you to Marketa and the organizing committee for the Terezin Games (all 90+ of them).  You did an excellent job. Hope to see you all in Seattle soon!Inside the tunnels of TerezinBubble soccerSoldiers circa 1800Closing ceremoniesTerezin Games 2014 Log “Castle” Share with your Friends:More I also held an Event Cache in Poland, you know, since I was in the neighborhoodcenter_img SharePrint Related14 Km Geocaching Hike Starting after 10pm – That’s PortugalJuly 15, 2014In “Local stories”Finding friends at Belgium Mega-EventSeptember 17, 2019In “Community”Lackey trip report: Hoorn Mega – Game OverApril 16, 2019In “Geocaching Weekly Newsletter”last_img read more