Cutting edge of the seat
GERPOL Sitzsysteme is a designer and manufacturer of seating solutions for the maritime, rail, and road/off-road sectors. Established in January 2010 by Gino Amato and Mariusz Kania, the pair used their personal extensive experience of the marine sector to develop unique products that respond to the demands its customers have. Rapid success means that in two and a half years the company has grown not only its range of ship solutions to include helmsmen, passenger, and specialised chairs (including auxiliary equipment such as deck rails and lifting columns), but also a range of seats for the rail and road industries as well. This incredible growth has been based on GERPOL’s flexibility and willingness to adjust its designs in response to client feedback.
Currently there are five different basic helmsman seat models available from GERPOL, each design with different applications in mind: Polaris, Cetus, Carina, Orion, and Pegasus. The most recent of these is the Cetus, which was developed in November 2011 for a German inland water transportation company that contacted GERPOL with a specification that fit their needs. After two months of development, the first Cetus models were delivered. It is ergonomically designed for continuous operation by possessing extra wide and adjustable cushions, two way lumber support, and improved shoulder and backrest support. It also uses the company’s new lifting column GPF for improved height and position adjustments. The Cetus has already sold more than 20 units to a variety of clients since its launch. Beyond its basic five models, the company also offers specialised seats as well.
The recently developed lifting column GPF is an important new addition to the GERPOL range and illustrates the company’s ongoing commitment to advancing technology. Founder Gino discusses this product in more detail: “It is a suspended and very smooth-running lifting column with a stroke of 180 millimetres. This patented design is new to the market and available in two different lengths. The integrated adjustable suspension and height adjustment in just one column is a unique feature. Furthermore, we can build a non-suspended lifting column (pedestal) version in almost any length by using a very strong yet lightweight material.”
Despite its youth, the German seat manufacturer has already attracted the attention of some major names. An agreement was recently signed with shipyards Blohm & Voss Naval GmbH and Friedrich Lürssen Werft GmbH & Co. KG in a joint contract for all operator chairs needed on the German Navy’s four Frigate F125 newbuilds. “We are very proud that these two companies have the trust and confidence in us even though our company is quite new to the market,” Gino says. “We have the chance to present our products and clearly they believed our designs and prices convincing. This contract is a huge milestone for GERPOL and a sign that we are on the right track.”
As a young German company, many of GERPOL’s clients are from within Germany. However, it has in the past signed contracts with companies from Poland, Ukraine, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, and other countries throughout the world, illustrating the company’s international appeal. GERPOL is nonetheless seeking to expand its prospective audience by attending maritime exhibitions, which began with its first visit to SMM for the first time in 2012 where it presented its full range of maritime solutions.
“We exhibited seats for different applications and our deck rail systems as well, including different lengths and curved segments,” elaborates Gino. “Furthermore we displayed our lifting columns that are designed to fit almost any seat top. Our columns can replace many broken or damaged lifting columns or pedestals made by other companies. Also available were our armrests with integrated joysticks. There were also new designs presented, such as the aluminium seat box designed to fit a suspended seat top. This combination is intended primarily for offshore windfarm crew transfer vessels. The event was an opportunity to use the exhibition to enter new markets and to identify some interested dealers or agents.”
Following on from SMM2012, GERPOL is now looking at other exhibitions to further its campaign of awareness. One unique ‘event’ it is participating in is NauticExpo, a virtual exhibition that runs permanently online and offers site users to browse company brochures. Currently it is the largest website of its type with more than 4300 exhibitors, 15,000 catalogues, and 0.75 million visitors per month. GERPOL will continue attending other, physical events in the future as well.
When the company first opened for business it found the market difficult to make headway in, not least because 2010 represented the toughest part of the global financial recession. However, GERPOL set out with a firm plan for how to approach the market and followed it; combined with a resurgent shipbuilding market, the company has – as illustrated – gained excellent ground for itself.
Gino concludes on his hopes for GERPOL and the future of its business: “Our long-term strategy in the maritime business is to become one of the key suppliers of maritime seating solutions, and this means we do not just want to sell our own products. We can also repair other brands and sell spare parts. In many cases a picture of a broken seat is enough for us to identify the part required. Our upholstery department can realise almost anything, and an order for one seat cover is as welcome as an order for ten. Furthermore, to make our business more long lasting, we would like to build up a network of distributors and agents. That way we can continue to provide the best working conditions for as many pilots and operators as possible.”
New Cetus design
Innovative lifting columns
German Naval contract