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Revisions puts La-Z-Boy in high gear.

Smart planning and state-of-the-art equipment give ReVisions an edge in production. Flexibility and good looks give it an edge in the marketplace.

Quickly now. What comes to mind when you think of La-Z-Boy? Alex Karras sleeping in his comfy chair in front of the fire? That is the typical homey image La-Z-Boy Chair Co. is proud of. Now, what does La-Z-Boy Contract Furniture bring to mind? If you can think only of a reclining office chair, take a good look at ReVisions. La-Z-Boy Contract is breaking new ground with this dynamic line of case goods -- and that is nothing to yawn about.

The folks at La-Z-Boy Contract Furniture are pumped up these days and with good reason. At NeoCon 92 they introduced ReVisions, a prototype for a new line of modular office furniture which was enthusiastically received. When ReVisions went into production in October, they expected a few kinks might have to be worked out, but there were none. In fact, ReVisions set all-time production records for La-Z-Boy, according to plant manager Ron Pattyn. It is the largest new product offering run and assembled in the shortest time ever, he said.

Even though the product is unique and has hundreds of options, the production system is new, the technology is new, a new finishing system has been installed and orders are higher than expected, there have been no "hiccups." Gary Vanderwood, director of design and merchandising, said the company has moved three times faster than expected in reaching full capacity with the entire line.

This was accomplished because of a great deal of plotting, planning and team effort beforehand. An engineering, design, sales and marketing partnership in Monroe, Mich., that included Vanderwood; Don George, senior designer; Steve Pulskamp, industrial designer; and Brian McLaughlin, national sales manager, constantly brainstormed with the manufacturing team at the La-Z-Boy-owned RoseJohnson facility in Grand Rapids, Mich., where ReVisions is produced. Jeff Smolinski, director of operations, handled the integration of engineering and manufacturing and set up computer systems. Other key personnel in Grand Rapids are Pattyn, his crew and Chuck Ryder, plant engineer.

Computer monitored

A direct CAD line between the two plants accelerated design time. Every step of ReVisions production is handled by computer in Grand Rapids, from design and inventory to material handling and machining. The company spared no expense in installing up-to-the-minute equipment. Smolinski listed the machines: Holzma optimizing panel saw, Morbidelli boring machine, Heian router, Biesse router and boring machine, HolzHer edgebander and a Kuper veneer stitcher. "That's all it takes to make this line," Smolinski said drily.

The Morbidelli with 18 spindles, the gantry-head Biesse and the eight-head, split-table Heian replaced 17 older machines, with one or two pin routers retained for backup. No workers were displaced, Smolinski said. Operators of the new CNC machines went to school and were up to speed in two weeks, he said. Other workers were retrained for alternate jobs.

Plant manager Pattyn said that even though the product was developmental and the setup was new, operators were familiar with each piece beforehand and knew how it would go through production. "PC-based inventory systems allowed us flexibility and got us off to a good running start," he added.

Inventory data can be sorted by order acknowledgement, part, family of parts, color, trim or style, and any machined piece can be located instantly by row, bay, and shelf. When a certain number of pedestals are to be run in one color, the computer indicates how many gallons of paint are needed.

ReVisions production occupies about 30,000 square feet of a total 500,000 square feet at the RoseJohnson facility where products of both companies are run simultaneously.

Optimal yields

The programmable optimizing panel saw cuts a mixture of parts from up to nine boards at a time. Yield forecast for the new line was 70 percent. Smolinski said the actual yield for the first cutting of ReVisions was 84.5 percent. Stock is 1 1/8-inch, 48-pound Willamette and Plum Creek medium density fiberboard.

ReVisions components have a high degree of standardization which decreases the manufacturing cycle by about two weeks. For example, 16 different pedestals are made from nine manufactured parts. The entire line is comprised of only 125 manufactured parts.

Case goods are easily assembled because they are self-squaring and self-aligning, with locking rabbet grooves. No glue or clamps are used -- ReVisions' Uni-route construction consists of 3/8-inch dowels and wood screws. For in-field assembly, 15mm diameter cam locks with arrow indicators show the user when the joint is properly tightened. Plastic caps are provided to conceal cam locks. One man can assemble a 48-inch four-door hutch in less than five minutes.

Know the market

La-Z-Boy is aiming for the small to mid-size business, entrepreneurial and home office markets with ReVisions. "To be successful in this business economy, you must be certain about who your customer is and where your greatest potential lies," said Clark Williams, vice president of sales and marketing.

"For some time, the industry has needed a new product or a new concept in order to meet the needs of a variety of users in a range of environments," Williams added. "We believe that ReVisions addresses this need. It is totally flexible

and adjustable -- ideally suited for where and how people are working in the '90s."

Vanderwood said, "While ReVisions has possibilities for large corporations as well, that is not our true direction. Our focus is retail distribution, particularly dealers who are going after small businesses. They're growing and looking for mid-price office furniture."

Design options

Vanderwood said ReVisions offers almost limitless design possibilities. "These case goods can be configured in more than 23,000 variations with base and accent colors and finish options," he said. "Users can specifically design each application for comfort, need and color requirements. It is virtually impossible to make a design mistake."

Reconstituted cherry veneer with a catalyzed lacquer finish comes in light cherry, medium oak or dark mahogany finish, and is available for use on rectangular work surfaces. Veneer is post-formed around the front and rear edges for seamless construction. A gator-ply back on the under surface adds dimensional stability, warp resistance and more smoothness. Each side has a 3mm vinyl edge for extra impact resistance.

Seven high-pressure laminates in wood tones and stone patterns are also offered for rectangular work surfaces. Painted work surfaces feature a catalyzed polyester finish in a choice of three colors.

Base components, end panels, modesty panels and hutches are finished in a heavy textured catalyzed enamel said to be more scratch resistant than wet-coat paint on steel. Colors are black, pearl, sand and various shades of gray.

Smooth and sleek

Desks have a smooth radius and sleek look, thanks to shark-nosed edges and corners that also eliminate pressure on forearms, elbows, wrists and hands. Sides are shaped with a 5/16-inch radius. Another ReVisions innovation is an optional, infinitely-adjustable angled work surface. This was not conceived to be an art or drafting table, Vanderwood said, but to function as a primary work and writing surface. "The credenza then becomes a secondary work surface for computers and other needs."

No clips or brackets are used to connect the freestanding modules which can easily be configured for use in any space from a small home office "den" to corporate scale. An entire group can be set up and assembled in less than 30 minutes with an easy-to-use cam-locking system and simple instructions. Fabric-covered tackboards are attached to hutches with 3M Dur Lock, a mushroom-head connector similar to Velcro, making it easy to change color schemes.

Bookcases are doublesided and drawers are interchangeable. Pedestals, with full-extension, 20-gauge steel drawers and adjustable Accuride glides, can be set up for files or storage. Arch-shaped pedestal tops can be cantilevered sideways for extra work surface. Wardrobes and corner cabinets are specialty pieces that were added to the line this month.

A winner

La-Z-Boy appears to have a winner in ReVisions. It is good looking, easy to set up and made to last. Value engineering, up-to-the-minute computer-controlled equipment, an efficient production system and a smart way of handling orders, supplies and parts inventory are very cost effective, allowing ReVisions to be offered in the mid-price range its target markets demand.

In addition, its multiple options and free-ranging configurations are positioning La-Z-Boy as a trend setter and style leader in office furniture. Since its Chicago debut last June at NeoCon, ReVisions has been playing to rave reviews at industry shows in New York, Dallas, Houston and Charlotte, N.C., and in Florida and Canada.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:La-Z-Boy Contract Furniture
Author:Garet, Barbara
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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