La-Z-Boy not sitting still

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Employees of the Monroe, Mich.-based La-Z-Boy Corp. haven’t been dozing in recent decades. Instead, the company has grown into a $2.2 billion operation with facilities in 14 states and four foreign countries. And its product mix has increased significantly, via the acquisition of some of the industry’s best-known lines of upholstered and wood furniture. As a result, it is one of the three top manufacturers of residential furniture in the nation.

With it’s increased size and product-line diversity, La-Z-Boy has found itself with a more complex distribution system. The company’s New Tazewell, Tenn.-based facility manufactures the corporation’s England brand of upholstered chairs and sofas. La-Z-Boy Logistics’ private fleet transports about 200 truckloads of furniture out of the plant each week to dealers across the country, says Pam Smith, telemarketing manager.

The 150 company-owned trucks are equipped with the Intouch G2X Fleet Management system, developed and marketed by PeopleNet Communications Corp. of Minneapolis. The G2X system combines cellular communications, Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite tracking technology and the Web to provide customers with fleet locating, two-way data and voice communications and Internet services.

The system’s keyboard lets drivers send preprogrammed or free-form messages to dispatchers and customers, and a voice handset can be used to place calls and access voice mail.

A wireless network transmits voice communications and data to and from PeopleNet’s control center. Antennas on top of the trucks capture signals from the GPS and wireless network.

Although the G2X system automatically gets a GPS location reading on La-Z-Boy Logistics trucks every 15 minutes, the private fleet chooses to save some money by not having that data relayed immediately. Instead, to minimize transmission costs, the G2X system stores vehicle location data and sends it along with other transmissions, such as a driver’s preprogrammed message to record the pickup or delivery of a shipment or a driver’s personal e-mail to family and friends. The free e-mail service is “a great benefit” for drivers, Smith says.

Drivers also use G2X to make a check call each morning, and La-Z-Boy automatically polls all of the trucks twice a day, at 7:30 a.m. and at 3 p.m.

Carrier personnel can view the transmitted GPS data via a user interface on the system’s website (www. At La-Z-Boy’s New Tazewell facility, explains Smith, sales service personnel access the GPS data from the website, so they can immediately respond to customers’ queries about the location of their freight. But many other carriers that use the G2X system give customers direct access to load status by providing them a user name and password on the PeopleNet site.

An interface between the G2X system and McLeod Software’s LoadMaster transportation management system lets La-Z-Boy Logistics automatically dispatch a new load to a driver once he notifies his dispatcher that he has completed all deliveries. The LoadMaster system can set up a queue of planned shipments for each truck, making information easily available to drivers, Smith says.

By taking advantage of planning technologies such as those provided by PeopleNet and McLeod, La-Z-Boy Logistics has proved it isn’t a seat-of-the-pants operation.

Parry Desmond is executive editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. E-mail [email protected].