published Thursday, October 17th, 2013

La-Z-Boy going green at its Dayton, Tenn., plant

Worker Donnie Mooneyham, part of the "Green Team," assembles part of a rocker recliner Wednesday at the La-Z-Boy furniture factory in Dayton, Tenn. The factory has taken steps to become more environmentally friendly which include installing a starter array of solar panels on the roof and using battery-operated power tools and energy efficient lighting on a manufacturing pod.
Worker Donnie Mooneyham, part of the "Green Team," assembles part of a rocker recliner Wednesday at the La-Z-Boy furniture factory in Dayton, Tenn. The factory has taken steps to become more environmentally friendly which include installing a starter array of solar panels on the roof and using battery-operated power tools and energy efficient lighting on a manufacturing pod.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

FAST FACT

La-Z-Boy's Dayton plant produces 17,000 pieces of furniture a week.

DAYTON, Tenn. — One of Tennessee's biggest manufacturers is testing new green initiatives which it may expand in its huge plant here and into its factories nationwide.

"All eyes are on us," said Cody Buell, La-Z-Boy's environmental and safety generalist at the 1,400-employee plant in Dayton. "They're wanting to see what happens here. This is the beta."

Earlier this year, the furniture company put in a range of environmentally friendly steps to see how they'd work within one part of its 2 million-square-foot plant.

So far, Buell said, officials are optimistic about the results which are revealing energy savings which could significantly impact the factory's bottom line in the future if rolled out on a large-scale basis.

"I have to make it have business sense," he said Wednesday as the company showcased the green efforts to business people and reporters. "We want to prove this make business sense."

Among the key initiatives is the use of LED lighting in the work space in place of typical standard lights to save energy and money.

Also, workers are using battery-powered tools to assemble recliners rather than those driven by electricity gobbling air compressors.

In addition, a small solar array on the roof is powering a bank of electrical outlets in the plant, which in turn provide energy to the forklifts and tuggers used on the factory floor.

The plant already is using biofuels to heat and cool the facility, officials said.

Dennis Poland, the plant's safety manager, said the next step is to look at expanding the green efforts across the campus.

La-Z-Boy also has facilities in Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and California where it could mimic the energy-saving activities, which also lower the company's carbon footprint.

"Going green is a hot topic," Poland said, noting the company also is sharing its actions with schools and others in the Dayton area.

Harvey Abouelata, president of Aries Energy, said it wants to work in the future with La-Z-Boy if the manufacturer moves forward.

LED lighting, for example, provides cost savings and reduces heating, said Abouelata, whose Lenoir City, Tenn., company crafts energy business plans and is a contractor.

David Henry, chief executive officer at Chattanooga-based Walter A. Wood Supply Co. Inc., said air compressors which power the tools that plant workers use, is one of the biggest users of electricity in the factory.

The use of battery-powered tools has driven energy consumption down drastically, he said.

"We tested a bunch of different tools for them," Henry said.

Fred Holder II, president of GreenForm Construction, said his Hixson company put in a six-panel solar array on the factory's roof. While that's just a start, installing more panels could cut the plant's energy consumption by a third, he said.

"It has exceeded our projections," Holder said of the test panel project.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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