Forenta Plant Tour

I was in a hotel breakfast room a few months ago and there was an array of breakfast sandwiches displayed for the taking. On the packaging of the sandwiches were the words “Made from Scratch”. First of all, I did not take one, secondly, they certainly did not look very appealing and lastly, I thought that it was hysterical! I guess that you could say that everything is “made from scratch”, but I think that I was in the fifth grade when I learned the difference between connotation and denotation. Technically, that sandwich is made from scratch, in some industrial, mega-automated kitchen that makes a thousand of them per hour perhaps – maybe 10,000. The connotation is that Auntie Bessie is working her buns off (pun intended), deep in the inner workings of the hotel, making this bacon, egg and cheese sandwich for your morning meal. The explanation for the sealed cellophane package is left to your imagination.

The fact is that someone has been playing loosey-goosey with the definition of “made from scratch” and no one is being called out on it. I want to make this clear before I begin to discuss what I have in store for you today.

Last June, I was driving through Tennessee and I approached an exit for Morristown, TN, and I thought to myself (ah heck, I was alone in the car and I had been driving for hours so I probably talked out loud to myself) “I know Morristown! That’s the home of Forenta. I should stop in and say hello to my friend Rusty Smith.” Rusty is the President of Forenta USA. I called him and asked if I could stop by and perhaps get a private tour of his facility. He was all for it! The Forenta facility wasn’t too far off the Interstate, and I was there in a short time.

You may not know this, but all Forenta equipment is “made from scratch” in the truest definition of the word. Forenta buys sheets of steel and bends it, shapes it, welds it, forms it, paints it, drills it and, yes, they chrome their own heads. Everything happens within the four walls of the facility in Morristown, TN. It is quite fascinating to see, and I am going to take you on a private tour.

By doing things this way, Forenta can control everything. There are no middlemen involved, no vendors to blame if things go wrong and they can change things on a whim. If they find a better way to do something, they can change it immediately because they don’t have parts ordered “the old way” from a supplier.

When I arrived on site, all their new laundry presses had just been recertified with all their new improvements. My tour began in their Engineering Project Room where these presses were waiting to be shipped to Atlanta for the Clean Show

These presses have a host of new features. The indexing actuators are no longer pneumatic. They are now electric. The steam hoses are now insulated Teflon hoses rather than braided steel, making them no longer a burn hazard. Forenta’s signature one-handed control – the perimeter bar – can now be fitted with a timer, an all-new option. I was thrilled to be the first person to see all these new features.

Equipment construction begins when the engineering department needs equipment built. They make parts lists that they pass along to the fabricators. These fabricators make their individual parts and place them in the bins as you see in Picture 3.

Parts that need to be welded are clamped together in a special jig (see Picture 4). Each machine will have its own jig. Once it is welded, the part will get grinded and cleaned (Picture 5) and stored.

Once a machine has been completely assembled, it is fully tested. Once it is confirmed to be in perfect working order, then it is taken to the paint room. The parts of the equipment that are liable to get the most Once a machine has been completely assembled, it is fully tested. Once it is confirmed to be in perfect working order, then it is taken to the paint room. The parts of the equipment that are liable to get the most rigorous wear and tear are powder coated rather than painted.

Steam chests are formed by squeezing the steel under tremendous pressure. This is what gives them their distinctive concave. Once that is done, the heads are dipped in a secret sauce of platinum, white gold and mirror chips from the rear-view mirror of Rusty Smith’s Rolls Royce. The result is the glossiest steam chests in the business.

There were all sorts of completed machines crated and ready towards the end of the assembly line (See photos 9,10 & 11). It is absolutely fascinating to see raw steel at one end of the building molded into new and shiny equipment at the other end. I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

My visit to the Forenta plant was an excellent experience!  It would have been fascinating if they were making microwave ovens or garage door openers too, but the fact that they are making a product that I am intimately familiar with makes it all the more interesting!  This was a great way to spend a few hours! Special thanks to Rusty Smith for his hospitality as well as all the staff at Forenta.  All of you made me feel special and welcome.  You have quite an impressive facility that oozes attention to detail.  It is clear that you make a fine product that is not only Made in America but is actually MADE FROM SCRATCH!

Donald Desrosiers

Donald Desrosiers

Don Desrosiers has been in the laundry and drycleaning industry for over 30 years.  As a management consultant, work-flow systems engineer and efficiency expert, he has created the highly acclaimed Tailwind Shirt System, the Tailwind System for Drycleaning and Firestorm for Restoration.  He owns and operates Tailwind Systems, a management consulting and work-flow engineering firm.  Desrosiers is a monthly columnist for The National Clothesline, Korean Cleaners Monthly, The Golomb Group Newsletter and Australia's The National Drycleaner and Launderer.   He is the 2001 winner of IFI's Commitment to Professionalism Award.  He has a website at and can be reached at or my telephone at 508.965.3163

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