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Renovate your tunnel, reinvent your business

August 09, 2011
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Tunnel operators who want to improve dollar averages and wash volumes can often achieve a near-term sales increase with better signage, a re-evaluation of wash package pricing and content, and sales training (if service advisors are part of the business). To sustain that increase, it’s usually necessary to deliver tangible improvements in the tunnel itself — with conspicuous, ‘self-promoting’ equipment updates.

Arches carry chemical … and your tunnel’s image

These updates need not be costly. A visually appealing new arch package can add new life to a tunnel, while individual arches can be used to draw attention to high-margin special services. Today, operators can choose affordable, colorful powder-coated arches with vibrant LED accent lighting that are sure to get noticed. Arch and accent light colors can help support the site’s brand, and/or emphasize upsell items.

Wheels and tires: The ‘real deal’ for higher profits

The operator can also add equipment that supports upselling, like an automatic tire shiner — or replace older units with newer, better-performing models. Modern ‘individual roller’ tire shiners consistently deliver rim-to-tread shine — while using as little as 1 ounce of chemical per vehicle. In the average tunnel, these new shiners can pay for themselves in just three or four months through chemical savings alone.

Because wheels and tires are important to customers, improved wheel cleaning equipment can also pay significant dividends. Friction-based wheel washers should use a bi-level brush to clean tires and intricate spoke designs equally well. For those who prefer touchless wheel cleaning, alone or in combination with a friction-based wheel cleaner, touchless units will ideally ‘blast’ rims clean with large volumes of medium or high-pressure water, giving customers outstanding results and an impressive wheel cleaning ‘show.’

The best wraps lead by following … the car

It makes sense that wraps that provide more contact time will deliver a superior clean. That’s why today’s highest performance wraps follow each car, providing unparalleled cleaning for vehicle fronts, sides and backs — regardless of line speed. Because customers appreciate this increased individual attention, this upgrade can give your wash a distinct advantage versus competitors who use traditional wraps.

To keep customers coming back, first keep ’em moving

Of course, upgrades to your tunnel’s look and cleaning abilities need to be supported by a reliable conveyor. If your current conveyor causes frequent downtime, then a new conveyor may be your top priority. While many over-unders are based on decades-old technology, newer models are 100 percent grease-free, and feature ‘quick pin release’ designs that allow tool-free access, so routine maintenance can be done at a workbench, not in the pit — and offer your choice of hydraulic or electric drive technologies.

Efficient dryers dry efficiently — with a targeted approach

Today’s best general purpose dryers are designed for multiple mounting configurations, and produce powerful columns of air to effectively dry vehicles, while blasting water out of ‘nooks and crannies’ like sideview mirrors, door openings and character lines. Because these designs are ‘general purpose,’ they should offer a high degree of flexibility. Nozzles should rotate easily, while housings slip on and off for faster routine adjustments. This not only ensures the operator can easily ‘dial in’ the dryers for optimum results in each wash bay, it helps guarantee greater uptime for the wash, which drives volume, throughput and profitability.

At the same time, dedicated horizontal surface dryers provide focused drying of horizontal surfaces. Using a long narrow outlet designed for a top-mount installation, these dryers create a ‘wall of air’ that strips water off of hoods, windshields and roofs. This knife-like air stream ‘cuts through’ ambient air currents to keep the water moving in a continuous front-to-back flow — dramatically improving overall drying efficiency, and delivering drier cars while using less energy.

As well, vehicle side dryers offer high-volume, high velocity drying to flexibly target the sides of vehicles. With their strong vertical orientation and large surface area, vehicle sides benefit from a specific drying solution. Designed for side mounting, these dryers have specially designed manifolds that ensure an even distribution of airflow to a long row of vertically stacked outlets. Each outlet delivers a concentrated ‘kick’ of air that combines with its neighbors to effectively sweep water off and away from the vehicle.

Want more business? Create an inviting wash

One of the best things about renovating a tunnel is that they’re highly modular — giving operators a lot of choices, from replacing key components to a true reload. Operators who choose an all-new equipment package can completely upgrade the customer experience with an open, airy wash environment. Options include bright powder-coated equipment with colorful accents and eye-catching elliptical beams — an inviting look that ‘raises the bar’ for the operator’s competitors. Like today’s best conveyors, this equipment is available in hydraulic or electric drive to meet the owner’s chosen operational format.

When a reload makes sense, it doesn’t make sense not to reload!

Time and again, experience has shown us two things about tunnel renovations, whether it involves upgrading key components or the entire equipment package. One — there is always room for business improvement, and two — the best investment in car washing may well be to update an existing site with an established customer base. Simply put, when you improve a site that customers see as ‘their’ car wash, they notice, appreciate the investment, and wash more often — and most likely, bring friends with them.

Marcus McLaughlin is a member of the marketing team at Belanger, Inc., and was formerly marketing director of the Jax Kar Wash chain in Michigan.

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