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Business Operations

International man of carwashing

October 11, 2010
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Although we have a lot in common with our European counterparts, there are certainly differences between the carwashes there and the ones in North America. Colin Russell has helped develop carwashes in United Kingdom and Spain and lets us in on how things are done over there on the other side of the North Atlantic.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Please tell us how you got involved in the carwashing industry?

Colin Russell: I started in the U.K. carwash industry over 30 years ago as a field technician for one of the major companies here in the U.K. After several years I became an area service manager running an office in the south west region, and progressed into national service manager.

After 14 years with this company I changed direction and became involved with sales of all types of wash equipment with various European manufacturers which led me to becoming the U.K. managing director of one of the largest Germany carwash companies for around five years. I then set out with my own company developing carwash centers for Spain and the U.K..

Currently I am working with Car Wash U.K. to develop new product offers for the U.K. carwash market.

PC&D: How and where do you help run carwashes in the U.K.?

CR: Currently I am involved in many projects throughout the U.K. with the main focus on semi-automated hand wash systems. The first of its kind is now operating in Scotland.

PC&D: Please describe those carwashes.

CR: This is a niche market for the U.K. Hand washing here is fairly basic to say the least with simple pressure wash, lots of cheap labor and little quality control, using sometimes wasteland to set up and operate from. I saw an opportunity to develop an environmentally-friendly and efficient system to offer a more professional and pleasant wash experience and working with a private investor we have now opened the first of its kind here.

I researched the world market and became the European distributor for Safetveyr systems which we have developed for our market needs. We are also the distributor for PDQ and Aquarama, the in-bay automatic carwash manufacturer.

PC&D: How are the carwashes in the U.K. different from the ones in the United States?

CR: As space in the U.K. is always at a premium, the U.K. wash generally tends to be on a smaller scale. The majority of carwashes here tend to be in-bay automatic brush wash system, do-it-yourself jet washes and a small level of conveyor systems.

The other wash business that has mushroomed is the hand wash market using cheap European migrant workers. This is the market that is causing concerns for many operators.

PC&D: Do they worry about saving water and recycling water over there as much as they do here?

CR: Water recycling systems are becoming more important, especially in areas where drought can easily become an issue. But in the main area there are more systems without water recycling than there are with.

The hand washes are the most environmentally-unfriendly set ups as some operate from waste land and car parks where water is allowed to flow freely into water courses and back to our rivers.

PC&D: Are carwashes there eco-friendly, or is a trend occurring where they are attempting to be eco-friendly?

CR: At the moment the detergents and soaps are in the main all environmentally friendly, some are using bore holes for water supply and others are trying to reduce the amount of utilities used, but as the business is driven by the major oil companies and supermarkets the equipment manufacturers are at their mercy and are continually fighting to meet demands of lower cost, therefore eco-friendly may end up as a play on words.

PC&D: Are carwashes there competing with at-home carwashes? Is at-home carwashing common in the U.K.?

CR: At-home washing is still the most popular form of carwashing here in the U.K., but with the advent of hand washing at what seems to be every street corner the populace are turning to this type of wash source as an alternative to the DIY at home.

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