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Rolling right along

October 11, 2010
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Even though cars are coming out just as clean as usual, a lot has changed in the conveyor carwash system. Customers may not realize the progress being made in the mechanics and equipment of the tunnel, but operators sure do. From environmental to economical concerns, today’s tunnels are continually being updated to match evolving performance and operational standards of operators.

Tom Frietsche, tunnel product manager for Mark VII Equipment, Inc. said, right now, their customers are now washing more with less. “The new products and equipment that are now available allow tunnel owners and operators to deliver a superior wash in less space and time, and with less consumables,” he explained.

Supply and demand economics
Equipment manufacturers are working to make each dollar their clients spend count. Money is tight, but expectations for a clean car have not waivered as customers’ purse strings are also just as tight.

“Amidst the evolving tunnel landscape the one unchanging factor is the customers’ value proposition,” said Frietsche. “Conveyorized tunnel owners and operators are the industry’s most sophisticated customer base. They know that their customers want clean, shiny and dry and are willing to invest significant capital for superior equipment.”

Mike Jacques, vice president of sales for the Eastern U.S. market at MacNeil Wash Systems, said their clients are looking for equipment that can provide lower costs of ownership and high return on investments within a short period of time.

“Equipment that increases car counts, consistently cleans cars for repeat business, and provides lower operating costs (including maintenance, utility and labor costs),” are being sought after, he said. He also said they want equipment that provides automation, less reliance on labor, and a more consistent product offering.

“Automated pay stations, gated entries and RFIDs (radio frequency indicating devices) used for customer loyalty programs are gaining more popularity,” he added.

Frietsche said that at Mark VII, they have integrated multiple functions onto individual platforms. “As operators see the value in saving chemicals, power and water, specialized equipment offerings will continue to keep pace with marketplace demand.”

What’s new now
Equipment that eliminates the need for tunnel prepping is fast becoming a necessity for exterior, flex and even full-serve operators. For that reason, Frietsche said Mark VII offers a high pressure arch with top and side booms that extend and rotate to clean the front and back while fixed manifolds wash the vehicle’s sides.

To save on chemicals, operators can also consider systems that combine pre-soak, wheel and sill brushes, grill brushes and tri-foam into a unified brush station. This reduces chemical usage as well as frees up space for shorter conveyors.

At the exit, Frietsche said the easiest way to eliminate labor, and therefore reduce costs, is to fully dry a vehicle with equipment. According to Frietsche, many of today’s automatic drying systems use carefully engineered placement of nozzles to provide “complete and efficient drying with no labor.”

Brad Laurier, vice president of sales in Canada for MacNeil Wash Systems, said advancements are even being made in the way vehicles are loaded onto the conveyor. Today’s correlators are advanced enough to eliminate the need for labor at the front end, and even include products such as wheel cleaners to further reduce staff expenses.

In addition to these developments, Laurier said high-pressure systems can reduce chemical, water, maintenance and labor costs and can also involve multiple products, such as rinsing and pre-washing chemicals.

Coming soon to a wash near you
Saving the environment, saving money and saving time may be trendy now, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to fade away any time soon, or maybe not at all.

Laurier said it’s all about smaller footprints in general. “More efficient equipment using minimal space,” he explained, and the future will see retrofitting rollover washes being retrofitted to mini tunnel washes, he said.

Future developments are all about increased efficiency, according to Frietsche. “Decreased water usage is possible through employing efficient nozzles. The days of dumping huge amounts of water through holes in a pipe are ending. Additionally, regulatory requirements will accelerate these conservation efforts as many municipalities demand the use of water reclaim systems.”

Laurier predicted advancements along those same terms. According to him, green product popularity will continue, as will noise reduction dryers, energy-saving air valves (used to reduce noise pollution and lower electrical costs); and more efficient and focused cleaning products with high-pressure and profiling arches, which reduce water wastage.

Conveyorized designs, with the ability to segregate individual waste streams in the wash process, are particularly suited to effective reclaim, added Frietsche, who said that with the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, standards for industrial electric motor efficiency will be tightened come the end of this year.

“This should not be construed as suggesting that carwashing is becoming lackluster. Theme-based carwashes are still demonstrating the lighter side of the business. Customer interaction is helping to keep new facilities profitable and fun — as long as the labor costs are not too high.”

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