Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Benefits of control

Site controllers boost efficiency, sales and the “convenience factor” for carwash owners.

August 27, 2012

Carwash owners know how important it is to keep up with and monitor the day-to-day operations of their business. Aside from the need to assure that customers are happy, staff is productive and issues are resolved as quickly as they arise, most site owners field an abundance of opportunities to market and promote their business, simply by being part of their community and supporting activities that are important to its residents.

But being on-site each day, especially for those who own and manage multiple locations, which may or may not be located in the same geographical vicinity, can be a challenge. Investing in a site controller can be a solution.

On the road

Take, for example, the carwash owner who will be traveling on business for the next two weeks, eight states away from where their business is located. Without a site controller, that carwash owner will not have the ability to monitor activity; create, reload or delete accounts; make adjustments to pricing; or implement promotional and discount codes. With a site controller, they can do all of that, and then some, creating a system of efficiency and perhaps most importantly, convenience, for the business owner that needs to be able to manage their operation remotely.

“Adding a site controller to my product line made a lot of sense because it allows me to see and track everything, no matter where I am,” said Andre Guilbault, owner of Lake Mary Carwash in Flagstaff, AZ, who also works as a Regional Sales Manager for Unitec. “Whether I am in a hotel room in Kansas City or sitting by the pool on vacation in Florida, I can see how much business I have done on any given day, adjust accounts, issue bills or implement discount codes, using my computer or even my phone. It saves me time and money.”

Configuring functionality

While site controllers are fairly common, their functionality is unique based on the type of business that is purchasing one and its intended utilities. Some carwash owners add a site controller so that the complexity of their actual payment machines and their software components can be simplified. By loading the complex functionalities onto a site controller, the payment devices can demonstrate improved performance and reliability long-term. Others find that the biggest benefit is the ability to connect all equipment to one centralized unit, which can serve as a data warehouse, capable of consolidating data and generating a single report on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, for the entire operation.

“Site controllers are an integral component for most vendors systems, serving as a central point of connection for managing multiple devices,” said Richard Carpenter, Director of Product Development at Unitec. “Consider how complex it would be for a retail store with many sales registers to collect and monitor data from each device. Obviously, it is far less complicated and labor intensive to manage when a site controller is in place to consolidate the information. It works the same way in the carwash industry.”

Growing demand

Unitec is seeing an increased demand for site controllers from customers, especially those who own the company’s payment systems for automatic carwashes or for self-serve bays. By adding a site controller to these technologies, carwash owners can increase purchase options for their customers through building house account programs, fleet card systems and gift card sales opportunities, while having the added benefits of remote management capability.

“I decided to invest in a site controller for my business to have access to financial and marketing options, 24/7,” said Gregg Hafer, owner of Waterfall Carwash in St. Lawrence, Pennsylvania. “Now, I can be out playing golf and managing my site from a distance. The off-site control and marketing potential is incredibly flexible. I can create and check codes, or offer fundraisers, all from my Smartphone.”

Also viewing a site controller as a valuable and worthwhile investment are carwash owners who opened their business years ago, and who don’t necessarily have a need for new equipment yet, but want to take advantage of today’s technology. Site controllers provide these site owners with 21st century capabilities, while allowing them to maintain their existing pay stations.

“For some customers, adding a site controller to the mix means that they can upgrade the capabilities of their older equipment, or manage different types of machines,” Carpenter said. “Equipment savings can be realized when the functionality that is needed can be provided by investing in a site controller rather than a completely new line of products.”

Return on investment

Will Hummel, owner of Willies Carwash in Manhattan, KS, said that his site controllers have been instrumental in the efficient management of his four carwash locations, which include a combination of automatic and self-serve bays. By supporting credit card and fleet account management procedures, the technology has shown Hummel a very clear return on investment.

“When we began using the Unitec site controller with our Wash Select II’s and WashPay systems, it immediately changed our business,” said Hummel, who owns seven Wash Selects and eighteen WashPays. “We needed a reliable fleet system and Unitec provided an answer that tripled the cash in our autotellers. We used all 500 fleet cards that were ordered within a week and a half and had to order more, multiple times. This is an example of a quality product that helps you continue to make money in the carwash business.”


Tracy Fitzgerald is the interim director of marketing for Unitec. She may be reached at fitzgeraldmarketing@yahoo.com.



Using controllers effectively

By Kevin Detrick

With new control technology, we can clean cars faster, better and eliminate human interaction for prep. New controller technology also allows more precise control of various areas in a carwash including chemistry, friction, pressure and revolutions per minute (RPM).

Chemistry

Problem: The biggest problem has been cleaning with the correct amount of chemicals without prep. Operators had to manually add more chemistry to the front and back sides of vehicles as these areas have always been the most difficult areas to apply the correct amount of soap.

Solution: New technology controls target chemistry exactly where it’s the hardest to clean and in the past received the least amount of chemistry. With the new technology, oversized vehicles can also receive more chemistry.

Further, reclaim water is used only on sides and wheels and not used after the first mitter, which improves the customer experience. The new technology dropped total fresh water to 14.5 gallons per car and reduced water and sewer expenses while soap is about $0.01 per application.

Friction

Problem: Not enough chemistry causes friction. The cars on slower days and the first cars of every day faced another issue: there was not enough soap on the brush materials. Customers would feel the materials grab on their car and shake it because of the friction. Then, on busy days, there was too much soap that could not be rinsed properly leaving cars with soap spots along with increased water and sewer costs.

Solution: New technology creates a repeatable quality wash and customer experience without human interaction. The controller provides light layers of soap or foam at every point of friction making cars cleaner, shinier and provides a better experience as the lubricity of the vehicle is completely slippery with the soap coverage, eliminating the grabbing of brush material. Targeted application of chemistry applies exact amounts of soap where needed by managing multiple applicators eliminating over-soaping of vehicles and then saving on rinse water, requiring less sealer and drying agent, and reducing water and sewer costs.

Pressure

Problem: The biggest problem is the high pressure (850 psi) needed to clean the wheel and rims, but this pressure is too high for the body of the vehicle, damaging accents and pinstripes. Also, at this pressure, it’s too loud and hard on the car creating poor customer experiences as they hear the noises and feel the shaking on the door panel of their vehicle.

Solution: New controller technology allows for specific targeted pressure control and not just 850 psi throughout the entire wash. The pressure transducer (converts pressure into an electrical signal) on the high-pressure pump runs the pump at the pressure needed to keep the car clean: 1,200 psi to clean the wheels and 600 psi for the body of the vehicle. This new technology improves the cleaning process while providing a better customer experience with a quieter and gentler wash. The targeted pressure reduces operating expenses with more control of water and electricity.

RPM

Problem: The incorrect RPM of wash material causes the most damage at a wash and the bumps, bangs and drum rolls create a negative customer experience.

Solution: New controller technology sets a motor’s correct RPM. By having the VFD panel control the hydraulic pump and motor, the new controller technology improves shaking, drum rolls and noise on the vehicle. We took off all the proportioning equipment and flow control valves, which allows us to set the speed of the carwash equipment RPM electronically based on measuring the flow of the hydraulic oil to the washer. Amperage for each motor dropped from 18 to 12 amps resulting in a 33 percent energy reduction. Operating the carwash at the correct RPM not only lowers damages, but improves performance for a better customer experience while reducing costs.


Kevin Detrick is president of Innovative Control Systems Inc., and he presented the education session “The Future of Car Wash Control” during The Car Wash Show 2012. He may be reached at DetrickK@icscarwashsystems.com.