Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Carwash creators and innovators

October 11, 2010

Carwash managers and owners are constantly told by consultants and productivity professionals to delegate responsibilities, to let go of the reins, and to try not to feel the need to control everything.

However, several carwash owners have found that doing the exact opposite has helped their business as well.

These owners have taken the control factor a step further by choosing to design and create their own equipment for both personal and commercial usage.

Hoffman has it all

Tom Hoffman Jr., president of Hoffman Development Corp., which operates 18 wash locations in New York, has been “messing around” with carwash equipment since the mid-80s. His experimenting began when he bought a wheel blaster, but thought he could improve it — so he did.

Hoffman’s experimentations and innovations have spanned over a decade, a time frame that big equipment manufacturers might claim amounted to more money and effort than the outcome has been worth.

However, Hoffman isn’t just driven to design these new creations — he actually enjoys it.

The background to build
To understand Hoffman’s success, one must first understand his background.

Hoffman’s father may have begun the Hoffman legacy, but Hoffman Jr. has always been very involved in the technological side of the business.

His forte is programmable logic controllers, but Hoffman’s creations include:

  • Wheel blasters;
  • Coin boxes;
  • Self-serve control systems;
  • Tunnel control systems; and
  • Bumper blasters.

Hoffman also has an educational background in computer programming and a supportive group of co-workers and collaborators that enable him to continue his trials.

A manufacturer match
Hoffman was also lucky that he worked with a manufacturer who was willing to build what he wanted to meet his exact requests.

AVW (Automatic Vehicle Washing) Equipment manufactures the stainless steel components that are installed in Hoffman’s tunnels.

According to Hoffman, AVW’s flexibility allowed him to cater his equipment to his sites’ needs, creating a unique opportunity for a carwash owner.

Hoffman’s pairing with AVW also allowed him to build and order his equipment on a per-unit basis, thereby keeping his expenditures from skyrocketing.

By becoming his own equipment supplier for many areas of his wash, Hoffman gained tremendous flexibility, especially with his control systems. He is now able to make changes and slight alterations to the program anytime he needs to.

Not only does Hoffman enjoy building his own control systems, but it also saves him money.

Selling to colleagues
The question at hand is, “would a wash owner feel more comfortable purchasing equipment from another wash owner?”

According to Hoffman, it’s not just the fact that he is a wash owner: Having success in selling carwash equipment depends upon the wash manufacturer’s and the wash owner’s reputation.

If people know an owner has good ideas and is innovative, they will be more likely to consider buying equipment from him, not simply because he is a wash owner.

Taylor the tool man
There’s a new tool man in town, but he goes by the same name as the one from “Home Improvement”, the hit TV sitcom about a Mr. Fix-it who couldn’t fix anything.

Tim Taylor is the owner of Tim’s Car Wash & Detail Shop, Canonsburg, PA, but he’s also an inventor. Taylor created the Cobra System, a type of heated chemical tire applicator (CTA) that he uses at his facilities and sells to interested operators.

A labor of learning
Taylor, who previously worked as a machinist for 30 years, had the perfect background to support his innovative interests.

However, he didn’t start developing his tire wash equipment for purely recreational purposes; he began working on it to control his payroll and his wash’s consistency.

“You can have the best worker in the world, but if you get a piece of equipment that can perform the same thing, with the same quality consistently, that’s ultimately what you’re going to want,” Taylor said. “And that helps reduce your payroll.”

Since Taylor began using his creation at his site, he said the wash now processes 1,000 cars a day, up from 500, and he eliminated four workers from his line.

The right time
Taylor began the process of creating his own equipment without any intentions of patenting his innovations.

However, after the equipment was completed Taylor looked around and decided that he had a fairly good shot of getting patent approval, and eventually did.

Altogether, Taylor dedicated about three years to perfecting his equipment and designed five prototypes before finally reaching his finished product.

The money and time he put into this project has already paid off, Taylor said. The money he’s saved on the labor component removed from his wash has made the investment well worth the effort.

Not only has Taylor’s invention helped his carwash increase its revenue, but equipment sales have begun to augment his income, providing a profitable side business through successful marketing and selling at trade shows and on his Web site.

Arnett’s aim
Bruce Arnett Jr., co-founder with his father and brother of Carnett’s Car Wash, a wash chain with 15 locations in Georgia’s metro area, began designing carwash equipment out of necessity.

According to Arnett Jr., he and his family continually tried to find ways to make the equipment work better and eliminate labor.

When they couldn’t find anything on the market that would do what they wanted, they made up their minds to design it themselves.

Having a blast
Arnett Jr, and his brother Brett began to focus their attention on developing wheel blasting equipment and modular buildings.

The wheel-cleaning equipment took about four months to design and create and amounted to only about a $10,000 investment.

According to Arnett Jr., the effort was minimal in comparison to the advantage they gained at their washes and the elimination in labor costs.

For the money and time they put into it, the wheel blaster now sells for $27,000.

And yes, other operators can purchase the Arnett’s equipment. Even though they don’t actively market the blasting equipment, the Arnetts may in the future.

For now, Arnett Jr. said their manufacturing focus is on their modular carwash buildings, which they sell internationally.

For the future
Arnett Jr. said that with today’s advances carwash owners are a lot better off as far as the quality of equipment is concerned.

The Arnetts began designing their own equipment out of necessity, but wash owners today aren’t up against the same challenges.

According to Arnett Jr., an operator would be better off mastering the marketing aspects and operational aspects of their business rather than getting involved in and concerning themselves with the equipment.

Although Arnett Jr. said that developing their own equipment has given Carnett’s a competitive advantage, he doesn’t see many other carwash owners taking up the invention stick. There are other ways to stay competitive today without having to create your own equipment.

A few good inventors
Carwash owners who also wear inventor’s hats aren’t what one would consider a growing trend.

However, these doubly-talented individuals represent a group of exceptionally devoted carwashers who continually challenge the industry to produce quality equipment to meet operators’ needs.

Their competitive spirit and ingenuity drive manufacturers to stay up-to-date and ahead of the times, ensuring that the carwash industry will continue to grow and adapt.