How can a carwash operator increase employee productivity at a full-service carwash?
Harvey Miller: Three sure-fire ways to increase employee productivity at a full service operation are:

  • Don’t have employees perform the work the equipment should be doing;
  • Proper supervision must oversee the vacuum and finishing areas; and
  • If possible, move the vacuum equipment to the finishing area.

Employee or machine?
You can increase employee productivity by adding or installing proper and effective equipment that washes and dries vehicles giving quality results.

There are drying systems available that will dry vehicles over 80 percent instead of many existing drying systems being effective for only half of a vehicle.

With an effective drying system, you can eliminate some of the employees in the drying area and in the process speed up the operation. There is entirely too much time spent on some operations that may take 45 minutes or more to complete the wash and drying process.

Also, there is now equipment available that will eliminate prepping, except after snow and ice storms. This is one area you can eliminate two employees for the majority of the year.

With the savings of labor cost, you will be able to pay off the cost of effective equipment in a relatively short time.

Employee supervision
I viewed many facilities that have no or little supervision at the start and finish areas where the bulk of the employees are working. Without proper supervision, employees do not perform well which not only slows down the operation, but does not deliver a quality wash.

The problem of article theft from vehicles greatly increases when there’s no supervision.

Employees should never deal with a complaint or question. A supervisor or manager is required in those areas to deal with the customer.

If customers are upset and they have to walk inside to the cashier counter regarding their complaint, the situation only worsens and the operation suffers for it.

Vacuum placement
In the past months, I viewed three operations in Northern California that have moved their vacuum equipment from the queuing lanes (start of operation) to the finishing area.

In each of these cases, the owners have been able to have the majority of their labor force in the finishing area, have excellent supervision, greatly reduced theft problems, reduced their labor force and sped up the entire operation.

In addition, it reduced long lines in the queuing lanes as there were no longer delays of vehicles being vacuumed. With the prior operation, customers driving in were discouraged by long lines and some made U-turns leaving the property without getting their vehicles washed.

With this change, the vehicle is vacuumed in the same stationary area where it was first driven off the conveyor, instead of the customer having to get in another line.

Following some or all of these steps will help you have a more efficient and professional operation, as well as reduce the cost of labor, resulting in a more productive labor force.

Harvey Miller is a past president of the International Car Wash Association and California Car Wash Association and has owned and operated 32 carwashes. He has been owner of Car Wash/Oil Lube Consultants since 1982. You may email questions or comments to: [email protected]