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A need for speed

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5  simple tips to improve tunnel through-put

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You’ve done everything right and you’ve listened to wash equipment installers, but you still feel there is room for improvement in your wash numbers. Tunnels run roughly one car per hour per foot of conveyor. Small tweaks can make big differences in volume.

“Get your new wash equipment running and then trim up the speed and watch the quality. When quality starts to decline back off. You have just passed the sweet spot where your system is working at optimum speed,” says Bill Barber of Washlinks, an Ontario-based leader in car wash equipment and service. He mentions the quality of reporting systems that keep operators up to speed on how their wash site is performing. “Reporting systems that describe through-put, chemical, water and power usage and other things gives a business the best information that is a starting place on improvements like speeding the line. Good data upfront means fewer surprises and a better bottom line.”

Once you have your speed set, here are some simple things to consider that will help increase volume and efficiency.

1. Stay on top of equipment maintenance and make sure your chemicals are the right fit for your operation. Nothing harms volume like equipment breakdown. Regular inspections and repair are essential to keeping volume up. Check the integrity of the frame, bearings, motors, and plumbing. Check the condition of all cloth and foam materials. Make sure they are well lubricated. Rebuild or replace items as necessary. If you are using a standard cloth and not getting the results needed – look to some of the newer materials on the market. Closed-cell foam materials can increase the wash performance of an existing top brush. Plush or textured wash materials can dramatically improve the capability of mitters.

2. Train your staff to maximize customer service and give them the tools to do the job. Having the right chemistry in your wash also means workers at the exit point will have fewer trouble areas to clean if chemical detergents inside didn’t do their job. Hangups at the exit slow the conveyor and decrease volume. 

3. Wash customers can be leery of on-boarding with chain conveyors. Good staff can help speed loading onto rollers to maximize flow through. Consider the advantages of a belt conveyor. These systems offer faster loading thanks to less skill needed from motorists of whom some can be intimidated by roller and chain conveyors.

4. Decrease the space between cars on the line. Most operators offer from 3.5 feet to 7-feet between cars. Removing just one roller can increase volumes by 20 cars an hour but at the risk of collision. The closer the cars the greater the chance of a problem if a vehicle slips ahead off a roller. Here, operators must weigh the risks of collision vs profits. 

5. Having an up-to-date POS system will help speed the line before cars get to the front end. The latest POS systems offer license plate recognition and can read RFID tags of those customers that have joined a wash company’s loyalty, pre-paid subscription, or other program. With no fumbling for cash or change required for purchases, cars can either TAP or have readers scan their vehicle for user information. These POS systems work without the presence of staff, so they save money on labour as well. 

This article was originally published in the September/October issue of OCTANE.