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Walking the talk at Express Auto Spa

New B.C. wash sites moving closer to net-zero

NationWide Self Storage & AutoWash has a unique business model. The Vancouver-based company operates large institutional quality storage facilities primarily located in greater Vancouver but also has developed facilities in the B.C. interior that it is pairing with state-of-the-art car wash centres. NationWide has just opened its new Express AutoScreen Shot 2020-11-09 at 4.08.22 PMSpa and Self-Storage in Kamloops and plans for several more sites with one opening late in 2021 in Vancouver on Boundary Road and another in South Surrey in 2022. As well they have a site under contract for another Express Auto wash in Coquitlam and are now targeting Langley and Surrey as key expansion municipalities.

The idea at the outset was to marry high yielding businesses to create a strong income driver for investors. Projections showed car wash industry revenue increasing at an annualized rate of 1.4% over the next several years. Further research found that BC is under-serviced in terms of car-wash sites to population density. Population growth and residential space considerations in BC made the need for storage greater than ever. Together, storage and car wash have proven to be a match made in investment heaven.

The company also sought the latest in Eco-friendly technology.

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 4.08.44 PM“The environment is very important to us and we drive business by marketing our eco advantages,” says NationWide Self Storage operations director Ayaaz Jamal. He mentions that coming to their new Vancouver location on Boundary Road will be a full net-zero approach where they will use rainwater alongside municipal water sources to clean cars and solar panels to heat the building. “Here in Vancouver it rains like London, England and we saw there was a real opportunity to harvest nature in the form of capturing rainwater for use in the wash process. This not only saves us money, but it allows us to help the environment as well. We like this aspect, but our customers will love it.”

Plans will see NationWide start construction this September on a new 90,000 sq. ft., five-storey facility that will house the net-zero facility on the ground floor and more than 1000 storage lockers in the upper levels. Jamal reports that rainwater will be captured from the roof and moved to underground 30,000 gallon tanks. The system will team with SoBrite reclaim equipment that will process the rainwater through osmosis for the wash plant. According to Jamal the rainwater travels the system in a 96-hour cycle and will combine with municipal water as needed. Expectations are that at first, the wash site will use about 15% to 20% municipal water until everything gets up to speed.

“A lot of people say they want to protect the environment. We want to be a company that actually does this. Our plan is one that brings old school service together with the latest technology to create a win/win for our customers.”

New site opened this July

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 4.08.57 PMNationWide opened its new Kamloops facility in July 2020. The location is ideal for a new car wash with the site bordering the Trans-Canada highway and neighbouring Costco and McDonalds. The B.C. interior city has a younger population, high median disposable income and no other established express tunnel style car wash chains as well as high-employment. The Express Auto Spa launched with a 165-foot tunnel (Sonny’s 160EDT Hybrid) that was sourced and installed by Wash pros, Sonny’s Alberta-based distributor. Inside, systems include full water reclaim and customers are treated to Diamond Shine chemicals to create what Jamal claims is the best clean in BC. Cost for developing the 1.3-acre parcel of land into a 450+ storage locker site and car wash is approximately $15 million (the wash site alone is approximately $4 million). The total building envelope is about 50,000 sq. ft. with 4000 sq. ft. dedicated to the Express Auto Spa. 

The Kamloops’ tunnel system is capable of washing, waxing, sealing, tire shining and drying up to 160 cars per hour. The site offers a range of wash options purchased at automated touch-screen drive-through kiosks. Prices go from $8 to $19 for a three-minute wash with levels that include Bronze (complete wash and dry), Silver (Bronze plus triple foam polish and clear coat), Gold (Silver plus tire shine, undercarriage wash and rust guard protectant) and Platinum (Gold plus lava foam and waterfall rinse). Add-ons include Rain X and Armor All Extreme Shine for about $3 each. Monthly subscriptions are also available with Platinum Unlimited ($44.95/month) and Bronze ($29.95/month) services. The site also features eight vacuum stations. 

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According to Jamal, an experienced industry pro who came over to NationWide Self Storage from Shine Auto Wash, once you have the package together and the equipment is up and running it’s all about the staff competencies and how they interact with customers. “You have to have the best training and staff must be empowered to complete the mission. Customer service and satisfaction are paramount. This is how we drive results,” he says, adding that they have been able to hire personnel with experience. “We are lucky to have industry veterans who enjoy the process and are good at what they do. It makes a difference when we are busy and have to quickly load cars onto the conveyor. Our guys know how to get this done fast and this improves volume. We are also committed to keeping our customers happy. If it’s not a great clean and shine we have a rewash policy that is targeted to create 100% customer satisfaction.” 

Community is also key to success NationWide. “To be a success in any market you must be more than the sum of your parts. You have to go the extra distance to show your support. This is why we used our Grand Opening period (July 20-31) to partner with Royal Inland Hospital. Over the first two weeks we raised over $25,000 and donated this to the hospital for use acquiring PPE for their staff,” says Jamal concluding that being part of the community through networking and being responsive to the environment is just part of doing good business.   

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Pivoting with POS

Greater convenience and better data make current POS essential tools to success

Screen Shot 2020-10-19 at 9.29.01 PMAt Calgary’s new iWash, operator Kunal Patel sought simplicity and he found it with his Point-of-Sale (POS) system. Patel’s site offers both tunnel and self-service wand wash. He saw cash and coin transactions as being unnecessary and wanted to create a wash site where customers could easily pay with credit, debit or prepaid cards as well as Google and Apple Pay systems.

“With cashless payment it’s as simple as tap, wash and go. Commercial customers no longer have to worry about drivers having receipts for washes. We track usage and send a monthly invoice. Everything is handled via our software and menu board system that makes product selection and payment easy,” he says, noting that the overarching idea behind iWash has been to create a vehicle wash business that is simple, effective and efficient. POS systems help get them there.

The days of taking only cash are over for many businesses such as car wash, suggests says Brad Metcalf with ICS/Innovative Control Systems, a tech company focused on process control, software management, and equipment automation with well-known products such as Tunnel Master, Wash Connect, and Auto Sentry. He points out that employee theft and no-cash management has advanced POS to handle credit and debit cards with a pin pad. “The advent of TAP truly has had a positive impact on the customer’s payment method. It is simpler and faster not to dip or swipe a card.  When customers pay by cash, they have what is referred to as “disposable income” is in their pocket or purse. So, whatever is available is all that is spent. With cards and unlimited wash plans, purchases are easier and not as much thought on what can be afforded. So, average ticket sales are up.

“Club memberships either thru Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags or License Plate Recognition (LPR) also drive volume,” he says. “Many operators have thousands of club members, giving them a consistent, predictable revenue stream. This could not be accomplished without POS technology that auto bills customers on a monthly basis. To the customer, it is all about value. They will enroll and remain in a program if they feel they are receiving what they pay for. With the advent of COVID-19, customers are now seeking a contactless environment that is offered by touch screen POS pay stations and club plans. Club plans are most assuredly on the rise.

“Car wash mobile apps and internet (ePOS) have the ability for customers to remotely purchase wash packages and use prepaid codes when they visit the wash. Other prepaid POS features include gift, fleet and VIP cards that help the operators with more upfront revenue,” says Metcalf.

According to Kevin Wang of Wiz-Tec, cashless payment is being driven by those under age 55 who appreciate the ease of contactless debit (TAP). The challenges of COVID-19 have also sped this move to cashless. “Certainly a big shift involves EMV [EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa. It is a standard in the credit card industry for integrated circuit cards, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, and automated teller machines (ATMs)] where stringent protocols deliver security alongside convenience.”

A complete POS package with reconciliation and reporting will add to the simplicity of a good payment system, adds Wang who notes that they approach car wash from a streamlined gas retail point of view. Calgary’s Wiz-Tec is a company focused on high-performance POS & payment systems for car wash and fueling. “We bring everything together in a scalable system that is like building with Lego blocks. Both customers and operators are looking for payment systems that enhance transaction convenience and speed. These tools better enable business owners to manage and enhance the customer experience and works to create a larger spend.”

Richard Carpenter, director of customer solutions for DRB In-Bay Solutions, also sees a move away from cash as people seek greater convenience and safety during these challenging times. DRB In-Bay Solutions is a leading POS manufacturer that provides a range of Unitec unattended payment devices and tools to C-Store and car wash operators.

“While once staff would close stores and wash sites, now POS systems do all the heavy lifting especially in businesses that have gone cashless,” Carpenter says. “Management can access data at day’s end and receive real-time reports on sales, staffing, even inventory. It’s all on the cloud and easily accessed via any digital device.” 

Certainly one of the biggest game-changers in POS will be new fuel dispenser technology that is scalable and collegial with in-store point of sale systems as well as works as a platform that can be applied to car wash and payment kiosks. Wayne-Dover is just readying its Anthem dispenser for the US market following a year-long trial at 30 sites across the country. Here in Canada product simulators are just now going into the laboratory phase with product roll-out expected in 2021. The new Wayne-Dover Anthem dispenser features a 27” colour touch display, biometrics option, loyalty abilities, iP address to talk with new cars as well as a Microsoft Azure cloud-based platform.

Using Windows 10 IoT Enterprise, Azure IoT Hub, and Stream Analytics, Wayne-Dover’s new Anthem system delivers personalized experiences in content and targeted advertising, right at the pump. Anthem also increases efficiency in pump and tank monitoring, allowing operators to fix small issues before they become costly repair problems. And, it talks to new cars and takes payment for gas purchases via Apple Pay and other digital wallet tools. With Anthem, returning customers are recognized and can be offered products for which they have indicated a past preference, purchase a wash or receive marketing and loyalty messages that drive in-store business. Operators can access the data remotely and they can utilize analytic tools to help increase profits and site efficiency.

Need an edge? Look at your POS system and ask yourself if it is still up to the task. The world is changing and POS systems are making those changes easier to navigate.

Originally published in the September/October issue of OCTANE.

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A need for speed

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.

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National Carwash Solutions joins forces with CSI

National Carwash Solutions (NCS) has announced a strategic partnership with Cleaning Systems, Inc. (CSI). Together the two companies will create a formidable team with CSI adding firepower to NCS’s arsenal of bundled products and services in the form of premium, nationally recognized cleaning fluids brands, to meet all of a customer’s car wash needs. 

Screen Shot 2020-10-05 at 8.51.38 PMCSI, based in De Pere, Wisconsin, works with a variety of customers in commercial and industrial operations that require high-quality detergents and cleaning fluids, including car wash operators. Since opening 1976 CSI has been adding value by utilizing a customer-driven approach, providing technology-driven chemistry and application systems solutions to those in need of vehicle cleaning and protection, with the paramount objective being clean, shiny vehicles and satisfied consumers.

National Car Wash Solutions was founded in 1973 and has since earned a leadership role in the car wash industry with more than 850 employees throughout North America.  NCS brands include, MacNeil, Ryko, and TSSin addition to Vacutech, and CleanTouch. NCS has also partnered with a wide range of frontline car wash distributors in North America. These distributors include Hi-Performance Wash Systems, Auto-Clean, Arizona Car Wash Systems, Complete Car Wash, NuLook, Badger Land, and Carwash Solutions. National Carwash Solutions’ partnerships have solidified the company’s dominant market position in profitable solutions, offering the US’ only direct service network to meet the business needs of car wash operators across the country.

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Speaking about the partnership, NCS CEO Michael Gillen said, “CSI and its family of brands, led by Lustra, is an absolutely perfect fit with our brand portfolio. We’re thrilled to partner with such an innovative company that serves many vehicle care channels, including car wash operators.”

According to Dave Krause, CEO of Cleaning Systems, Inc., National Carwash Solutions was the clear choice as their strategic partner in terms of continuing their vision of being the industry leader in satisfying customer needs for clean and shiny vehicles. “Only NCS has the brands, the proactive strategy, and the market leadership that will drive our business to even higher levels. I am thrilled to watch the company I began so many years ago join the NCS family.”

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National Carwash Solutions partners with Cleaning Systems Inc.

GRIMES, Iowa, October 1, 2020  —
National Carwash Solutions (NCS), the world’s premier provider of car wash systems, cleaning solutions, and maintenance services is very pleased to announce its strategic partnership with Cleaning Systems, Inc. (CSI), manufacturers of the industry leading Lustra Professional Car Care Products.

“We are constantly searching for strong strategic partners willing to join the NCS family,” said Michael Gillen, CEO of NCS. “CSI and its family of brands, led by Lustra, is an absolutely perfect fit with our brand portfolio. We’re thrilled to partner with such an innovative company that serves many vehicle care channels, including car wash operators.”

CSI, based in De Pere, Wisconsin, works with a variety of customers in commercial and industrial operations that require high quality detergents and cleaning fluids, including car wash operators. CSI adds value utilizing a customer driven approach, providing technology-driven chemistry and application systems solutions to those in need of vehicle cleaning and protection, with the paramount objective being clean, shiny vehicles and satisfied consumers.

“National Carwash Solutions was the clear choice as our strategic partner in terms of continuing our vision of being the industry leader in satisfying customer needs for clean and shiny vehicles. Only NCS has the brands, the proactive strategy, and the market leadership that will drive our business to even higher levels. I am thrilled to watch the company I began so many years ago join the NCS family,” said Dave Krause, CEO of Cleaning Systems, Inc.

National Car Wash Solutions leads the car wash industry with world class brands including MacNeil, Ryko, TSS, Vacutech, and CleanTouch. NCS has also partnered with the very best car wash distributors in North America, including Hi-Performance Wash Systems, Auto-Clean, Arizona Car Wash Systems, Complete Car Wash, NuLook, Badger Land, and Carwash Solutions. These partnerships have solidified NCS’s dominant market position in profitable solutions, offering the nation’s only direct service network to meet the business needs of car wash operators across the country. CSI adds formidable firepower to NCS’s arsenal of bundled products and services, in the form of premium, nationally recognized cleaning fluids brands, to meet all of a customer’s car wash needs.

CSI will continue to provide the same great sales, service, and support to all customers, as they have for over 40 years. “We are excited to partner with the entire team of NCS companies and be able to drive even greater overall value to our loyal customers,” said Doug Marquis, CSI’s Vice President. “The future is extremely bright, and our organization is well positioned to meet all the needs of a rapidly developing car wash market.“

About National Carwash Solutions
National Carwash Solutions (NCS) is the market-leading service and systems provider to the North American car wash industry. NCS has established the only direct, end-to-end customer service and support network with over 300 service personnel nationwide. NCS offers the widest selection of car wash systems, accessories, and parts under the Ryko, MacNeil, Vacutech, and TSS brands. NCS also offers a complete line of CleanTouch cleaning solutions, water treatment systems, and accessories.
Founded in 1973, NCS is headquartered in Grimes, Iowa, and employs approximately 850 people across North America. To learn more, please visit or call 515-986-3700.

About CSI
CSI is a leading provider of cleaning fluids to car wash operators and commercial/mass transportation concerns. CSI develops and manufactures high quality, easy-to-use cleaning fluids and associated application systems. The CSI team has decades of experience as the industry leaders in developing and manufacturing cleaning fluids products. David Krause built CSI from a pressure washing company into the leading provider of premium car wash cleaning fluids based upon his commitment to manufacturing the highest performance products available, combined with unparalleled customer care and after-sale support. CSI has a team of chemists, engineers, manufacturing experts, and customer care representatives at their Wisconsin headquarters and throughout the United States.
Since 1976, CSI’s success has focused on cultivating their cleaning systems expertise to best serve their customers. CSI offers the premier cleaning fluids and application products and services they know will help car wash operators become more profitable. CSI headquarters, product development, and manufacturing teams are based in De Pere, Wisconsin. For more information, please go to or call (920) 337-2175.

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Car wash waste demands a professional touch

Screen Shot 2020-08-16 at 1.13.32 PMThe waste at your car wash site is your responsibility. This is the message from provincial regulators as well as key players in Canada’s waste industry. Good waste management is not only good for the environment, it’s just good business.

“Car wash operators have to do their homework when it comes to maintaining the drainage systems of their sites,” says Leanne Whittaker, general manager, liquid/hydrovac division, GFL Environmental, a leading North American provider of diversified environmental solutions. She suggests that operators are sometimes confused about regulations and their responsibilities as business owners. “We often find ourselves in the situation where we have to explain the legalities of waste management to a business owner that sees hauling effluent as being something that can be skirted.”

Her colleague Michael Tersigni, commercial territory sales manager, GFL Environmental adds that often he sees wash companies try to stretch out the length of time between car wash catch basins and interceptor pump-outs. “This can end up with car washes having blocked lines and floods, problems that end up costing more money,” he says, noting that a site that was overdue for service can discover they require more waste sludge to be removed, and more time to ensure a clean and properly flowing system. 

“Blockages caused by sludge and overcapacity interceptors and/or holding tanks can sometimes cause floods or other issues in the system. This means the site has to be shut longer while work is underway and cars are not getting cleaned. When cars are not being cleaned operators don’t make money,” says Whittaker, who notes that a standard-sized operation could see vacuum trucks take about two hours to complete a typical waste removal service. Operators are charged an hourly rate plus the amount of effluent tonnage. She suggests operators look to see the times when car washes are least busy and schedule waste pickups accordingly. When service providers arrive operations need to be shut down. The greater the amount of sludge or blockages to clear, the longer the site is closed to business.

Both Tersigni and Whittaker point out that companies such as GFL Environmental don’t enforce the regulations, rather they advise, seek understanding and help establish best practices.

“Proper maintenance and due diligence are key operational practices,” says Tersigni. “Be proactive and don’t wait for something to happen.”

“A well-maintained car wash will provide efficiencies because the system is better able to do the job it was designed to do,” says Whittaker mentioning that smaller more frequent pickups are better. “If there are build-ups of heavy sludge and oil, and the system is not flowing, our crews have to spend more time on-site and this costs operators more in the long run. Having tanks that are higher than 50% often means overflow pipes are already full.”

Here, Tersigni notes that having a professional company undertake the work has its advantages. “Only licensed and regulated operators can legally transport and dispose of waste from car washes. We have every tool in the shed and can handle whatever challenge the service demands, from flushing and snaking blockages to camera scoping collapsed lines. We also have to deal with a wide range of provincial and municipal regulations. Ultimately the waste being removed is the responsibility of the car wash operator and any issues with the disposal of the waste could potentially subject the operator to scrutiny.”

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iWash goes big

Calgary entrepreneur joins forces to create big box vehicle wash 

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Calgary’s new iWash is big. The Barlow Trail multi-service site owned and operated by Kunal Patel opened in June 2019 and today offers the largest commercial vehicle wash bays in the city as well as automatic rollover and wand wash bays for regular vehicles. 

Patel, a savvy businessman who owns other enterprises, including a construction company, saw the need for a wash facility that could accommodate the largest transport trucks. He researched and found the location in Northeast Calgary in 2017. 

Screen Shot 2020-07-29 at 3.06.19 PM“I knew I wanted to own a car wash because Calgary is a great location because of the weather we get here, it’s a good cash flow business, and if designed and operated well has low overhead costs.  I saw a need for an independent wash facility that could handle commercial fleets, RV’s, trailers, cars, et cetera,” says Patel, mentioning that development costs for the 13,000 square foot business stood around $5.5 million. “The Northeast area is under-serviced and I could see there were trucking companies and many warehouses and distribution centers in the area. The location was ideal because of the easy access to two main roadway arteries in Calgary; Deerfoot Trail and Stoney Trail just minutes away from iWash.  I bought the land, designed the site, and built the facility, all internally within my family business.”

Patel sought out simplicity in the process. “I handled the general contracting and architectural scope and then brought knowledgeable engineers and consultants into the project. I decided to go with Mark VII as my car wash supplier because they brought a lot of experience and they offered a one-stop-shop where I didn’t have to deal with multiple vendors. They helped with design, layouts, and took care of the equipment procurement and placement. This made the development process a lot easier,” he says remarking that they closed on the land deal in the spring of 2017 and opened for business spring of 2019.

Here, Mark VII Canada general manager comments that they were able to bring a lot to the table. 

“We supplied the machinery, worked with ancillary manufacturers such as Bay Watch Doors and Exacta payment systems and handled all the chemicals,” says Canadian GM Chris Armena. He reports that they were able to bring their Denver-based engineering department into the mix. “This was very valuable from a planning standpoint. Once we had the drawings from the architect we were able to offer design advice that enabled efficiencies in the building footprint.  Our team has a lot of experience and this made the development easier,” says Armena remarking that although Patel had great knowledge and experience with land development and construction, he was new to the car wash industry and the site required everything. “When Kunal and I started talking the location was just a brownfield!”

Screen Shot 2020-07-29 at 3.07.15 PMOn offer now at iWash are two roll-over systems (one Choice Wash and one Soft-Touch Wash), four self serve wand wash bays and two massive 120-foot truck bays with multiple high-pressure stations inside. Mark VII’s Choice Wash gives customers the choice to choose between touchless, soft-touch or both wash options. There is also a four-unit vacuum area. Everything is 24-hour accessible and the site is entirely cashless and designed for the ultimate in vehicle washing convenience.

“I’m the only independent truck wash operator in the area,” says Patel. “There are two other independent car washes and a chain site located nearby who I compete with but they offer different services and since iWash has the largest truck bays in the area and city, it’s something they don’t have, this allows us to stand out.  We’re located in a new subdivision and are the first in the area so we stand out as a destination wash business offering exceptional quality and customer service.” 

Patel comments that in his truck bay customers often take anywhere from ten to 45 plus minutes to clean off their rigs. “Operators find that dirty trucks are heavier and use more fuel and there are regulations to have trucks kept clean. We are the only place in the area where drivers can get this done. So far even though our business has slowed because of the novel coronavirus we are fortunate and thankful to have been stable with our independent and corporate truck business,” he says.

Even though the 120-foot truck bays are massive, the high-pressure wand wash system itself is compact. For example, Chris Armena reports that the equipment room uses a small 56-inch by 24-inch footprint to house four pumps for the four wands in the truck wash bays. 

In the automatic bays, Mark VII’s Choice Wash allows customers to decide whether they want the ease of a touchless wash where high-pressure spray removes grime without brushes rubbing paint surfaces, or a soft-touch wash with closed-cell, soft foam technology providing scratch and residue-free washes. The Choice Wash machine is somewhat unique in combining both complete soft-touch and complete touchless capabilities in a single rollover system, giving customers the choice that suits their preference.

And, while the efficacy of the system to clean cars and trucks is essential to customer satisfaction, Patel reports that he wanted to use chemicals that had a positive environmental impact. In the roll-over bays, customers get an initial spray of bug wash and pre-soak, then a rinse and soak as well as an undercarriage bath. The site also uses a soapy foam curtain and Shine Tecs to deliver a winning package that brings customers back. Shine Tecs offers polymers that instantly clarify paint finish. When buffed in, micro compounds generate a deeper gloss shine. It gives a hand wax quality, outperforms ceramic coatings and even repairs minor damage to paint surfaces.

“We tend to suggest brushes in combination with easy-on-the-environment chemicals,” says Armena. “This way the chemicals work better with less power. We don’t advise strong pre-soaks and go with more dwell time to achieve the best wash.”

In these challenging times when businesses seek contactless payment from customers, iWash is a step ahead. According to Patel he sought to create a cashless business from the very start. “With cashless payment, there are no coins to collect and security is less of a concern,” he says, mentioning customers can pay via credit and debit as well as ApplePay and GooglePay in addition to pre-loaded iWash loyalty cards. “Its as simple as tap, wash and go.  Also, commercial customers no longer have to worry about drivers having receipts for washes. We track usage and send a monthly invoice. Everything is handled via our Exacta software and menu board system that makes product selection and payment easy.”

The overarching idea has been to create a vehicle wash business that is simple, effective and efficient, all while offering the highest wash quality and customer satisfaction. Consider that iWash uses only one employee to manage the entire site. They clean the bays, perform maintenance and handle any customer requests, such as offer receipts to those who need them. “If needed, I can watch the entire operation via remote monitoring,” says Patel. “We have good camera placement and I can access operation systems such as the overhead doors, or lock the office if there is a problem after staff leave.”

Concluding, Patel remarks that while iWash is big the process to get it underway was not unwieldy. “It was a team effort, everyone working together to design, build and now operate a fantastic and huge wash site with the biggest truck bays in the city!”




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Stepping-up for safety

Wash and fuel sectors look outside the box

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 2.06.50 PMCOVID-19 has created trying times. Both wash operators and manufacturers have pivoted to create service and product innovation amid these challenges.

A good example is ISTOBAL, a leading manufacturer of car wash equipment with a presence in 78 countries. This company has reinvented uses for its automatic wash arches that are now being used to disinfect the personal protective equipment (PPE) and vehicles of health, security and emergency personnel combatting coronavirus/COVID-19.

The company reports that over two weeks it adapted its chemical application technology that has been in use in car washes around the world. This arch adaptation, first in use in Spain’s battle with COVID-19, now disinfect personnel, vehicles and gear in just 15 seconds.

The company’s equipment can be installed near main accesses, quarantine areas, operating rooms, ICUs and other points. With a capacity to disinfect more than 4,000 people with PPE a day, these arches measure two meters in height and are made up of eight sprinklers that spray a disinfectant product on the PPE of health and safety and emergency forces and are automatically activated in its path thanks to a photocell detection system that activates the sprinklers.

ISTOBAL is also producing arches for the external disinfection of medical vehicles such as ambulances and fleets of the security forces with an average disinfection capacity of about 1,000 vehicles per day. This system is designed to spray vehicles with a biocide.

In the face of some operators turning away truckers and others during this public health emergency, Shell has stepped up to show its support of drivers and frontline workers. In more than 15,000 participating retail sites across 30 countries, Shell will be providing free food and warm beverages to healthcare professionals, such as EMTs, nurses and doctors. “As a small thank you for all you are doing for our communities, we invite Canadian healthcare professionals to stop into any participating Shell gas station. All you need to bring is your medical ID and we will provide a free sandwich and warm beverage to keep you fuelled throughout your day,” says Andrea Brecka, general manager Retail, Shell Canada.

The petroleum company also announced that not only will its sites offer free sandwiches and beverages to medical crews as well as commercial drivers such as couriers, long haul and grocery and fuel delivery drivers as well as others. Drivers only need to be uniformed with a company truck.

At Petro-Canada’s 1,500 + sites operations offer plexiglass shields at cash, social distancing prompts and stations are disinfecting all internal surfaces, such as the pay-point, door handles and washrooms every two hours or more. Surfaces outside, such as pumps squeegees, vacuums and air pumps are cleaned multiple times a day.

Suncor spokesperson Nicole Fisher tells OCTANE that Petro-Canada sites are being made as clean and safe as possible. She reports stations are:

  • placing indicators on store floors to ensure people remain at a safe distance from one another
  • installing plexiglass shields at the main pay counters
  • limiting the number of customers in each of our larger stores
  • increasing cleaning and sanitizing procedures
  • reducing contact points, including closing all fountain pop and slush machines

The Chamois Car Wash and Detail Centre, a three-site business located in Winnipeg is offering a full interior sanitizing service. The wash group offers both automated tunnels and full detailing packages in its normal menu. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, Chamois closed its standard interior service and runs only its automated lines where customers must remain in their cars. Groups such as taxi operators and first responders and others told them people were looking for safer virus-free vehicle interiors.

Chamois turned to their expertise to create a service that had to be safe for employees. At their wash sites, they bath the interior with a liquid germicide that is allowed to sit for a full 10 minutes. Then a single staffer can enter safely to wipe off the residue and perform a deep clean on the interior. The service takes about 45 minutes and costs customers $49 for cars and $59 for vans. The service includes their best-selling Gold wash package.

 Originally published in the May/June issue of OCTANE.

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New London, Ont. service site breaks away from the competition

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.24.09 PMOperator Harsha Nimrani is making a strong play with the opening of her latest business in London, Ont. Nimrani’s winning hand includes her partnership with Greenergy Canada and its Breakaway brand as well as her development of an innovative new car wash that uses state-of-the-art technology. Already, she operates five other fuel and vehicle service sites in Ontario with a variety of gas brands, but this is her first with Breakaway and she is enthusiastic as the facility opened this January.

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.25.00 PMNimrani reports that after coming to Canada in 2012 the family got involved with the service station business when her husband took on a job as an accountant at a location in Mississauga. “My husband and I agreed after our children were born that we needed to get into businesses of our own. We had experience with gas stations so there was a natural fit. My first location was in Niagara Falls and now I have five sites in Ontario and we are looking at two more this year,” she says commenting that she brings a background in banking and real estate to the business.

Development on Nimrani’s new London Breakaway station began last September and lasted five months with the opening in mid-January. What Nimrani has on offer is a triple threat site with c-store, gas bar and car wash. Under the Breakaway canopy, her new business features six gas dispensers with two diesel pumps. Fuel is provided by Greenergy, a growing supplier that launched Breakaway in 2018 and Inver in 2019.  The c-store and gas bar are branded as a Breakaway location and comes with all the bells and whistles such its signature hockey-themed look and feel and promotions in the c-store and under the canopy. Majestic Auto Wash features a 90’ tunnel Fusion Process wash as well as detailing area.

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“This site was previously a Shell,” says Nimrani. “When we looked at this location we had interest from both Mobil and ESSO, but after our research, we decided to go with Greenergy and Breakaway. Early on we saw that they could do more for us and would be a more willing partner in our success,” she says, mentioning that the simple fact that Greenergy staff just pick up the phone when she calls was a big improvement over her experience with other fuel brands.  “Breakaway gives us the flexibility to price match on fuel. This is important to us. We are competing as the best price option in this market and are selling 17,000 litres of fuel each day. It is the fuel quality and price that gets people onto our site where we can sell them other goods and services such as car wash and convenience products.”

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.23.44 PMHere, Nimrani mentions the Breakaway c-store and points to the business as a key aspect that drives the location’s success. The c-store kiosk is approximately 200 square feet and is replete with sports themes throughout. “Canada is hockey crazy. We saw this theme as highly attractive to our target market here in London,” she says, noting that Breakaway’s hockey-theme makes their site stand out from the competition in a tough local market.

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.23.56 PMThe car wash is yet another key point of market differentiation and innovation. Nimrani went with a Fusion Process system from Diamond Shine and Sonny’s. “We turned to Washlinks for advice and came up with this new system that is the first in Canada. The tunnel can clean 90 cars an hour with a staff of seven or eight on the crew that handles detailing as well.” She reports that their Majestic Auto Wash offers four clean packages – Ace, King, Queen and Jack. “Every gas fill gets a free ‘Jack’ wash,” she says mentioning the basic exterior service. Products such as their King wash with interior and exterior clean is $60 and the basic with an interior clean is $36. Customers can choose between a monthly subscription for $29 or an a la carte offering where they can add on services such as tire and rim cleaning.

Helping to drive wash business is a dedicated app for payments, loyalty program and promotions. “We went with ICS for this system and have found that our growth in this area is very good. The app allows us to better know our customers and their preferences and it makes it easier for customers to access our services. Already we have more than 1000 customers signed up to our club membership and expect this to grow to 5000 customers over the next several months as more people learn about us.”

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 12.25.20 PMIn the wash, Majestic’s Fusion Process system offers six-stage cleaning, a step up from the usual four stages typically found in most wash tunnels. It starts with a Fusion Bath designed to break the bond of surface contaminants with a specialty low pH detergent. Next is a Fusion Prime application, an ultra-low pH chemical coverage that preps the surface of the vehicle for better adherence of the upcoming sealant and makes the painted surfaces shine. The Fusion Rinse cycle is step three. Here a thin sheet of water with a chemical additive helps dissipate any remaining foam on the vehicle. This step clears out vehicle crevices and removes any left behind soap or hard water in preparation for the upcoming paint sealant. Fusion Seal is the next step. Fusion Seal is a paint sealant that, with the help of the Fusion Prime, bonds with the vehicle’s paint to capture the shine and smooth out the surfaces. The seal forms a glossy shell that protects the paint against UV rays and contaminants. Applying it in a stream of droplets ensures the chemical penetrates and completely coats all surfaces. The Fusion Wax cycle provides an additional layer of protection on top of the sealant that helps the vehicle retain the benefits of the full Fusion Process for longer. Lastly, the system applies Rain Repel, a glass specific step where finishing touch applicators are targeted at the glass surfaces of the vehicle and apply the chemical in a fanned spray. Once the Fusion Rain Repel is applied, water beads and runs off the glass providing additional safety and visibility in adverse conditions.

The Fusion system uses Sonny’s Bullseye backroom chemical storage and distribution system. Nimrani remarks that she likes the ease of calibration, lack of waste and total control over chemicals. “The environment is important to us. We already have water reclaim where we reuse 70% of the car wash water. We don’t want to use more chemicals than necessary and the Fusion system allows us to be very careful with amounts and its easier on our staff who don’t have to lift heavy pails and containers of detergents,” she says, noting that Bullseye features a cost measuring sight tube, instant cost per car analysis and easy product mix.

“Establishing a new site is always a challenge. There is much to do and much to learn. We were fortunate to have partners in the process that helped to take some of the bumps out of the road,” she says concluding that their upfront research, previous experience and leading suppliers helped them enter the London market with a winning hand.


Car wash operators share 5 training tips to boost retention



Good training delivers worker retention and enhances customer service. Here are five suggestions from leading wash operators that help raise the bar on workplace labour challenges.

  1. Give new hires a proper orientation not just a manual

“The orientation is your first opportunity to create a positive culture and direct workplace behaviour. Don’t just hand new workers a booklet and think the job is done. Spend some time here and reap the rewards with motivated crews and incoming staff that has a basis of core knowledge,” says Karen Smith, training and Compliance manager, Valet Car Washes.

  1. Do a full safety tour on the first day

Explain the equipment and talk about the various noises in the plant. “Car washes can be intimidating places to work. They are noisy and dangerous environments that require a presence of mind on the job. In-coming staff need to be walked through the full operation and shown all the hazards and how to work safely in this setting,” says Smith.

  1. Shadow established workers

“Our training program is two weeks long. We team a new worker with one and only one of our established staffers. Over two weeks they follow and mirror the job with the experienced worker,” says Smith.

  1. Train to develop a team culture

“A lot of our detailing staff have been with us for the long haul. This has enabled us to develop a crew with unique skill sets that deliver quality performance and customer engagement,” says Chris Skoglund of Skogie’s Auto Spa, where they start by paying staff a higher wage than competitors. “We also pay a commission to any staffer that sells products and services. Tips are also shared at the Kelowna Auto Spa and this helps level things out and makes a positive addition to wages. The result is a highly competent team that is supportive of the business. It’s a win/win for everybody.”

  1. Be proactive

“Anticipate a problem before it becomes a problem. A customer that receives a wash and was not happy after leaving is a lost opportunity. Not only the single wash but the washes they would have purchased afterwards. We train specific staff to conduct daily, weekly and monthly preventative maintenance checks. The checks are all documented and followed up with our maintenance supervisor to ensure the problem is corrected,” says Randy Andrusiak, gas bar operations manager, Red River Cooperative Ltd. “The very first thing we do every morning before opening is to conduct a test wash. Is everything turning on like its expected? Are there any nozzles plugged? Is their enough chemical in the barrels? Are the doors and bays clean? Is the garbage at the entrance emptied?”