Dear Venus and Mars,
We are headed into our busy season… what have you done differently this year to make sure you are ready to maximize your volume?
There are several things we are hoping to get done before winter really arrives in the valley. Some are outside touchups but others are those inside that will help us be more productive.
Outside we still hope to paint the bays and replace a vacuum island. However, it is already in the 30s here at night so those activities might be put on hold.
Inside we have plans to order new supplies and create a more organized parts system for quick winter repairs. Mike had a conversation at the NRCC that yielded a great idea; we hope to have a single area that identifies parts by number and has not more than about three per item. When you get down to one, you reorder and the part numbers are right there.
We have a very rural unattended self-serve wash that we have had freeze-up trouble with in the winter. There is a weep system but when the customers fail to put the brush back in position that water freezes, things pop, and we look like an ice tunnel. We actually have a propane torch that we gently use to thaw out such intense situations.
In the past two years we have done something very radical. When we get into sub-freezing weather, we rope off and close the wash. That typically has lasted not more than about 7 weeks.
This year is different. For that rural wash we have decided that we will remove the brushes and stay with wands only for the winter season. That way we remain open and as long as they continue to put the wand back in the right position.
So bring on the winter! We have a plan to weather the season better than ever before!
Well, winter is upon us and hopefully from a maintenance standpoint you are prepared. From a business standpoint the winter can go either way. In my 25 years of washing cars, I’ve had winters that were my best season of the year and winters that were my worst. Obviously, the weather is the major factor which goes into determining a good season as opposed to a bad one. A cold winter with no snow and salt, a warm and wet season or too much snow all make for poor carwashing conditions. Conversely, small and frequent snowfalls with cold temperatures result in lots of salt on the roads and very dirty cars. The latter is what we saw the second half of last winter that resulted in record carwashing numbers.
Preparing for the busy season is difficult because in this business it is very hard to predict. In a full-service wash, staffing is the biggest issue and it is hard to get extra staff in on those peak days that are few and far between. We often bulk up on staff at certain times when it should be busy, but clouds cover the sun or the future forecast keeps the volume down. When these unfortunate circumstances happen your cost per car rises dramatically because volume is not what you anticipated. After all of these years, I still do not have the solution to the labor issue other than automating as much as possible.
This year, however, we plan on educating our employees better on how the business operates and the inconsistent high- and low-volume patterns.
If we can get them to better understand the patterns and during the busy times when tips are better, we can hopefully get more employees to look for extra hours during their off time. This would speed up production and put more money in our employees’ pockets.
After the record cold temperatures we had last winter we were forced to close down at times due to inadequate heating. This year we have installed all new heat that can handle the coldest of temperatures. This will keep my tunnel open during the most extreme conditions.
I look forward to Mother Nature cooperating with us and a busy carwash season. Good washing to everyone and stay warm.