Brush Supplies - Buyers Expect Quality, Stellar Support
By Del Williams
With new car washes being built across North America joining the approximately 80,000 professional car wash locations already in existence, according to estimates from the International Carwash Association, consulting firms that design and remodel car washes are in demand.
These companies essentially serve as resellers for car wash tunnel equipment. But on top of that, they provide expert consultation services as well as necessary installation for owners building new car washes and maintenance for existing locations. This includes helping to implement best practices and designs involving architects, engineers, and other industry professionals.
To do this, the consulting firms not only design and specify the original equipment in new construction, but also the equipment for remodels and upgrades. In this regard, they often work with specific manufacturers of tunnel wash equipment as well as suppliers of replacements parts such as dedicated manufacturers of the brushes — cloth, foam, tire/wheel brushes, and detailing brushes.
Spurring interest in such services is the fact that many existing locations, built decades ago, are aging and in need of an upgrade. Failing to keep up with technology and industry advances inevitably means falling further behind the competition.
Specialized brush experience, simplified ordering, and quick response are a competitive advantage.“Owners of established washes are competing with a growing number of new competitors so they need to refresh their operations and sometimes even rebrand,” says Dennis O’Connell, president of Hoffman Services, a company that builds and remodels car washes. “Tunnel wash technology has also improved dramatically so cars can get cleaner, shinier, and drier than previously possible.”
O’Connell adds that a major factor in the car wash industry is the current trend toward promoting club memberships, which often drive retrofits and the implementation of modern technology.
The extent of a remodel depends on the age of the equipment, number of car washes, and the budget.
In some cases, small incremental improvements can be made. In others, all new equipment may be required.
However, since providing a good, efficient cleaning is at the heart of any car wash operation, “one of the first things that gets replaced are the brushes, such as cloth or foam, which is very noticeable to customers,” says O’Connell. “Changing out the cloth or foam is one of the easiest ways to spruce up the look of a car wash.”
The visual upgrade is all the more striking when all the items are changed at the same time, which can give customers the impression that the operator has invested in brand new equipment to enhance the wash. Even if this means switching out some materials before they are fully worn out, the cost is nominal in comparison to the benefits, which can include new customers, return visits, and more club memberships.
When this is the case, the choice is to purchase cloth and foam from the manufacturer of the tunnel wash equipment, or to purchase it from dedicated brush suppliers in the industry.
In selecting a dedicated brush supplier, O’Connell looks for deep industry knowledge, quality, ample options, reasonable costs, and quick response.
“We need a brush manufacturer who understands the equipment, how the brushes fit the equipment. We rely on them to get it right because we are not necessarily the cloth experts. So, they need to be available to look at the installation even if through photos because sometimes these are very old units. And they need to make it simple for us to order,” says O’Connell.
The preferred brush manufacturer would provide car wash consultants and owners with a variety of supplies for conveyor tunnels, rollover, express drive-through, and self-service washes for all major equipment OEMs. This wish list would include cloth, foam, hog’shair brushes, tire/wheel brushes, detailing brushes, etc. Aside from offering standard brushes, cloth, and foam, the manufacturer should also be capable of providing customized brushes and a broad assortment of materials, designs, and colors.
For example, Hoffman Services works with Erie Brush & Manufacturing Corporation, a supplier to the car wash industry since 1948. Erie Brush was run by car wash legend Dan Pecora, who was inducted into the 2020 International Carwash Association (ICA) Hall of Fame shortly before his passing. Now the company is run by his son, Robert Pecora, who is continuing the family tradition of innovating some of the industry’s highest quality brushes as company president.
“Robert is modernizing the way Erie is operating to make it easier for his distribution partners to do business with him,” says O’Connell. “He is simplifying the ordering process, revising his pricing for distributors, and stocking the more commonly sold cloth to expedite delivery.”
Because the car wash equipment and consumable supply industry continues to innovate and evolve, O’Connell looks for deep product expertise in a brush partner that can help to improve cleaning and operational efficiency.
“There are a lot of new products out there. With a company with decades of expertise, we can talk about the different types of cloth, different patterns, and material compositions that result in better performance for our car wash customers. That is the kind of support we need,” says O’Connell.
Of course, cost plays an important role in any decision.
“If you examine the costs, you also have to figure in your time. If I call a brush supplier, give them an equipment model, and ask for the appropriate cloth and they say, ‘This is what you need and this is the cost,’ I’m finished. I want a quick, simple transaction,” says O’Connell.
“On the other hand, if I have to make the same call and spend time working with the supplier to figure out exactly the right type of cloth, that process is much more costly than a single phone call transaction,” he adds.
Finally, O’Connell seeks immediate responsiveness in a supplier so he can respond in kind to his car wash customers.
“If I need something, I place a call, send an e-mail or text, I want my supplier to get back to me quickly.
We are competing for business, so if it takes us three days to get back to a customer instead of one day, we could lose the sale. So, working with a supplier that responds quickly is a competitive advantage that can win us more business,” concludes O’Connell.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, CA.