Opening and Closing - Standardize, Make it Routine and Easy
By Sean McBride
My mom always said I needed to start my day off by doing something productive, by which she meant making my bed first thing.
A rendering of the future WetGo Pro car wash sites.
I embrace that same philosophy at WetGo for openings and closings: be productive. Every morning at 7:00 a.m. sharp we open all 41 WetGo car washes for business. Depending on whether the location is conveyor or touch-free, we close for the day at 8:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.
While opening and closing on schedule is often thought of as the easiest part of the day, both are absolutely crucial. How well we perform our opening and closing procedures helps determine the success of our operations for the day. A slow or bungled opening can put a car wash behind for the whole day and a badly done closing simply creates more work for the crew coming in the next morning.
The key to opening and closing successfully is standardization, routine, clear responsibilities, and making it easy. Easy things are more likely to get done.
All WetGos are company-owned so it’s easier to mandate practices without having to worry about whether franchisees have different ways of doing things. We schedule a crew manager on duty for every opening and closing to make sure everything is done according to the book.
Our app-based program for team members also helps by ensuring check-in of critical items. The manager takes photos of certain items and might have to enter specific data. The app check-in also is used as a form to track open service orders and work that hasn’t been completed.
Things are done according to two books, actually: the WetGo Operations Manual and Training Guide, as well as the Activity Implementation Method (AIM) Manual. Together, these publications explain the policies and procedures that guide the car wash operations and allow us to instruct team members in the correct way to do things.
The AIM Manual is on a tablet and contains everything about the daily operations of the car wash: order tracking and guides, downtime tracking, vendor support numbers, sales goals and results, wash counts, daily and weekly tasks, cleaning and safety checklists, weekly audits, and more. Because it’s structured as a step-by-step check-in, the AIM Manual makes it easy for every team member to know what is required of him or her. Central operations receives the inputs each morning and will know if a check-in hasn’t occurred or if a wash is in need of service. We find team members prefer a tablet to paper.
We’re also incorporating a video library for simple maintenance and troubleshooting. We think that will be the easiest way to educate team members on how to react in the moment for basic problems. After all, car washes aren’t like gas pumps — we don’t have 17 backups if one goes down. We encourage team members to have an entrepreneurial spirit and tackle simple fixes, even if they’re temporary. Closing down should happen only if it’s unsafe or unrepairable.
The first team member arrives at 6:30 a.m., 30 minutes before the car wash opens.
After a wet down and bay inspection, we always do a test wash with a team member’s vehicle, often rotating this among the crew or rewarding a team member with a free wash. Because all WetGos share a location with a GetGo convenience store with four to six additional team members, there’s no shortage of candidates for a free car wash.
Even though it’s a daily practice, we instruct team members to pay close attention during the test wash and avoid distractions like text messages. They need to make sure all functions are operating, that the soap coverage is good, that all signs and lights are working. We ask team members to put themselves in the customer’s shoes: Is there something a customer will see or experience that isn‘t right?
It’s important to do this enough in advance of opening time that any problems can be corrected before the first guest pulls up. After the team member’s vehicle goes through, it should be allowed to air dry and then be inspected for overall cleanliness. We pay specific attention to wheel cleaning, tire shine, and spotting. These are some of the best indicators of a properly functioning wash.
Let’s face it, a clean car wash usually means a busy car wash. It’s also true that team members don’t like cleaning the wash. We typically try to perform a daily light maintenance clean around dusk, concentrating mainly on heavy debris removal and the floors. A deep cleaning of the wash bay is usually done once a week on that snowy or rainy day when business is slow.
In order to make sure each facility is cleaned correctly and, most importantly, safely, we require the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning tools and products. PPE is a high-visibility protective suit, goggles or face shield, and rubber gloves. Cleaning tools are a pressurized spray container with a wand, a deck brush or wall scrubbing brush with an extended pole, green scrub pads for corners and hard-to-reach areas, and a hose or pressure washer to remove built-up chemicals and dirt.
We are very clear with the proper way to clean, including starting at the top of arches and working down so the dirt doesn’t run across clean areas. We also emphasize cleaning parts that might seem unimportant but are actually essential, such as the moving parts that can get jammed if they’re covered in excessive debris.
A lot of on-the-job communicating among team members happens through the communication board, a simple whiteboard hung in the backroom. It can contain such things as conference call notes, weekly and monthly tasks, re-wash codes, tips, goals, and more. While all team members can use the board, it’s important that the site manager be in control of what gets posted.
Before leaving for the night, team members make sure the back room is in order. That means PPE is hung on hooks and the stepladder is chained to the wall; brooms, mops, and shovels are in the utility rack and the metro rack is neatly organized.
Team members check every morning and evening as well as during the day to see that the exit from the back room is unobstructed and that there are no fire code violations.
We find this system allows us to keep uptime at a maximum while simultaneously making it easy for team members to follow their assigned duties and deal with any hiccups.
Sean McBride is vice president, car wash, at GetGo, which operates WetGo car washes.