Auto Laundry News - May 2012

Remotely Monitored

By Timothy Denman

Plenty of security cameras monitor the wash 24 hours a day.

The wash features two friction rollover units and one self-serve bay.

The two friction rollovers do a good job scrubbing cars clean during the rough Northwestern Pennsylvania winters.

The coin-operated vacuum features a fragrance option.

The two pet wash stalls offer 10 minutes of wash time for just $7.

Oil changes are completed in just 10 minutes

The oil change center is fully stocked with the most popular products.

Being open 24 hours a day allows a car wash to generate income around the clock — servicing customers that are unable to make it out during daytime hours. In order to successfully operate a 24/7 facility some sort of monitoring system is necessary to ensure everything is operating as it should when the wash is unmanned.

Cranberry Car Wash, Oil Change, and Pet Wash in Cranberry, PA recently upgraded its surveillance equipment and is already seeing an increase in quality and ease of use over the previous system.

When looking for a new system, owners Joe Lehosky and Dan Klapec wanted a unit that could be monitored remotely even when away from a computer.

“There are applications and services that allow owners to view the business from a home PC but we are hardly every home,” Lehosky says. “That is how we ended up with MobileCam. They were one of the first ones to come out with an application that allows the cameras to be monitored remotely through a dedicated DVR on a smartphone.”

Like any monitoring system, MobileCam Viewer helps the wash eliminate faulty damage claims and keep an eye on the operation during the overnight hours. Where the product really shines is its ability to be checked anywhere and anytime.

“We are in Northwest Pennsylvania,” Klapec says. “In the winter it can get downright cold. The wash is designed for the doors to go down when the unit faults out, but sometimes the doors stay open. If it is 17 degrees below zero we need to get out here right away to get the doors down. Now when we get a page from the equipment that something has malfunctioned we can view the unit, and most importantly the doors, no matter where we are.”

When a new monitoring system is installed, employees often feel it is being put in place to spy on them. The staff at Cranberry has quickly learned that the system is not actually there to invade their privacy, but rather to protect them.

“Shortly after we put the system in a customer alleged that her CDs came up missing in her car after we serviced it,” Klapec says. “We had her come inside and watch the video of the entire service. After watching the video she said ‘well my CDs are missing but it didn’t happen here.’ At that point the employees begin to realize that this is good for them too.”

Sixteen cameras are dedicated to the remote monitoring system, with eight more auxiliary cameras with limited memory situated throughout the facility for back up.

Lehosky and Klapec purchased Cranberry Pennzoil 10 Minute Oil Change in 2002. At the time the facility was simply a three-bay quick lube center. Two years later, after extensive research, the ownership team decided to add car-washing services to the business — building two self-serve bays and one in-bay automatic.

During the planning stage for the car wash, the partners decided to buck the trend in their marketplace and install a friction rollover instead of a locally popular touchless unit. The duo was so impressed with the friction unit’s performance that they installed rails in one of the self-serve bays in case they decided to convert it to a friction rollover as well — a conversion completed a few years after the car wash was built. The Dilling Harris self-serve unit that was removed from the self-serve bay acts as a backup unit.

“I went to a car wash show in Chicago and fell in love with the friction wash,” Lehosky says. “We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the competition. We also thought a friction wash would do a better job in our climate.”

With plenty of snowfall in a typical Northwestern Pennsylvania winter, the friction rollover does a good job scrubbing off road salt and grime. The owners concede that it is possible to clean a truly dirty car with a touch-less system in optimal conditions, but point out that their wash is going to produce a clean car every time.

The wash doesn’t just perform well in the winter; in fact the friction units really shine in the summer months.
“In the winter a car wash is a car wash,” Klapec says. “People just want to blast the salt off. But in the summer people are interested in making their car actually look good. In the summer we get plenty of customers that drive farther to our wash and past others because our wash actually polishes the car. I have been told by many customers that we are the best in the county.”

The rollover bays offer four wash options. The basic wash costs $7 with the top of the line offering selling for $10. The top three washes all receive a blow dry. The owners are in the process of installing a new wax and drying aid that will help with the final product, and will likely by updating their pricing structure to reflect the increase in service.

Three years after adding the car wash services the owners were set to expand again, this time adding a two-stall pet wash to help round out their service offerings.

The pet wash costs $7 for 10 minutes, which is more than enough time to wash an average sized dog. The wash offers shampoo, conditioner, flea and tick killer, deskunking, oatmeal treatment (for dry sensitive skin), and blow-drying.

“The big thing with the pet wash is that people like to come into a clean facility, wash their dog and not have to clean up the tub,” Lehosky says. “If you wash the dog at home first you have to wash the dog, then you have to wash your bathroom. Most of the customers say they love it and will never wash their pet at home again.”

The addition of the pet wash has helped grow the oil change business. Many customers wash their pets while their car gets serviced. Some of these customers have never frequented the oil change center before, and have become
oil change regulars because of the available pet wash.

One of the most popular pet wash options is the deskunker. The deskunker has been very well received with hunters and the local K9 police units — drug-sniffing dogs are constantly on the losing end of skunk confrontations. Many a reeking pup’s owner is happy that Cranberry is open 24/7, as most skunk encounters happen at night.

Cranberry relies primarily on word of mouth for its marketing efforts, but does distribute wash tokens to fire houses, schools, and the police as a way to give back to the community and build some good will.

That good will has fueled Cranberry’s expansion, and helped the wash capture market share and even driven some of the competition out of business. With the addition of the mobile monitoring equipment the partners can now sit back and watch their business grow no matter where they are.

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