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Un-maned flex express tunnel - Wishful thinking?

ScottV

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We have some eager investors who are proposing to open a new express tunnel in town with the flexibility to select touch vs. touch free. It's going to be a 70' conveyor with all of the bells and whistles but the one thing that caught me by surprise was when the owners told the local planning board that there would be no employees. Any and all problems could be fixed remotely from their smartphones or tablets. They live about 25 minutes away from town where they currently operate a single bay wash.

I kind of chuckled to myself, thinking of the single cars in my IBA's and how impatient they get when immediate gratification for their problems isn't provided. I can't imagine having a conveyor full of 4 or 5 cars and have something go wrong. Am I the only one that thinks those folks are going to be a little pis*ed when they find out that nobody is there onsite to fix the issues?

Be interested in hearing your thoughts.......
 

Waxman

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an un -manned wash like this is a bad idea from a safety standpoint as well as customer satisfaction and service.

especially when new, a wash needs employees to teach customers the way the wash works, etc.

we run a 2+1 with a touch free IBA and detail shop. i cannot imagine being un manned. we are staffed 7 days/week.
 

robert roman

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I was trolling along and came across this interesting issue, unmanned conveyor.

“It's going to be a 70'....”

One way to set-up for unmanned would be to use the first 20’ of the conveyor as loading segment and point of sale with entrance gate preceding photo eye.

In other words, customer drives on then pays.

This configuration imposes about a 40 percent volume penalty but it does make customer self-loading a lot easier and unmanned possible.

Promising is one thing but will they actually do it?
 

Washmee

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I remember visiting a conveyor car wash in Minneapolis that was unattended back in the early 90's. It was attached to a big gas/c-store. The entrace to the conveyor had a big correlater and lots of mirrors. There was a pay station where you payed or entered a code if you purchased a wash from the cashier at the gas station . I wonder if it is still in operation?

Edit; I found the company. It appears they still have a few unattended conveyors.

http://www.holidaystationstores.com/Carwash.aspx
 
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robert roman

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Shell USA developed an unmanned conveyor program in 1999 when it decided to revitalize its network of washes at retail petroleum outlets.

Shell conducted the research and then hired McFarin Group, a small boutique marketing agency with no carwash experience, to design and implement a branded carwash program.

Shell’s Formula Finish carwash program highly visible architectural elements, grey and bright yellow colors, conveyor wash technology, proprietary chemicals and a customer satisfaction focus.

The pilot program was tied to Shell’s acquisition of Texaco assets (Star carwash) and Dutch Royal Shell decision to upgrade the combined fleet of 24,000 petroleum sites.

After rolling out 50 or so branded washes, Dutch Royal changed brand standards and the program fell through the cracks.

Now that Shell and other Big Oil is out retail gasoline selling business, there is no one available to do the heavy lifting necessary for a program like this.

Perhaps the best unmanned conveyor operation I ever saw was Randy Blackstone’s (now deceased) washes in Missouri in early 2000’s. I believe he owned five Mobil On-the-Run convenience stores with gasoline.

Several of these stores had long exterior-only tunnels (touch-less) with self pay stations but no free use vacuums. These washes were unattended (no loading assistance) and produced over 100,000 washes a year.
 

cantbreak80

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http://3ginc.net/gallery.html
Here's some photos of "unattended" tunnels in the Minneapolis market area, designed and installed by 3G Enterprises. The C-store cashier(s) can intervene if necessary but for the most part, customers load themselves. It was quite eye-opening to watch folks self-load with such ease/confidence. At one location, I witnessed a nearly continuous queue for over an hour...with hardly a missed roller!
 

Earl Weiss

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I submit that first the terms need to be clearly defined.

It is one thing to have a tunnel that can generaly operate without employee intervention and have other personnel on site who can "Put out the fires" when needed and quite another to have a facility totally devoid of personnel so that a problem requires a customer to dial 911.

A local Shell "unattended" conveyor somewhat looked after by the C Store people had a customer come out of the conveyor and was stuck in the tunnel for 2+ Hours.
 

ScottV

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Let me clarify what I heard at the meeting.
There will be a ~100' loop driveway where the cars will queue after selecting their wash package and paying at an autoattendant. A gate arm will raise and allow them to enter this loop driveway up to the entrance of the tunnel. If someone needs to escape, there will be a lane around the backside of the wash building once they advance up to that point. However while stacked in the "loop" they will need to jump a curb and drive across the yard if there is an emergency that they need to leave for.

The wash will not have attendants at the entrance or exit of the tunnel. There will be a daily attendant that shows up in the morning, empties garbage cans at the vac islands, checks chems, etc. but they will not be there all day while the wash is operational.

I can see a scenario where it's a busy day, 6 cars have paid and are in the queue loop and someone gets a call on their cell phone and has to escape. They jump out of line and leave, nobody is there to recognize this, and everyone after that person will get the wash that the car in front of them paid for. Sound logical?
 

robert roman

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Yes, that’s logical.

They configured entrance to maximize potential hourly volume whereas configuration I suggested would reduce hourly volume but minimize loading issues.

As Earl mentioned, most unmanned conveyors have a babysitter, c-store clerk with access to surveillance cameras and reset controls. Moreover, c-store operators normally account for labor as shared expense.
 

Earl Weiss

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................. However while stacked in the "loop" they will need to jump a curb and drive across the yard if there is an emergency that they need to leave for.


I can see a scenario where it's a busy day, 6 cars have paid and are in the queue loop and someone gets a call on their cell phone and has to escape. They jump out of line and leave, nobody is there to recognize this, and everyone after that person will get the wash that the car in front of them paid for. Sound logical?
Possible - Yes, Likely - No. it's the same as someone stuck in traffic having to jump a curb or cross a median because they get called for an emergency.
 

mmurra

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The Essenburg family (Tommys), developed the no load concept in the eighties and continue with that successful model. An employee is within eyesight or so. Our own tunnel was operated remotely on slow days and hours, (mointored by CCTV in adjacent building), with occasional issues. From my experience, the operators will be asking for trouble trying to operate an unattended conveyor wash from a distant location. If is is worth building, it is worth placing an attendant in the area most all the time, IMO.
 
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