Maine lobster, tiger prawns, lemon, capers, blistered tomatoes with creamy white wine sauce served over handmade linguini at a restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a fantastic meal and an amazing view.
I hadn’t been to this restaurant in well over a year. We all know why: COVID. Calories be damned, it was still on the menu, so I went for it! Not available. Deciding this was probably for the best (at least for my waistline) I went with my second and healthier choice; lobster salad. Also, not available. I returned a month later. Same menu. Same story.
Listen, I get it. The lobster supply has been disrupted. The halt in eating out caused a glut of already farmed lobsters to go unsold. Commercial farmers adjusted and lowered production. Now, with people eating out again, we are told there is not enough fresh lobster supply to meet the demand. Whether it’s lumber, computer chips, or lobsters, things are going to take some time to stabilize.
It makes me think of Edward A. Murphy, Jr., an engineer and Major in the U.S. Air Force who spent a lifetime studying reliability and safety in order to prevent human error. The law that bears his name — Murphy’s Law — is a call to excellence. Often a misunderstood law, the essence of it is to use fact as a motivation to excel, not to quit.
“What can go wrong will go wrong.” — Edward A. Murphy, Jr.Murphy’s rocket sled mishap was lucky for all of us. Innovation in safety engineering and built-in redundancy has led to safer airplane cockpits and spacecraft controls. The study of how humans interact with technology and ways to minimize key failure points has been applied to all types of industries.
Identify Single Points of Failure
Occasionally things take us by surprise. Such as a lobster shortage at a restaurant that serves lobster. When that happens, the plan must turn to reducing the impact.
If an ingredient is missing, modify your offering. Print a new menu. Wow the customer the best you can with what you can get and what you can offer. Have critical parts on hand. If you design your wash to mitigate against single points of failure, you’ll have a wash that will always be up and running. Be prepared for what can go wrong.
Build Redundancy in Your Back Room
Before moving deeper into redundancy, make sure you have these three bases covered.
First, have a redundant air compressor. This is different than a spare. A redundant air compressor should be installed in parallel to a second compressor and the two should be rotated every month. Second, have a redundant power pack in the back room with ample hose and a coupler to reach any component. Third, in a perfect world, have a redundant high-pressure pump station that you can flip to in the event of a failure.
No Matter What, Don’t Compromise Wash Quality
Most modern tunnel packages have multiple cleaning actions for each vehicle surface to process cars at high speed. In the event a component fails, an operator can wash at a slower chain speed until repairs are made. Wash quality will not be compromised. If this is not an option at your wash or you aren’t sure, get with your equipment supplier to evaluate options to include multiple components for each vehicle surface.
Inventory “No Shut Down”List of Parts
I can’t list every single replacement part that should be found in your back room because it’s unique for every location. What I can say is that every wash must have a “no shut down” policy in place. Create a careful list of critical replacement parts and have them on a shelf in your backroom. Order a part the moment the part is used as a replacement. There is no need to discover a part you need is back ordered or not available when you want it. My equivalent of lobster.
Keep a Spare Conveyor DriveAssembly
Look at the shelf in your back room. You should see a conveyor drive, motor, and hose kit combination mounted to the plate so that you can swap the entire conveyor drive in 10 minutes or less. If you don’t, get one.
Anticipate What Can Go Wrong
Make sure you have spare pumps, hoses, and every other component related to how you mix and deliver chemistry. Also make sure you have replacement parts on hand for any hydraulic failure. Personally, I like to keep a patch kit with multiple pre-made hoses in various lengths. I can use this to get anything up and running until a full repair can be made after hours. Remember to include fuses and relays. To reiterate, include replacement parts that can shut down the wash.
Prepare for Routine Maintenance in Advance
Evaluate every wearable item in the wash. Bearings, shocks, cylinders, and motors to name a few. Document each parts age and average lifespan. If you’re within a year of its scheduled replacement, prepare for Mr. Murphy’s law in advance. Buy the parts now, put them on the shelf for later.
Focus on Technology
My wash is in a hurricane zone. Yours may be in an area susceptible to snowstorms, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, lightning strikes, or other natural issues. Whatever the case, there always seems to be a point in time during the year that my primary Internet Service Provider isn’t available and my site is down. This year, I’ve installed a fail-safe system that automatically detects any loss of Internet and immediately switches to a cellular connection until Internet service is recovered. Have your team practice cutting off Internet on rainy days. Sure, cellular could be down too, at which point I have a plan for cash payments in place. My point is to proactively search for everything that might go wrong and plan for it.
Chemistry Doesn’t Spoil
Chemistry is to a car wash as lobster is to a seafood restaurant. I don’t anticipate any disruptions with my chemistry; and I bet the restaurant didn’t foresee a day (or month) without lobster. I’ve increased my average on-hand inventory of chemistry to ensure I’m open for business.
Keep It Current
We all know supply and labor markets will stabilize again. Until then, whether it’s lobster pasta or car washes, the show must go on. Chemistry and replacement parts don’t spoil and being proactive with inventory rather than reactive is cheaper in the long run.
It’s our job to eliminate human error and to continue to wow our customers no matter what is thrown at us. In other words, Mr. Murphy was right, anything that can happen will happen. It’s best that we all operate with the notion to expect the unexpected and to take the necessary steps to prevent our business from being affected.
Good luck and good washing
Joining the company in 2000, Anthony Analetto serves as the president of Sonny’s CarWash Equipment Division. In this role, Anthony leads the innovation of new products to drive client success and oversees all operations, engineering, and supply chain management. Washing cars for over 30 years, Anthony was the director of operations for a 74-location national car wash chain prior to joining the company.