Prominent express exterior car wash company utilizes innovative tunnel safety service to improve operational efficiency and increase production
Bill Martin, car wash industry veteran and Car Wash Hall of Fame inductee, founded Metro Express Car Wash in 2004. Since then, Metro Express has served as an example of the rising and continued success of the express exterior business model. In addition to boasting a double-tunnel facility at their Sheridan, CO, location — the largest express car wash in the U.S. — Metro Express prides itself on its environmental consciousness while still delivering an exceptional product to its customers.
Since express exterior car washes require the customer to ride along in their vehicle during a wash, there is a higher likelihood of human error causing an incident inside the tunnel. The opportunities for collisions were further amplified by Metro Express’ high production volumes and, in the case of Sheridan, the higher demands of operating two tunnels simultaneously.
“You have the ability to process significantly more vehicles,” Sheridan Operator John Fery said, “but you have twice the headaches; twice the things that can go wrong; twice the things to watch.”
To combat mid-tunnel collisions, Metro Express resorted to the traditional method: Dedicating employees to watch for pileups. They actually posted an employee in the tunnel for this purpose, equipped with rain gear to keep them dry.
Poor visibility and stressful conditions made this solution unreliable, so Metro Express moved the attendant outside the tunnel, where they would watch a live feed of the car wash and manually trigger emergency stops. This was only slightly more effective and still placed stress on employees.
“We drove that fear into our employees by saying, ‘if you don’t catch this, look what happens,’” says Fery. “There’s a constant fear when you’re at load-on that if you screw up, something big and horrific was going to happen.”
Metro Express also developed a thorough load-on procedure to aid in mitigating collisions. However, this process could not address human error inside the tunnel. Metro Express needed a solution capable of actively preventing collisions.
Any solution Metro Express chose needed to alleviate employee stress related to actively watching for incidents while having minimal impact on production. NoPileups fit the bill. Metro Express installed it at their Coeur d’Alene, ID, location in November 2016, followed by the Sheridan location in March 2017.
The impact of NoPileups was beyond expectation. Metro Express’ annual damage costs decreased by roughly 50% after using the service. NoPileups also allowed Metro Express to reduce labor expenses.
The real value of NoPileups, though, was found in its ability to drastically improve production and efficiency. Metro Express found many of the precautions they implemented to safeguard against collisions were now excessive. Martin realized the spacing between vehicles, originally expanded to create a safety buffer, could be reduced to leverage NoPileups’ speed.
“We can save one roller. We can get the car one roller closer to the next one,” says Martin. “With that, at the end of the day, we’re gonna wash an extra 100, 200 cars…that’s real money.”
In addition, according to Fery, NoPileups’ tunnel monitoring allowed managers to greatly reduce the time spent resolving incidents. Normally, managers would need to commit nearly eight hours to resolve a single incident between customers. With NoPileups, managers had definitive, impartial evidence to establish fault. This now allowed managers to resolve issues in as little as 30 minutes.
The impact of NoPileups was, in the minds of Metro Express, beyond expectation. According to Jordan Kuhn, General Manager, annual damage costs decreased by roughly 50% after using the service. NoPileups also allowed Metro Express to reduce labor expenses.
“It’s more cost-effective for us,” says Kuhn. “We don’t have to have that extra staff.”
While the number of collisions did decrease, the real value of NoPileups was found in its ability to drastically improve production and efficiency. Metro Express found many of the precautions they implemented to safeguard against collisions were now excessive when compared to NoPileups’ efficacy. Martin realized the spacing between vehicles, originally expanded to create a safety buffer, could be reduced to leverage NoPileups’ speed.
“We can save one roller. We can get the car one closer roller to the next one,” says Martin. “With that, at the end of the day, we’re gonna wash an extra 100, 200 cars…that’s real money.”
Having used NoPileups for over a year, the team at Metro Express can’t imagine operating a car wash without it. While the reduction in mid-tunnel collisions was a tangible benefit of the service, Metro Express found the operational performance improvements to be the real value of NoPileups.
“In our business, speed is the essence for us,” says Martin. “Every second we can shave off makes us better than the guy down the street. NoPileups is a huge competitive edge. The people who have it have the ability to wash more cars more safely than the guy down the street.”