The brand new ESSO service station Merenberg of TR Autohof GmbH & Co. KG points the way to a new future – petrol station in a modern synergy design, attractively designed shop, restaurant with ambience, charging stations, gantry car wash, self-service car washing facilities, commercial vehicle wash, amusement arcade and a parking area for articulated lorries on which four football fields could be comfortably placed. There are no motorways in the immediate vicinity. And yet the location seems extremely cleverly chosen. The main road 49 connects the A 45 and A 3 motorways in an east-west direction. Where the B 456 coming from the south meets the B 49 north of Weilburg, it bisects the B 49 between Wetzlar and Limburg an der Lahn, which is now an important, four-lane traffic link. In the immediate vicinity of this road triangle lies the market town of Merenberg on the southern edge of the Westerwald, a municipality in the central Hessian district of Limburg-Weilburg. When the Straßenverkehrsgenossenschaft Hessen learned that Merenberg wanted to sell a 30,000 square metre site on the B 49, SVG and the mayor quickly came to an agreement. Following the quick signing of the land purchase contract by buyer and seller and the noticeable joy of a satisfied mayor about what had been achieved, SVG Hessen searched for a regional architect who was even found in Merenberg. "The mayor was very happy to see investment in a service station in the industrial area," says Tom Rathschlag. Today, the 24-year-old is the sole operator of the Autohof Merenberg service station. The economics graduate came into the service station business purely by chance. Prior to that, he gained experience in system gastronomy. Things quickly took their course. "We negotiated with SVG Hessen, consulted a tax consultant and analysed the future site from a business point of view – as far as this was possible. We finally decided to 'do it'."
Tom Rathschlag answers the question as to how he came to WashTec without having to explain himself in an awkward way, perfectly: "They are the market leaders." Although at first people only talked about car washing, it quickly became clear that "we also need something for our trucks". The result is impressive. Parallel to the petrol station building, an extra-long wash bay is being built, in which two lanes, each with a pre-wash area and MaxiWash Vario, can be conveniently accommodated. Manual pre-washing can be carried out over the entire length from the entrance gate to the MaxiWash Vario gantries. Tom Rathschlag does not only have the commercial vehicle gantries installed in the basic version, but decides for more in order to increase the flexibility of the MaxiWash Vario, to use it for more efficient cleaning and be able to control it reliably. These include mirror bypass functionality, the dual mounting of the side brushes at the top and bottom, which allows the brushes to be applied with constant contact pressure and evenly guided. Due to the fact that the brush contact pressure is controlled fully electronically, the brushes can follow the vehicle contours more precisely and clean better. He also chooses contoured brushes that are able to adapt even better to the highly contoured vehicle surfaces. Both lead to even better washing results. He opts for the "High-Pressure Arch Chassis" with a spraying height of 1,800 mm and chooses the option of an underfloor washing system. This puts him in the comfortable position of also being able to offer best performance in underbody washing. The terminal is clear and easy to operate, the information on the plain text display is easy to read and the necessary programmes for the respective commercial vehicle model are stored in the system.
Light grey wall and floor materials, LED lighting and transparent roof elements ensure the best lighting conditions in the bay. Those who drive semitrailers, swap body vehicles with and without trailers, 7.5 ton trucks or high vans into one of the two lanes immediately notice the cleanliness and above all tidiness. Hand brushes are in the dark grey washing bucket, the high-pressure lances are in the stainless steel quiver – the best conditions for good manual pre-washing. In order to achieve the best cleaning results, Tom Rathschlag opted for products from WashTec subsidiary AUWA. "It's really good when technology and chemicals come from a single source," says the young man, who also praises the AUWA sales representative's service. "He adjusted everything once again and even brought me a starter kit." – Two employees in each shift are responsible for cleaning the commercial vehicles, which is particularly time-consuming when silo vehicles are washed. "Due to the many protruding fittings on the silos, it is necessary to guide the brushes in certain areas. This is where the pre-washers come in. They have to assist the system in these cases," says the operator. It is the first service area to be owned by a single operator. "The advantage is that one area can compensate for another if it isn't doing so well. And there's no stress at the service area. This is the new SVG concept to prevent disputes between the operators of the petrol station, catering and vehicle washing operations and to exploit synergies."
Gantry and self-service technology made in AugsburgWashTec technology also cleans and cares for passenger cars below the petrol station forecourt, because Tom Rathschlag is having a SoftCare² Pro gantry car wash installed in the "smaller" wash bay, which can wash and care for everything from cars to high vans. In order to achieve the best cleaning and care results, he opts for WheelFlash and WheelJet, MultiFlex, FlexStream and side high pressure. The light grey portal washes with XL dimensions up to 2.90 metres high and 2.58 metres wide. The entire washing process is carried out with grey-black SofTecs® pure washing material, which is accompanied by coloured LED lighting during the entire cleaning, care and drying process. The white panels on the side walls not only make them stand out, they also create a 'good mood' atmosphere.
The two self-service washing stations have been set up as a head-end station on the left-hand side of the wash bay. The flat roof is supported by a solid steel structure, the white side walls create good working conditions even in the dark. Tom Rathschlag trusts WashTec's SelfTecs concept Wash & Shine to simplify and improve washing processes and results. Something else is remarkable. "The pre-washing area in front of the gantry wash is also connected to the self-service technology. Almost a third self-service washing area was created. The boom here is also from WashTec, although it is not a standard product, but a custom-made product." Currently, the self-service stations run without underfloor heating. "But I had everything prepared, the pipes for it are in the ground," says the man who witnessed the construction phase every day in rubber boots from the ground-breaking ceremony in August 2017. "So today I know everything about the construction, what was installed where and how underground. My presence also gave me the opportunity to exert influence on the builders and to have a say in the processes. That was a good advantage." So he also knows a lot about the installation of the water conditioning plant. "It came via WashTec from the company Nais." The special feature is that the system uses glass beads as filter material to clean contaminated washing water. They enable particularly good flow conditions for the process water. The dirt cannot adhere to the smooth glass surface. "They were quite a bit more expensive, but they don't wear out.
Text/ Pictures: Bernd Fiehöfer