WashTec's harmony orchestra
The PM Pfennings brand and the branded petrol stations belonging to the mineral oil company Pfennings stand for outstanding customer service at now over 60 petrol stations in Germany. Numerous innovations and brave steps along the road to the petrol station of the future are closely linked with the medium-sized family business based in Baseweiler, which is headed up by Fred Pfennings as the managing owner and by Dr Wilfried Plum responsible for refuelling and washing. "We are very satisfied with the development at the new Erkelenz site. However, we are in the middle of a development", says Wilfried Plum assessing the first stage after opening the conveyor tunnel system, self-service wash booths and vacuum stations in February 2017 and more than half a year of customer operation. He admits: "We found that washing with a conveyor tunnel system is different than washing with a gantry car wash. Conveyor tunnel systems are much more labour-intensive. Ideally, I need to have all the staff working on the system in sunny washing weather, but in bad weather, I am overstaffed. I therefore always need to keep an eye on the weather forecast so as to be able to deploy the staff for washing as precisely as possible according to the weather conditions."
Conveyor tunnel system only with personnel
In fact, personnel planning for a conveyor tunnel system does indeed require a great deal of experience and intuition in order to meet the daily necessities as effectively as possible. "I can operate a gantry car wash without personnel. This is not possible with a conveyor tunnel system." It is however possible to deploy the pre-washers, marshallers and cashiers for cleaning the car wash technology and the wash bay as well as the self-service station technology and for site maintenance or also in the petrol station if they are not needed on the conveyor tunnel system. Keeping 8,000 square metre commercial premises clean and tidy does after all require a lot of effort. The large area presented considerably more options in terms of the planning, but however had to be carefully planned in advance and well thought out. For the corner plot located in Erkelenz close to the A 61 federal motorway "we decided to split the area up into thirds. This practically meant setting up a Burger King and a car wash centre next to the petrol station."
The PM managers were intensively involved with the project "car wash". Fred Pfennings recalls: "We briefly thought about installing a dual Takt system, but finally opted for a modern conveyor tunnel system, because we think the demand for car washing is high enough here to warrant this. We already had some experience with a dual Takt system in Geilenkirchen." At the site there, Fred Pfennings opened Germany's first truly green petrol station at that time back in 2010. The considerations led to a further interesting approach. "Since the car is constantly in motion in front of the conveyor tunnel system and throughout the entire washing and drying process, customers are more likely to wash their vehicles in a conveyor tunnel system than a gantry car wash." Dr Plum specifies what he sees as the reason for this: "If a customer follows the vehicle wash in a gantry car wash as onlooker, the washing process appears to drag on. According to our estimates, such dead waiting times are much less intense at a conveyor tunnel system, since the vehicles in the queue and during the wash are kept rhythmically in motion."
WashTec became our first choice
In the quest to find the right partner for the washing technology, PM Pfennings was guided by the company's philosophy. "Whenever we are looking to work together with a partner, we always aim to get as strong as possible partners on our side, who really understand their business. WashTec is just such a partner in all areas of vehicle washing. We have already put our trust in washing technology from the world market leaders at other petrol stations in our service network. The business cooperation that has grown out of this has always been good, with discussions, consultations and solutions offered leading straight to the intended goal." PM Pfennings also knows the excellent WashTec service and their qualified, professional and experienced contact persons, with whose performance they have always been very satisfied in the past. "We feel in good hands with a company that is always bringing interesting product innovations to the market. This is how WashTec became our first choice." An important preliminary consideration provided the answer to the question of what is needed in order to create an impressive washing experience. A question that WashTec answered brilliantly – the impressively illuminated foam wall FoamSensation, which lays itself smoothly over the vehicle surfaces like a protective carpet, is a great experience for every customer at the start of the automatic vehicle wash. There are also the powerful highpressure nozzles from which the washing water thunders on the vehicle surfaces, keeping the occupants in suspense. It is also the washing material attached to the roof and side brushes that rolls and dances over and around the car. It is the foamed strips that gently and smoothly massage in the care product. It is the powerful nozzles of the blower dryer, which make the water droplets run from the paintwork and window glass. And it is the revolving cloth dryer, whose soft textile strips gently stroke the vehicle surfaces, catching even the tiniest of droplets. All of this combines to produce a special experience with amazing results.
Thorough, gentle and AUWA chemicals
Both can only succeed if the pre-washers do a good job. "We attach great importance to a horough and careful, very attentive pre-wash. It is particularly important to loosen and dissolve the encrusted dirt well. In the time required for this, the pre-washers very carefully wash all other areas of the vehicle with sponges, brushes and high-pressure lances. This is only possible if high-quality washing chemicals flow from the containers through the pumps and into the system. "We use AUWA chemicals. We can rely on the performance of the products, which in turn enables us to offer customers a one-stop solution. The chemicals must always be right, and the settings constantly optimised. We also regard AUWA as having a duty towards our customers", says Wilfried Plum appealing to WashTec subsidiary AUWA.
All the trades involved in the build and the WashTec service technicians proved to be reliable. Unfortunately, the weather outdoors in January and February was not. Due to the onset of winter, the commissioning was delayed, because "we wanted to have good conditions during the construction phase in order to be able to give customers a perfect car wash on a stable basis in the long term. The foundations for this were laid by the WashTec technicians with the smooth and fast installation of all components for the conveyor tunnel system, including a water conditioning facility with WashTec system technology, in which an osmosis plant was integrated. This is the only way to ensure optimum drying results. "We underestimated how long it would take to get the adjustments just right in order for example to get the foam just the way we wanted it. The illuminated foam wall today reflects wonderful experiences that customers rave about."
Messages from WashTec, AUWA and us
Last but not least, the doers behind the "PM conveyor tunnel system" - the slogan on the 30 m high mast next to the car wash - focused to announce customer-specific marketing. "We checked out the competition, calculated possible wash prices and decided to offer four washing programmes. Everything was to be kept clear and transparent for customers to enable them to make the right choice." PM conveyor tunnel system developed loyalty cards that can be topped up. The greater the credit, the more PM conveyor tunnel system gives. Customers celebrating their birthday can wash for free two days before and two days after this date. And, "Through the loyalty card we know their e-mail address. This enables us to inform our customers about our promotions and new ideas in an elegant, ultrafast and cost-effective way. This can be cross selling with Burger King, for example. Customers who buy a burger and Coke, receive a free wash in the PM car wash."
Customers who buy a Premium wash also receive a free towel, which they can exchange for a new one each time they return. The towels printed with the PM conveyor tunnel system logo are ready for customers to pick up on a product stand, positioned directly at the entrance to the conveyor tunnel system, along with care products in a handy format. They are ready for instant use in the ten self-service vacuum stations. We use our advertising spaces "to bring WashTec and AUWA messages home to customers, as well as for our own advertising. For long-term marketing, in order to be ready for the future, Fred Pfennings has also had a children's playground built in Erkelenz between the two self-service wash booths equipped with WashTec technology and SelfTecs® concept and the vacuum stations. The children are his customers of tomorrow.
Power foam for everyone
Back to the present and with regard to the two self-service washing stations, the "power foam" experience is noticeable from a considerable distance. "This is a key distinguishing feature from the competition here in Erkelenz and also at our other sites. Because the customers are very important to us. We want to constantly surprise them and present them with innovations." The decision to offer power foam in the self-service washing booth as well was therefore positive, because "we wanted to make this experience possible also for those customers who always take their cars to the self-service booth rather than through the conveyor tunnel system – power foam is an impressive innovation for all customers who visit the car wash."
Text/ Images: Bernd Fiehöfer