Anyone who nails their colours to the mast with a royal crown in their logo must know how to perfectly clean and care for vehicles – without any ifs or buts. After all, the gold in the logo above all symbolises all that is precious and dignified. Washing technology from WashTec, the world market and innovation leader in the car wash industry, dignified handling of the vehicles and their owners who use the cleaning and care services offered by the experienced operator Siegfried Schulz. "WASCHPALAST" (car wash palace) is more than fitting with its dark blue capital letters on the approximately twelve metres long clearly visible window front and upper edge of the wash bay, into which vehicles some dirtier than others enter at the one end and reappear about seven minutes later at the other end thoroughly cleaned and looking perfectly cared for. Car wash customers, who head for the car wash palace in Recklinghausen, which opened in August 2000, know and appreciate the expert advice and cleaning performed by the pre-washers and the subsequent services of the WashTec washing technology. The automatic wash featuring FoamSensation starts with the retrofitted foam washing unit attached directly to the individually designed smart LED entry gantry. The spectacular foam curtain, illuminated in sparkling pink, covers the vehicles bit by bit in a homogeneous white cloak, supports the subsequent cleaning and fascinates both the driver and passengers alike. The work of the longitudinal wheel and sill washers is first followed by the roof brush and then four side brushes, which rotate around the vehicles. The programme pillar on the left informs car wash customers downstream from the care station immediately upstream from the blower dryer about which wash they chose - "Our best", "Palace wash", "Convenience wash", "Single wash". The double roof dryer and the two side dryers as well as the swinging cloth dryers, which are arranged in four pods, perfect the drying result.
Siegfried Schulz started out in the car wash business together with a business partner at the turn of the millennium. Today, this partner now has their own car wash in Datteln, which is also equipped with WashTec technology. "In the 90s, I was managing director of several car dealerships. At one of these car dealerships, a WashTec car wash washed new cars and vehicles that were due for a service," Siegfried Schulz begins to recount from his business biography. "After the car dealership operating company closed down, I was left wondering what was I going to do now? I had the idea of continuing to operate a car wash. I knew that, in contrast to car dealerships, in the car wash industry, I would hardly have to deal with receivables. A crucial factor in the car wash business is that you get your money before the service to be provided. As a result, we do not get the problem of unpaid bills." Although Siegfried Schulz was aware of the exceptional performance of the washing technology originating from Augsburg, he visited industry trade fairs to compare system technology of different car wash manufacturers. The decision was finally made for WashTec, "because we were very satisfied with WashTec in the car dealership business and other manufacturers did not offer what I had in mind." This satisfaction led to a business relationship that now spans three decades. "We have always been and remain satisfied to this day with the system technology. As a result, I know the car wash technology so well that I can tell by the noise when something has changed in how it works. And if I notice that something is not right, we then take care of it immediately and do not put off the repair until later," says the trained automotive mechanic Schulz today, who worked as a car mechanic for a long time. "The technical side of things is not much different. If you can use a spanner and think logically, you also know how to fix washing technology."
Probably the most difficult obstacle to him starting up in the car wash business proved to be the site. "This really was difficult. Anyone looking for a site to set up a car wash is first asked how many jobs it will create. With an area of four to five thousand square metres, the city of Recklinghausen expected 30 or 40 jobs. I can provide up to perhaps five to eight jobs for the services in what is mostly an automated car wash." So, in the late 1990s, he repeatedly got the same answers – too few jobs. Added to this was the issue of the location, which is very important for a car wash. Finally, they agreed on a site in a business park that did not meet the characteristics of a prime location. "I would rate the location of our site, which we were eventually able to acquire, as being second or third choice. Its advantage, however, is that we are easily accessible from all sides and that car wash customers can stay a long time after going through the automatic car wash. We were favoured by the fact that we could take over the former shed of a DIY store. Our customers can stay under the covered area in order to vacuum the interiors of their cars."
The "Autowaschpalast Recklinghausen" also took advantage of WashTec's offer back then to use textile washing materials. The robust and durable textile reliably cleans vehicles well. "At that time, we were among the first to offer our customers a textile conveyor tunnel system. In my opinion, textile washing material delivers far superior cleaning performance." Irrespective of this, customers today choose from four washing programmes. Siegfried Schulz still finds this number is too high, believing that usually two or three are enough. "Most customers do not know which wash to choose anyway. This is why our pre-washers advise them on their choice. Four washing programmes are quick to explain, that's good."
It is also good that the system has been running for 18 years without major repairs. This speaks for the great reliability of the WashTec technology. We had the occasional glitch. "We just had minor issues, and basically it's working better than ever. I can even say that the older it gets, the better it runs."
Regardless of this, the wash palace got a new conveyor belt in November 2018. This now allows vehicles with a tyre width of up to 380 mm to be washed. In addition, the entrance area has been completely modernised. "The rest will be done at the end of next year," reveals Siegfried Schulz. However, he will experience these works as an observer, because at the end of the year he's handing over the business. "My daughter and son-in-law are taking it over. I'm now 67 years old and I think it's time for me to call it a day," says a man who practically lived for car washing. "Many things were different 18 years ago. Today I'm seeing a new generation." But until he goes, the focus will be on delivering lightning-fast service for all customers. Whenever customers using the self-service wash or self-service vacuums call him and ask for help, Siegfried Schulz gets behind the wheel of his electrically powered golf cart and is on the spot in no time. His trusty companion performs other services, sweeps the four-and-a-half-thousand-square-metre site as needed and pushes the snow aside in winter.
Siegfried Schulz had self-service wash stations built opposite the exit area of the conveyor tunnel system, which have now also been equipped with washing technology from WashTec – four stations that are supplied by a compact cabinet system. Clear and functional in terms of the programmes thanks to SelfTecs, emotive from a visual aspect thanks to power foam and performance-oriented thanks to the efficient system solution. Siegfried Schulz concludes by adding: "Everything is now backlit in blue when it gets dark. I think that's good too. Blue colours have a calming effect on people. And in contrast to the self-service wash booths, the system can be a bit stressful due to the noises when people see the machine technology for the first time. Many women get really scared by this, and some won't even drive in at all. In these cases, we will take over." – When asked which washing chemicals he trusts, Siegfried Schulz answers: "We mostly wash with AUWA. I believe that AUWA has put more into developing its products. They know what matters in vehicle washing. With AUWA we also get better fresh fragrances. This makes a good impression on our customers."
The outstanding cleanliness and tidiness on the premises of the "palace" also make a good impression. The reason: The system and bay of the car wash palace are cleaned every day – half an hour before it opens and half an hour after closing time. The basic requirement for successfully running the wash business and occasionally boosting it. For example, Siegfried Schulz introduced a free wash day years ago, which he advertised on the radio and elsewhere. Ironically, it was raining on this day. Only a few people came. "When the weather's bad, just as few people wash their cars here as in Düsseldorf. People only come when they feel the need to wash their car and the weather's nice." Just as the offer of "a free wash" had little effect, Siegfried Schulz was also surprised by the effects when he invited drivers for a 'palace wash' on a Sunday just a few years ago. Washing vehicles is not allowed on Sundays in North Rhine-Westphalia. He still got the permit on the grounds of exceptional reasons. His aim was to donate the proceeds generated to a girl suffering from leukaemia. She needed the money to have her bone marrow type determined before receiving a transplant. "Not even 50 people came with their vehicles that day. Those who came, however, said we did not come to wash the car, but to help the girl. "From that event," I learned that things do not always go the way you plan.
Text/ pictures: Bernd Fiehöfer