Canadian Carwash Association: Health, Safety, and Automation
WHILE CARWASH OPERATORS NATIONWIDE have spent the past year and a half continuously adapting to ongoing changes, much like everyone else, there have been emerging trends and valuable lessons learned in our industry that will benefit us moving forward. As we develop our businesses for a post-COVID world, we here at the Canadian Carwash Association thought it would be wise to take a look at these learnings in two specific areas: health and safety, and automation.
We all know health and safety is a huge part of our business, but what did we learn over the pandemic? Health and safety is a HUGE part of our business! We all had to scramble and conform to the protocols to keep our doors open and stay in business; social distancing, signage, sanitizing, employee and customer screening, rapid testing, new policies and procedures. We all did our best to adapt on the fly.
The most important thing we learned was to keep employees safe and happy, their well-being is the reason we are still in business. Our businesses have always had a health and safety program, but what we need to consider now is a health and safety culture. As the saying goes, “the customer always comes first.” What if we start putting the employees first? We only have customers because we have employees.
Mental health is vital in these times. We don’t have to be qualified counselors, or even pretend to be, but just checking in on your staff is a big thing! Creating a workplace with a positive vibe and inclusivity creates trust among employees, which can result in a happier, safer place to work.
On the interior side of our business, we have had to adapt by conducting interior cleaning by appointment only, due to COVID-related restrictions. This practice has allowed us the ability to control our labour more efficiently. Customers are being directed to on-line booking apps, either by phone, website, or QR codes posted outside our front doors. We are able to block off times when staffing is at a minimum, especially considering the current labour shortage. This also helps us plan the day by being able to control the flow of operations. Customers are happier too; previously interior cleaning was on a first-come, first-serve basis and many times we were unable to provide a cleaning service when the customer walked in, resulting in disappointment. This new system is something we had to implement due to capacity restrictions, however, we will likely see it continue after restrictions are completely lifted. It’s proving to be a win-win situation resulting from having to adapt.
This leads us into our second point of focus, automation. At carwashes across Canada, we are seeing a rapid adaptation of touchless technologies being integrated into carwash operations. There’s been a huge shift for customers to paying at the wash as opposed to purchasing their carwash in-store. From a customer’s perspective, this feels safer and is more convenient, yet it also optimizes the carwash process, shortening the time between point-of-sale to execution of the service. Also, consider the integration of apps into service operations that allow customers to purchase their services on their own time and providing the convenience of claiming their order at their will. And, though many carwashes in Canada have been offering similar options to their customers since before the pandemic, there’s no denying that the pandemic has forced a widespread adoption of these services, especially among oil companies that are slower to implement technologies due to their volume of locations.
A newer technology that is becoming more popular due to pandemic restrictions is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems and License Plate Recognition (LPR). Though still uncommon across Canada, these systems allow for customers to receive their services without any system interaction. Operations move swiftly and expenses in other areas become limited, justifying the costs of these technologies.
Though the pandemic has thrown many obstacles ahead of carwash operators, we have adapted, overcome, and will build better practices from these experiences.