Science fiction writers invariably depict the future as the world with space technology, where human is completely replaced by robots in the service functions. But the forecasts are not always justified and grandiose plans of corporations in the development of human services come to naught. For example, in the USA, colossus of the modern consumer - a couple of years ago launched the service of sharing - renting out any unnecessary things by public. Also postcrossing appeared postcards exchange instead of boring social networks and increased popularity of paper books in response to the expansion of electronic ones.

Contrary to expectations, people want to do the simple things to feel like a man again, in the era of faceless space technology. What future awaits the domestic market of car washes, autoExpert asked Ruslan Koliko, director of Vikos - company - a pioneer in self-service car wash segment.


- Ruslan, how did the idea of self-service car wash appear?
- For the first time the idea to introduce self-service car wash appeared in Europe 25 years ago. In 2006 our company built the first five posts car wash in Armavir (Russia). Construction was carried out at the company's own money, as an experimental object, to identify the advantages and disadvantages, and to figure out the actual costs and return on investment. In 2,5 years this object has completely paid off and we realized that it is good business.


Self-service car wash in Dubno, Ukraine

- And how did your idea become a ready business?
- We have studied the experience of European colleagues and operation of European equipment on our own car wash in Armavir and we decided to develop our own equipment, because European analogues did not satisfy us. For this we had a great experience, saw in practice the effectiveness of self-service car wash, took into account the peculiarities of our climate and mentality. Today our equipment is one of the most advanced in the world.

- How easy is it to build a self-service car wash with no experience?
- To build is not difficult, but whether it will be a successful business? Ordinary car wash is a box, high pressure apparatus and people who provide services. Self-service car wash is a very complicated technological process, which must be not only built, but also to establish a precise and trouble-free operation.

Apparently all seems very simple, but the secret is in the construction of the technological process. There is no staff on self-service car wash, so efficient technology makes simple and effective operation. We offer not just equipment, and not even just finished object to owner. We provide the complete technology of clearly organized business that anyone else does not offer on the market today.
Before we engage in self-service car washes for many years we engaged in the organization and provision of traditional hand car washes. Our company is one of the first in Ukraine that introduced a foam car wash technology, so we know about this business firsthand. So we agreed on desires and opportunities to realize such an ambitious project.


- You mentioned about your unique equipment. Do you want to say that Ukrainian self-service car washes are "cooler" than for example in Germany?
- Equipment about 80% of manufacturers working on the so-called analog circuit and contact car wash technology. It is morally and technically outdated for today. It is an ordinary-looking metal case, which has an uncountable number of different cables, wires. We also developed electronic control of equipment, which works with the help of modern computer. All our equipment is gathered in Ukraine of the best European components.


The advantages are obvious - installation and service of our equipment is much easier than of European analogues, plus there are additional conveniences, is possible to upgrade and to reflash. We can diagnose many problems even at a distance by remote control. Every post on our car wash is a separate operating unit and is controlled by a separate computer. Posts operate independently of each other and if something happens to one post that does not affect on operation of car wash in general.

- Why then the analog control circuit is still used by the majority of manufacturers?
- In fact Europeans are conservative and may be therefore they are using proven circuit for years and do not invent anything new. Perhaps their circuit is reliable. But we wanted and were able to go through innovations. In any case, it is time to change the equipment in European countries and we are going to offer them our decision.

SELF-SERVICE CAR WASHES BACK TO THE FUTURE- Whether this service is relevant in Ukraine today? Will people want to wash the cars themselves, after accustomed to services of cleaners?
- New tariffs and services always find their customers and supporters. Society is evolving and constantly develops, appear new proposals. As we know, most of new technologies and approaches come to us after being successfully tested in the West. Self-service car washes are no an exception. European countries passed this way long time ago. Europeans passed our way in their time - people objected to self-service, did not perceive at first, were afraid to get dirty, but it is all behind. But still, the hardest way has already passed, when the society has absolute prejudice. It ends with the appearance of first finished object, when seen firsthand how it works.

On our car wash technologically everything is organized so that a person does not get dirty and stays dry. Of course, next to the water, some drops may fall, but even being in a suit you will not spoil your appearance, will not become wet and will not soak shoes.

Self-service car wash is the next step in the development of car washes. Lets say - once all refueled with fuel tanker, then there were gas stations, and then - Japanese type self-service gas stations. As well as with car washes - people just did not see and did not know this service. I am absolutely sure that self-service car washes will completely change the market, as it happened in different countries.

Suppose the potential of such European car washes has been exhausted, but in the CIS market everything it's only the beginning. At one time large Polish companies built 600 posts annually! Ukraine expects the same.

The market reacts to the offer. People need to see everything visually. Biggest advertising is finished object. Italy, France, Germany are fully equipped with the self-service car washes, there are many portal, tunnel, but very few of hand car washes.

- With such an abundance of car washes varieties for sure is there a strong competition?
- Hand car washes have no effect on the self-service car washes. As well as automatic, semi-automatic. The fact that car owners go to car wash at the same time when good weather begins or bad weather is over, etc. So people come to car wash and see a queue, therefore more profitable place is where customer can always be washed faster and cheaper.

When the market will be filled with self-service car washes, classic car washes will gradually move away, as Western experience shows. I can give Ternopol as an example in Ukraine. Three self-service car washes operate there today. When we opened the first one - queue for each post was a few dozen cars. In Ternopol still practically no foam technology at car wash - mostly they wash with sponges. So in this regard self-service car wash gave a huge advantage, and after its appearance in the market many car washes just disappeared. Certainly good manual car washes will remain, but a number of mediocre ones will leave the market.

- What are the expectations of Ukrainian consumers from car wash services?
- We are exploring the domestic market for a long time and know the consumers preferences. In fact even before self-service car washes, we were engaged in equipment, chemistry and vacuum cleaners for classic car washes.

Conducting a kind of sociological market research we tried to find out from customers why they use services of our self-service car washes. And found out three main reasons. The first reason to wash the car at self-service car wash is faster than at manual car wash. The second and very important reason is the cost. The cost of services in self-service car wash is cheaper than at any other car wash. And finally the third reason, no matter how strange it is that the man himself takes care of his car. On the one hand there is a stereotype that the car owner does not want to wash the car himself. But on the other hand, people cherish their car, so do not really want to trust it in someone's hands.

In addition to these three main there are hundreds of reasons for each individual, so he comes and is serviced on our car washes.

- How does the process of cleaning take place and what is the cost of service at self-service car wash?SELF-SERVICE CAR WASHES BACK TO THE FUTURE
- The cost of a standard car wash with the foam is UAH 20 for today. In total there are 6 different modes that self-service car wash offers. You can select any combination of them. It looks like a coffee machine - you choose at will and capabilities. For each mode there is a certain time. It is calculated optimally: it should be enough, but it does not allow to relax, to smoke a cigarette. In fact - we provide to the final car owner equipment for rent for minimal fee while washing.

SELF-SERVICE CAR WASHES BACK TO THE FUTUREThere is a separate post for a vacuum cleaner to which you can come and vacuum the car calmly.The post has an instruction, which should be guided by, but rules are quite simple.

- Isnt drying practiced at self-service car washes?
- Drying is a very conventional concept. Of course, you can wipe the car after washing, but you can also not wipe. I will explain why. There are functions in our technology, which make drying unnecessary. These functions are waxing and rinsing with distilled water. When applying wax hydrophobic effect arises - a drop of water on the surface is twisted and is very easy to slip on it. When driving a car just after washing 80% of the remaining drops will fall from the surface.

- What is the main client of self-service car washes?
- It is believed that this car wash is for cheap cars, but any cars come, including expensive ones. This is because it is important to provide service quickly for person. On classical car wash creates constant queue, because car drivers are starting to go to car wash almost in the same time and it creates inconveniences. Women also use our services. Because they are also car owners and the same people as well take care of the car, they want to save money.

20% of car owners will not wash their car themselves for status reasons, ambitions and other, 10% have never been paid for the car wash even a penny, will wash beneath the house on the lake, about 70% of car owners who like to take care of their car, and they certainly want to save if they can do it - this is our main client.

In addition to all car owners love to take care of their car themselves, regardless of the status and the cost of the car.
Constant self-service car wash customers visit fast car wash 3-4 times a month and can use the classical car wash 1 time for general cleaning.

- What are the advantages gives your project for the investor?
- Usually our investors are people who have main business and are considering second direction, which will not need to spend a lot of time. These people spend 80% of the time in their main business, so they need the direction in which they can be present remotely.

The first - this is a new theme. As we know, who first starts a new business, eats bananas, others eat off peel (laughs).
The second - we organize the process in such a way that it is not possible to steal. Thus solved all the traditional questions that arise with the staff: equipment made by us, does not get sick, does not steal, does not get drunk, does not ask for a vacation, does not be late and running round the clock.

The third - control over the process takes a minimum time. Service of such business consists of just a few tasks. They are: cash collection, inspection and territory cleaning, refilling and maintenance of equipment with chemistry.

Time invested in the business is minimal. For example, cash collection you can do yourself, but also you can instruct the bank. Supplier produces maintenance of equipment and brings chemistry. Cleaning can be done by janitor. So that all processes can be automated as much as possible to ensure only business control. In this case, even if you are very busy you can be free to have several of these car washes and only control them.

- Let's talk about the economy of the business payback. What does constitute a costly part at the opening of car wash on your project?
- Cost items on commissioning of the car wash include: allowing documentation, construction works, metal structures (carports), equipment and project. In percentage distribution it is: allowing documentation, communications about 10%, construction 25%, carport 28%, techniques, equipment 37%. The most difficult to predict in terms and price with the permits and documentation, because as you know, this is due to administrative factor.

To open self-service car wash needed a lot of permits, for example: sanitary epidemiological station, firefighters, gasmen, local officials on electricity, water, etc.

Investment payback period is from 2 to 3 years, with the profitability around 80%.

Business benefits for investor
New service in the market and lack of competition;
Complex is automated and investor does not need to be distracted from the main activity and to delve into the details of the new business;
Minimum of staff;
Lack of consumer dissatisfaction (service that is buying, customers perform independently);
100% financial control by complete complex automation;
Stealing of money, supplies by staff is impossible;
Remote control (the ability to see complex operation statistics online);
Transparency of cash flows (for partners, in the case of share participation).


Self-service car wash in Ternopol
Designed and built by the project of company "Vikos"

- How long it takes from ready land and design to installation?
- Theoretically, from the beginning of construction to commissioning goes from three to six months, but there are different nuances. Of course, there is the bureaucracy of documentary registration, someone hesitates with the signature of documents, etc. Building takes about 3 months, equipment and carport are manufactured in parallel. Then the installation is carried out.

- Is it possible to reduce any costs, because amounts of the construction are certainly considerable?
- Today our company offers a complete solution for self-service car wash opening. There are two variants of the construction. The first - when the client uses the services of a construction company, with which we have long and successfully cooperation, which acts as a contractor of our works. We recommend them and are confident in their quality. The second - the client finds the construction company according to his taste. For this we give all predesign recommendation and contribute in every possible way from our side. But who faced with the construction knows that is not a fact that he will save money and will do everything qualitatively.

About the carport, we offer three options VIP, middle segment and cheap. You can also use our services or perform the carport yourself. Thus we give the project information and recommendations what is better not to do.

- Does appearance of the carport matter?
- The appearance of car wash is of great importance for the final consumer. So all at the investor's discretion, but successful car washes usually look gorgeous.

- How does the car wash operate in winter?
- In practice, to a temperature of -15C car wash is full of clients, below to produce the sink is not comfortable and there is no major amount of clients. Technically car wash is able to operate to -30C.

- How to carry out the control?
- If you have access to the Internet, you can have full information about what is happening at the object and completely control the situation. Program developed by us allows the owner to see the statistics of every post: the amount of money for each post, the amount of remaining chemistry, analysis of services that are provided - which are in demand and which are not, etc. Of course it is possible to monitor on the Web-cameras.
All control of car wash runs under the Linux operating system - because it is much faster and easier than Windows. We as a manufacturer can easily change and customize any of the settings for the client. We know the equipment from inside - we know why exactly this screw is installed in this place, why it is left-handed, rather than right, why the button is pressed to such a depth. For all time of our self-service car washes operation service visits to customers were minimal. Due to our professionalism and knowledge of the equipment current problems were solved remotely.

- How progressive is your car wash technology?
- Of all the existing technologies for self-service car wash, we are the first for today.
There are three basic car wash technologies: The brush technology - it is not convenient to use, brush is scratching paint coat, even though is the most simple to implement car wash technology; The powder technology - it has more disadvantages than advantages such as: increased wear of the equipment, expensive for the cost function, it is similar to the principle of sandblasting. The foam technology is the most effective for self-service car washes. Contact less foam washing technology at self-service car wash devoid a lack of surface micro damage, has the best washing effect and high washing speed, and low cost.
For today, only a few manufacturers of equipment for self-service car washes can offer this technology.
We are one of those companies on the territory of Ukraine and our partner "Yugtehnohim" in Russian. Organization of the process is extremely important. Everything needs to be installed and serviced properly. What we use inside the equipment - is the best for today in the offer of high pressure accessories: pumps, electromagnetic valves. We do not save money on the accessories. The control computer is in general the know-how for self-service car washes.

- How do you position your company in the market?
- Today we have implemented and successfully operate 21 objects in Ukraine it is 95 car wash posts and more than 20 objects in Russia. This year will be put into operation more than 50 posts in Ukraine and more than 75 posts in Russia. Who else from the self-service car wash suppliers on post-Soviet territory can boast of so many successfully operating objects.

"Vikos" is the only company in Ukraine, which has completely finished process from design to launch of the object. We are talking about the engineering department, the design of construction, the production of equipment and hinged construction, professional consultation in the implementation of self-service car wash project, and of course the warranty service and technical support. The judge is of course consumer, but today we are the leader.

The author is - Maksim Belanovsky

After acquaintance to self-service car washes, there is an association with the American cult movie "Back to the Future". Movie characters repeatedly moved in time themselves and brought with them different experiences and discoveries. Self-service car wash really create a symbiosis of progressive and convenient future realized in equipment design and process control, and experiences from the past, when to wash his "favorite" in person was an incomparable pleasure.

autoExpert journal 5*2013. The reprint is possible only with the written permission of the publisher.

Vikos, Kiev city, tel.: (044) 492 25 25, fax: (044) 492 25 21, mob.: (067) 792 25 25,

Owner of the first self-service car wash in Ukraine Alexander Boychuk, city Rovno:

"Many are interested in what brings such a business, what profitability is. Judge for yourself - today I have four self-service car washes, and I build the fifth and sixth..."