Shield System, a full-service car wash, in Brighton is an ineffective company. My research includes primary in-field research observing numerous cars running being serviced, Yelp reviews, interviews with an employee of Shield, and conversations with Mr. Jackson Kim, a business owner with 20 year of experience successfully running full-service car wash operations in this thrilling industry.
Business Model: The Company’s business model creates value by offering a convenient service to wash, vacuum, and detail cars. Shield captures value by charging consumers an upfront fee for use of the facilities and aims to service as many cars possible through existing operations. I recognized several elements in their operation that reflect principals taught in TOM such as cycle time, throughput time, and machine utilization. In this instance, leveraging principals from TOM can vastly improve this operating model.
Operating Model: The layout of this specific car wash has four self-service vacuums when a consumer drives in, followed by a one lane car wash with a hot water blaster that cleans the cars wheels. The cars then roll through an automatic car wash.
In addition, there is a separate facility / garage that allows two cars to be detailed two at a time.
Model Alignment: The business and operating models do not align and support each other well. Consumers want a clean car, price, and convenience, but the operating model does not deliver effectively.
Through my observations, I found the bottleneck was cleaning of the rims of tires and bottom exterior where the grim builds up. Shield only had one worker who was doing the first job of spraying the wheels with a high pressure water blaster. This specific instance took 3-4 minutes while the automatic machine wash took 1 minute even on the highest level of wash. After interviewing the car wash attendance, he commented that when busy, customers left because the line grew to be 3-4 cars and had to wait 10-15 minutes at which point due to lack of space, cars would have to park on a busy street. In addition, the machine utilization of wash is at most 33% assuming continuous car flow through. To improve this aspect, an additional employee could be introduced to cut down the cycle time. Finally, there is no inspection or quality assurance. Customers often leave with areas still dirty as seen in the Yelp reviews in the appendix. A good operation outlined by Mr. Kim has final inspection to ensure the customer leaves happy.
Customers can vacuum their own car at one of four stations. However, customers are required to spend time, effort and funds handling the equipment. Yet, the real estate occupied was quite large and according to the attendant, cars would either be turned away because of the wait time or otherwise the area was empty and unused. Therefore, this area is not maximized to service customers and their needs.
Shield also offers full service vacuuming through a small garage that can fit two cars. In this area, customers can have their car vacuumed and their carpet shampooed by an attendant. However, the attendant mentioned the time it takes to finish vacuuming is 30 minutes while shampooing is another 30 minutes. Thus, the cycle time is an hour for both services, making the maximum cars serviced in a day to be 20 cars in 10 hours of operation. Thus, customers often need either wait in their small waiting room, wander the neighborhood, or wait at a nearby McDonald’s. In addition, these operations are not seamless or in an assembly line that allows customers to get their cars washed right after. The workers could require training to efficiently vacuum the cars for detailing. After speaking with Mr. Kim, a good cycle time for a high performing car wash is about 1 minute for the vacuuming with 2 attendants working on each car as well as decoupling the detailing process. Furthermore, value can be better captures through a store and nice waiting room for customers to buy beverages through a vending machine or car related purchases such as floor mates and air fresheners. Thus, the customer experience aspect could be greatly improved.
HBS Grad from Section A!