Wash Manufacturers - Growing or Dying.

I was recently having a discussion with some acquaintances in the wash equipment manufacturing industry about the "state of the industry". Our conversation discussed our economy, spending, lending, sub-prime scandals, and then our discussion became rather serious. We started talking about what is happening with companies in the car care industry. There are nearly 40 wash equipment manufacturers now and there is not nearly enough business to sustain that many companies right now. So what does that mean for wash operators, distributors, and long time manufacturers? The tone of the conversation became a bit gloomy when somebody said, "Wise man once say, your either growing or your dying." Rather appropriate don't you think? We started talking about what growth really meant in the wash equipment manufacturing industry and we all agreed that in 2008 it will have less to do with "number of units sold" (although being able to pay the bills keeps your head above water). Industry growth is about strengthening core products, manufacturer partnerships, and innovations in applications of new technologies. Industry growth has little to do with how many different services and products your company can provide. Some companies feel that if they could become a one-stop-shop for everything at a car wash THEN they would be a 'growing company'. This premise of trying to do everything at a wash is built on false assumptions because a company that is 'growing' is doing something unique and at the top of their game, not spreading themselves too thin by offering a variety of products half-heartedly. The more a company does the more support and education is required. Once a company strays from their core competency they put their brand at risk, the reputation on the line, and in 2007 consumer confidence is dropping according to industry surveys.

Growing companies are either meeting a demand that nobody else is meeting OR they are creating a demand for something wash operators didn't even know they had! (which is the most difficult, but potentially the most rewarding). The company that strays from their core business inevitably bites off more than they can chew.

The washing industry IS changing and very rapidly which I know is making some of the old-guard a bit apprehensive about what the future holds. This is not speculation either, it has been very interesting to have conversations with manufacturers that realize that doing "new" things is the only way to remain not only to remain competitive... but to remain in business. It is the unknown and the mysterious nature of 'new technology' is what scares them because they just don't 'get it'. Our consumers and target market have changed radically since the first washes were built. As new generations of drivers hit the road and the baby boomers get off the road wash manufacturers will have a LOT to learn about what the customer wants. Be the best at what you do and never be afraid to try new things and new technologies. Ask the customer what THEY want, not what engineering 'thinks' consumers want. In 2008 I foresee an interesting year in our industry... lots of growing AND perhaps the possibility of some dying.
Posted on January 10, 2008 and filed under Industry Talk.