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“I propose we wash all our cars – over 550 000 every year – with virtually no water. I further propose that we wash every car in less than 30 minutes. And I do not want to hear one complaint from a customer!”
Imagine the expression on the faces of the Combined Motor Holding (CMH) board when CEO Jebb McIntosh expressed his goal for the water and electricity depleting wash bays in their national network of vehicle dealers and First Car Rental.
McIntosh laid down the challenge after he personally studied the environmental impact of the many CMH wash bays. At 200 litres of water per car and many litres of washing detergents that had to be disposed of responsibly, it was a clear challenge for cost saving by the group.
The CMH team accepted the challenge and today the CMH Green Machine can be spotted in wash bays across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, the United Arab Emirates and even the United States. A CMH Green Machine uses only 750 ml of water per wash (and only to rinse the washcloths), which means the CMH saves over 199 litres per car or over 100 million litres of mostly drinking water per year.
CMH Green Machine is a compact all-in-one wash bay solution that dispenses an environmentally friendly wax through a pressurised system. The wax suspends dirt away from the vehicle’s surface and is wiped away with a special microfiber cloth, which is regularly rinsed. The wax, cloths, environmentally friendly wheel, mag and window cleaner and an industrial vacuum cleaner are all contained in a compact push-trolley design that is small enough to fit between parked vehicles.
By redesigning the business of cleaning cars, CMH Green Machine has seen greater saving than even they anticipated.
“We calculated the saving in water and electricity as well as in disposing of expensive high pressure pump systems and dirt traps. We even thought of the saving in detergent, but our clients surprised us with their innovative use of the Green Machine,” says Steve McCulloch, General Manager of CMH Green Machine.
In one example, McCulloch explains, the dealer converted the old wash bay into extra service bays, while the wash teams could clean vehicles where they were parked for service. In another, the dealer assigned a Green Machine to each department, to ensure that no “I was here first” fights broke out between representatives of the new car sales, used vehicles and servicing departments and hence cars could be cleaned much faster.
The CMH Green Machine is available for purchase or on a rental option that includes service and training. In one study Kempster Auto in the Bluff in KwaZulu-Natal realised a drop in their utilities bill of over R6 000, which more than paid for the use of their two CMH Green Machines.
“Ultimately our greatest achievement is not the cost saving. We realised that this new environmentally friendly car wash system created opportunities for entrepreneurs to start small businesses and wash cars at hotels, shopping malls and in corporate parks and we are very proud of that,” says McCulloch.
McCulloch and his team is currently expanding its network to other products, while the interest from countries such as Namibia and the United Arab Emirates have significantly expanded the reach of this local innovation.
“We have noticed a great need for our solution in other water-stressed countries and we see a great opportunity there. At the same time we are converting our national footprint in South Africa to also serve our clients with any other consumables, such as office supplies,” says McCulloch.