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How would you re-design the carwash?
+10 votes
in Product Design by (716 points) | 2.9k views

8 Answers

+4 votes

We could start by asking what we are trying to achieve. Are we talking about manual car wash shops or automatic?
Since manual wash takes longer, but provide better results, let´s assume that this will be the case.
What are we trying to achieve?
Should the car wash:
– be faster?
– use less water?
– provide extra value added services to drivers? Waiting room with TV, internet, snacks, coffee?
Let´s assume we want to increase the user experience by minimizing lines and waiting times and providing extra services while the client waits to have her car washed.
Let´s also assume that the typical car wash client is women who work during the week and don´t have much time.
Possible solutions:

– App where the client could schedule a time for having her car washed. The app could offer loyalty and discounts to retain customers. For each appointment, the client would get a voucher for a free coffee in the lounge area. Payment would be integrated in the app. Partnerships with Food Delivery services could be established, so the client could order dinner to go and get it delivered during the time window when the car is being washed.
What we could do first:
1 – Implement the scheduling feature
2 – Integrate payment
3 – Implement discounts/vouchers
4 – Integrate with food delivery services

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+4 votes

Redesign – Question equates to that something exists today & we would have redesign or make changes in such a way that it achieves either its standard objectives or new objectives.

The way I would approach this question

Interviewer : How would redesign the carwash ?
Me: Hmm.. Very interesting question . May I ask you couple of clarifying questions please.
Interviewer : Sure
Me: Do we know what type of Car wash we are trying to redesign . Example includes completely automatic , Partially , Self cleaning manual or manual by person carwash. Does Carwash wash passenger cars & does it include Commercial Trucks ?
Interviewer : Lets just focus on Self cleaning manual for passenger car ( Where driver has to come outside & clean the car using provided equipment
( I narrow down the problem )

I would immediately go into shoes of consultant who is directly working with owner of car wash company.

Me: Thank you. Let me think about it for a minute.
Me: Lets first set the objective of redesigning. Do we know why do we want to redesign our cash wash . Example would include we are experiencing decline in the footprints , revenue & hence we want to improve our core revenue. Other objective could be we are hearing lot of complaints about experience of customer & we want to make it better in terms of services & experience. Add more services into car-wash to earn ancillary revenue.

Interviewer : You may assume All.

Now consultant would ask for data for current transactions & about customers but PM would take product & customers in mind & start laying out ideas around potential issues in achieving each objective.

I would immediately goes into shoes of Product Manager ( Owner of Car Wash ) . Just think you are owner & its your OWN money on the neck. What you do ?

Discuss Potential Issues keep footprints , experience & other services in mind

A) Cumbersome & hard to understand process – When customer arrives , it is hard to understand all the available options & customers gets confused which ones to use. Example : Wax Rinse , Rinse After/Before , Tire Special Rinse, Soft Foam , Hard Foaming Brush , Initial Rinse. This may sway away some customers

B) Waiting for the turn – Its hot & customers dont want to wait . Or least customers want to wait in shed. Long waiting lines would discourage repeat customers.

C) Driver cleans the car but spouse,kids get bored. Nothing to do. More Worse wait in open & child safety in question.

D) Pay by coin but not sure where to get coins . Customer turning away. Easy Payment options

E) Water Sprayer Pipe very hard to navigate & keep on interfering with car. Multiple equipment for different options adds to the complexity of process. Water Pressure Points etc.

F) Dirty Surface floor & slippery too . Customers feared about safety sometimes.

G) Equipment not working properly & not timely respond by maintenance.

Me : These are some of the problems that I believe could reduce footprints hence revenue , bad experience , lower repeat business & leaving opportunity of ancillary revenue. Lets brainstorm some ideas how could fix these issues.

Potential Ideas

A) Clear digital chart in form of animated video , helping customers to understand benefits of each option & when to to use . Pros – Customers use more options , means more revenue per customer visit . Cons – Creating the content , Digital TV & maintenance.

B) Waiting issue :- Increase number of bays , Create a app for scheduling that provides code & time. Customers directly goes into car wash at scheduled time & fill in the code to get in line . Walk-in customers has separate queue but could enter the bay if no scheduled customer is expected. For one with waiting , create cloth sheds to avoid summer hot. Pros – Better Efficient Process & less wait times. This means better loyalty & experience. Cons . Capital investment & might increase prices . So need to very verify whether target customer willing to pay for that.

C) Family gets bored either in car or outside the car. Create a waiting room. Set up Vending machines . Pros : additional revenue sources , better Experience . Cons – Cost intensive & will increase prices for car wash.

D) Credit Card payment , Pay by App & input Code etc. – Pros : Customer Experience. Cons – Increase Cost.

E) From Operation Perspective – Make the navigational square metal frame on celing . This will make sure pipe will not interfere with car . Same equipment for soap & water based on option selected but provide separate free hand brush . Pros : Significantly easy to do self car wash. Reduces cost .

F ) Dirty & Slipper Floor – Automatic cleaning of floor every 4-5 car washes along with Dryer. Strict Penalities for any car fixes , Oil changes etc. enforced by cameras & License Plate sensors.

Me : Finalize I will prioritize the features & Recommend to implement A , B , C.

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+2 votes


  1. Who do we want to re-design the carwash for? Assume for private car owners
  2. Why do you we want to re-design this? Is there an ulterior goal? No
  3. Are we talking about manual or automated car washes? Both
  4. What scale are we talking about? National carwash company
  5. Timeline to complete this? ASAP

Customer Pain Points

  1. Slow - car washes can take time, and people often can wait hours for it
  2. Inefficient - many car washes are run by humans, with humans cleaning your car
  3. Many different types of washes - choice paralysis
  4. Inconvenience of location - not everyone has access to a car wash


  1. Bring the the carwash into the digital age, with applications on wait times and locators. A mobile application can help users more easily se how long the lines are and where they can wash their cars. This will also help them more easily understand what their options are. 
  2. Fully automated car wash location, wherein you do not need to interact with a human to have your car washed. From the point-of-sale to the actual washing, can we have customers only interact with a machine? 
  3. Improve the locality of car washes, such that they are located in places where people congregate and park. This includes mall parking lots, downtown areas, and any town center. 
  4. Simply the assembly line of a car wash, by making each person there a specialist in a specific car wash element. At scale, each person is only responsible for a certain piece, thus making the process much faster. 

Prioritize Solutions

I'm going to take a big swing here and incorporate many of the above ideas. I would like to build a car wash, which is able to travel around a parking lot, and is able to almost fully automate the entire washing process. I envision this machine as a huge truck like car, with two arms that can surround a car. These arms are responsible for the wetting, washing, and drying of the car. With a fully mobile solution, large parking lots can rent this machine, and operate it in their parking lot. Lots can then have a section of the lot, with larger parking spots, where the automatic car washing machine can do its job. Customers then pay the lot for the wash, and designate their cars for the wash. This model is scalable, as the operations are franchised out, and is almost fully automatic. 
  1. One downside of this solution is that it may be too efficient, and will actually waste water with too many car washes. That's bad for the planet, so in this design process, we also must take into a account a water efficient method. Maybe we can try using sprayers to mist instead of spray the cars. 
  2. Another trade off is that this solution is likely years into the future. If we assume self-driving cars are going to reduce private car ownership, the value of a car wash will diminish for the private car market. But this solution can also be used for non-privately owned cars. 
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by (43 points)
+2 votes
There is only so much one can do to improve a manual process, so I'd make the assumption that the desire is to improve the automatic car washes

Pain points:

1. Have to GO to a carwash

2. Have to WAIT at a carwash

3. Have to KEEP A TRACK of when my car needs a carwash

4. Have to PAY for a carwash

5. Lots of WASTE (water and electricity for dryer etc)

Possible solutions:

1. Implement water recycling at existing carwashes (improvement as it saves water for the environment)

2. Default option to wash and NOT use dryer. Or charge additional $0.50 or $1 for dryer to intentionally increase friction. Since in most cases cars tend to dry out just fine by driving them home this would end up saving a lot of electricity.

Both these are not necessarily benefitting the user, but are still improvements that hugely benefit the environment. Being a environmentally conscious PM, I would not underestimate the value of these improvements. By doing good, people feel good as well. So there is an emotional win win here

Now if we were to solely think from a user's perspective alone

1. Combining the refueling + car wash together. Why does in 2019 fueling and washing happen at different locations? The carwash should allow for fuel plug to be automatically plugged in while was (call out for safety risk assessment, but should be doable in 2019)

2. Car wash experience could be improved by working with big box retailers such as Walmart/Target etc where industrial grade car wash lines could be installed that washed the cars as the patrons shopped. This is a win-win - Stores get more customers and get them OFTEN and customers get a "free" carwash while they loosen their purse inside the store. (trade-off callout would be capital cost, however should be possible to build such a thing with today's tech at lower cost)

3. Have "Roomba-like" robots which go from car to car in parking garages and parking lots. They are super "shy" so if they see (thanks to their tons of sensors) any car movement they duck under cover so that their is no safety collision issues and only when all is clear they venture "out" and use a combination of cameras/robotics/ml/ai to clean the cars in the lots. Since we are talking about cameras - routing/prioritization can be based upon how dirty the cars are and what's closest to the current car being cleaned. Benefit to the user - they don't need to think and plan

4. Car companies or paint companies can create custom "non-stick" paints/coatings which don't let dirt stick

5. Self cleaning cars. If self driving cars is possible, could self cleaning cars be far from future?

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by (69 points)
+1 vote

I would ask by clarifying the objective of re-designing the car wash. is it increasing revenue or customer experience. Assuming the objective is to increase revenue. I will also clarify that we are talking about the car wash in the US that can service majority of the consumer cars. Having said that i want to think about few pain points that i see today while using the car wash, discuss few ways of mitigating those challenges, brainstorm the benefits and challenges of each and than make a recommendation on the design. I would assume that the car wash includes both automatic and manual car wash.

Major pain points for users are:
1) Wait time – Typically consumers arrive at car wash after work and usually have to wait for few minutes before the service. This has discouraged me with at times from using the car service.
2)Quality Concerns – In the automatic car wash, as a user i am always concern about if the robotic arms used in the car wash were properly calibrated and the mops they are using are clean so that their is no mark left on my car. This becomes more important as we talk about premium category of cars.

To address these consumer pain-points I have a couple of options:

1) Desktop website/application – This can let users reserve the car wash in advance so that their is more predictability in service time. i will also let consumers choose an option to have the car wash at a regular cadence. i will integrate the payment service in the application.

2)Install cameras – i will propose that we take close pictures of the car before and after the service so that consumers have peace of mind that their car is cleaned well and their are no damages to the car because of robotic controls in the car.

3) SMS service – Although smart phones are common in the city, many users are still using non-smart phones. In order to reach out to those customers, I will think of an SMS service where consumers can text and reserve a slot.

2) Promotion Programs – I will start a loyalty program where customers get a free car wash after X number of car washes. Offer discount to regular customers, invite customer for a car wash after a storm, offer different bundles of service such as monthly car wash for a reduce price, discount for 1st time customers etc.

I will choose launching an application as it addresses all pain points and images of the vehicle can be uploaded the the customer account itself. Although, developing an app will require capital investment for the service and the car wash service might have to outsource development to a 3rd party as they don’t have expertise in it.

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0 votes

Clarify the ask: Is this a industrial car wash or a regular car wash at gas stations? Is it fully automatic or partly automatic? Up-to what size car is it capable of washing?
Lets assume this is a regular car wash capable of washing cars up to Full-size SUVs.

Goal: Easily wash cars of all sizes up-to full size SUVs.

Customers / Users:
Private car owners: These can be segmented by age, profession, education, income levels
Enterprise car owners: Cab/Uber drivers, Rental car owners etc.

Use Cases:
Wash cars (Cant think of anything else)

Competition Pain points:
1. Most car washes use a lot of water
2. No way to check if all dirty spots are cleaned
3. Do not dry the car completely
4. Get water spots if windows are rolled down and up again

Features to solve / Tradeoffs:
1. Waterless car washes or low water use car washes / Complex and expensive to develop, hence raise price
2. Compare before and after pics using image processing / Complex and expensive to develop, hence raise price
3. Identify and air dry wet spots iteratively / Would increase cycle time
4. Same as above

Based on customer benefit, complexity and cost to implement
#2, #4, #1, #3

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0 votes

Improving a carwashWhat is a carwash?It's a service where motorists pay for their vehicle to be washed.Let's assume we're limiting this a drive-in carwash - i.e. one that anyone can accesss.A carwash can be au…See more

by (26 points)
0 votes

Clarify Questions:What car? Private? Public Bus? Rental car? Toy car? Price range? Lux? Avg. consumer? F1 racing car? What kinds of wash? Auto? Manual? Where is it? Needs to driver over? Or the …See more

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