How an Industry Leader Stays Ahead
Regi Flanagan doesn’t sleep much. As Vice President of Sonny’s The Car Wash Factory, he is responsible for the technological aspects of product innovation in a rapidly changing industry: conveyor-based car wash systems. What keeps him up at night? “My brain keeps working on what I’m able to build with my team,” he says. “What is the next thing we can bring to market? The answer to that question, so far, has been: Lots of innovation.
Sonny’s designs and manufactures nearly every machine you’ll find in conveyor tunnel systems – the most popular type of car wash in the United States. The company, located near Miami, Florida, is one of the largest manufacturers of conveyor car wash equipment in the world. .
Over the past decade, as automation, cloud services and digitalization have disrupted the industry, Sonny’s has looked for ways to stay ahead. That’s where Regi’s team comes in. They’ve developed new approaches to making car wash systems more digital. So far, the team has been able to digitize its tunnel controller, the brain of the car wash tunnel. They also moved point of sale systems to the cloud. Yet until now, one part of the tunnel system has remained outside the realm of digital control: the Motor Control Center (MCC).
Solve the mystery of the MCC
MCCs are the beating heart of tunnel car wash systems. They send energy to support the many loads in the tunnel, whether conveyors that pull the vehicles or the various washing arms that clean the vehicles. A typical 120 foot tunnel can have over 40 loads, and motor control centers send power to each of them. “We had this dark zone [the MCC] it’s always been a mystery,” Regi says. “You don’t know if something went wrong. You did not know the current of your motor. Car wash operators did not receive diagnostic data and information or remote monitoring and control. There were a lot of things you really didn’t get feedback on. And that mystery was something Sonny wanted to solve for his clients. “Downtime is one of the [our customers’] biggest concerns…it’s hugely important to everyone,” he says. “Some car washes can do 100, 150 cars in an hour…and if your average is $15 per car, you just lost [a couple thousand dollars] in an hour.” Another big concern for customers is the use of energy and resources – the more efficiently the system uses electricity, water, oil and soap, the more efficient the washer operator will be. -auto saves money.A digitized MCC would provide visibility into real-time energy consumption at the individual load level and therefore help owners detect energy waste.To provide an intelligent MCC capable of minimizing downtime shutdown and optimize power consumption, Regi and his team decided to bring digital connectivity to the MCC.They compared offerings from many OEMs, but ultimately settled on the TeSys intelligent load management system. ™ Island and Modicon™ M262 programmable logic controllers (PLC) connected to the IoT What caught Regi’s attention about the combination of TeSys Island and the M262? fast.All like The feedback we receive is very valuable,” he says. “He monitors voltage, energy, everything from the site. So you can show it on your phone and see the voltage of the line, see the voltage of your motors,” says Regi. Remote connectivity was also a big plus. Sonny’s entire platform is cloud-based, and therefore Regi’s team needed a system that smartphones could access and control. “We’re in Florida, so you want to be able to manage your washing from your boat. Through this, we give the opportunity to do so,” says Regi.
Sonny’s new intelligent MCC aims to provide visibility into operating conditions. It’s essential for many car wash operations, especially owners who need remote visibility into their wash from anywhere at any time, and where tech support is often at hours. or days. In a traditional system, an engine would fail in a tunnel without warning, perhaps on a busy weekend. Car wash employees, many of whom were untrained in mechanical systems, had to troubleshoot or work with service companies to send a technician. Bringing the system back online would take hours or days, and the resulting downtime would cost tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. With the digitized MCC, operators can remotely access cabinet information to troubleshoot issues. And because the system has a human-machine interface (HMI) screen, regular employees can also help bring the systems back online. “They can actually go in there and look at the HMI and figure out, okay, that red alert is bad, let’s see what it is,” Regi explains. Of course, simplifying diagnostics on a digital screen also means improving the safety of these employees. “Keeping non-electricians out of the cabinet and having a visual way for them to diagnose problems is pretty awesome,” he says.
Stay in beta
Even before the launch of the new MCC in the spring of 2020, the feedback was already encouraging. A longtime Sonny customer has been beta testing the MCC, and he’s already spreading the word on social media. “The guy calls us all the time, loves it, puts videos on Facebook of himself modifying VFDs from his phone,” Regi says. “In no time it turns out to be something you should have.” As Regi reflects on the latest innovation produced by his team, he is reminded of the value of teamwork. “Through the collaboration of the past two years, we have been able to build a high-end intelligent motor control center that this industry has never seen before,” he says. “And with our partnership with Schneider, I don’t think we could have gotten there at all, or it would have taken us another few years – and speed to market is very important.” But Regi spends more time looking forward than looking back. It is still possible to add functionality via the TeSys Island platform and Modicon M262 — he does not consider the MCC to be a completely finished solution. “We always want to build on it, [focusing on] predictive maintenance and see anomalies,” he says. The idea is to help Sonny’s customers anticipate downtime threats and inefficient operations even more quickly. This way they will continue to set the tone for the whole industry. Ultimately, digital transformation never stops when done right. New technologies, such as TeSys Island connected to the IoT, only open more doors for innovation. For Regi, there are more late nights to come. There is more innovation to be done.
Content sponsored by Schneider Electric
Filed under: Content sponsored by Schneider Electric