Industry Member Spotlight: Vaughan Industries

This article appeared in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Growing up, Katie Balash never really imagined taking over her parents’ industry-revolutionizing car wash parts manufacturing, engineering and design enterprise.

But life had other plans and, now that she is the President and CEO of Vaughan Industries, Balash is taking the business to new heights, encouraging interest in the skilled trades, working to empower women in the field and committed to being a steward for the city of Detroit through positive actions.

The Present

Vaughan Industries offers innovative, proprietary solutions for after-market maintenance, repair and replacement of conveyors, sprockets, rollers, chains, sprayers and vacuums at car washes nationwide, as well as chemical solutions in Michigan.

Today, Vaughan has one of the most modern chemical labs in the industry to support their research and development processes, through which they have created solutions that reduce noise pollution, wear-and-tear on equipment, down-time and the need to wait for outside repair vendors at car washes.

How People Describe Me

They would say tenacious, strong and positive. I have managed to face some major hurdles over the years — I was told that the business would fail or that I didn’t know what I was doing — but I got up every morning and faced the challenges unflinchingly.

One Skill Everyone Should Have

I think some life skills are non-negotiable. Everyone should know how to check and fill your tires with air, change a tire, thread a needle and sew on a button. Other critical knowledge includes writing a check and balancing a checking/debit account, understanding your credit score and how interest compounds on a credit card.

Balash has been able to leverage the company’s legacy of innovation and dedication to science to open new business opportunities. For example, their products could be used in vital U.S. industries that also use conveyors, such as mining, forestry and agriculture.

“Changes in the car wash industry have opened up more opportunities for us in terms of research and development,” Balash says.

Research and development is ingrained into the culture at Vaughan. Over the years, they’ve developed a number of patents and solutions for the automated car wash industry and beyond.

The Past

Nancy and Larry Balash, who was an industrial chemist, founded the business in 1977. Larry Balash soon became recognized as an innovative leader in the industry due to his revolutionary equipment, use-specific chemicals for automatic car washes and optimal repair and replacement methods.

When the Balashes could no longer maintain the business, they expected that their only son would take over one day soon. But when their son died in May 2014 in a tragic drowning, it changed the course of the future.

At that pivotal point, Katie Balash knew she had to stand up and take charge or make some tough decisions about the business. So she stood — head held high.

One Thing I Can’t Live Without

I think there are so many things we can live without but I prefer not to live without Starbucks. It may be embarrassing to admit but it totally makes my day. Plus I love to use my rewards points to treat the next person in line! It’s such a small thing but I love seeing someone’s face light up when they find out their order is paid for.

After taking classes, finding mentors and making connections in the industry, such as through MMA membership, Balash was poised to carry the business into the future.

The Future

Although Vaughan Industries remains a small business with 21 employees, it maintains a strong national presence — especially in support of STEM education and women in the car wash manufacturing industry.

“The industry historically has been male-dominated,” she says. “I love to see the change with more and more women in the industry.”

Balash is beyond proud to call Vaughan Industries a Detroit business, and she sees great potential for the future of the business in the city she calls home.

The Best Advice I Ever Got

Early on in my career at Vaughan Industries, I was so overwhelmed, and I thought everyone could see me flailing. But the world is a big place and everyone has their own stuff going on — those things that seem so overwhelming and obvious to me? No one is paying that much attention! It was a freeing piece of advice that allowed me to get out of my head — and hit the floor feet first running for the next challenge.

“The potential for growth and the research and development that we have done has set us on this trajectory to keep growing and expand our operations here in Detroit,” says Balash.

With technological advancements for the car wash industry and being fueled by a passion for the city of Detroit, Vaughan Industries is poised to continue moving the industry forward through a well- earned legacy of innovation.

MMA LogoVaughan Industries is an MMA Industry Member and has been an MMA member company since MONTH YEAR. Visit online: