Or-Tec Celebrates 40th Anniversary
Irish Founder Crosses the Pond and Achieves Sustained Success in the Wastewater Industry.
by John O’Brien, Jr. @Jobjr
Forty years ago, Ireland native Ciaran O’Melia came to the United States in pursuit of the American dream. Armed with decades of experience in the Irish global wastewater industry and a belt press that had begun to attract American customers, he founded Organic Technologies, now Or-Tec, in Bedford, Ohio.
For a decade, Ciaran’s wife Celine and their four small children remained in Dublin while he travelled the length and breadth of the United States as a one-man sales team. In 1989, production facilities – and the O’Melia family – permanently moved to Ohio as Ciaran continued to claw his way into the American market.
The Early Years
“The early years were tough,” recalls Ciaran. It was hard work establishing credibility as the new kid on the block.” Ciaran drove approximately 50,000 miles a year to reach potential customers, often driving through the night. “We couldn’t afford the flights!” he chuckles in retrospect. During those years, the Atlas Road Map was his constant companion, as he used it to find towns with a few thousand residents.
“At the time, we were the only ones who sold small, sludge dewatering systems,” says Ciaran. “If a town of 3,000, or even 1,000, needed dewatering equipment, there was nothing available except for a big, expensive machine. We were the originators of the small- to medium-sized wastewater sludge dewatering machine and screens.” With a combination of high-quality products and stellar customer service, Or-Tec has grown into a multi-million-dollar company, with a nationwide sales force and a proven portfolio of more than thirty wastewater solutions.
“We started out with a small belt press,” says Or-Tec President Sean O’Melia, Ciaran’s son. “Now we have belt presses, screw screens, vertical screens, tank screens, microbar screens, DAF flotation systems, polymer dosing systems, conveying equipment and so on. Our product portfolio has increased ten-fold.”
Blue Whale Exclusive
Applications size has grown, too. The company now offers numerous large-scale dewatering and screening systems for cities and commercial production facilities, including the Or-Tec Blue Whale, the only 1mm Micro Bar Screen in North America. Its service department has also grown to provide reliable, cost-effective service.
“Our customers know the person coming to service the equipment understands the piece of equipment inside-out – and very possibly was the one who helped assemble it initially,” says Sean. “That kind of continuity is invaluable and saves our customers many hours and headaches.”
While most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about wastewater solutions, they are fundamental to protecting people and ecosystems. In addition to removing pollutants and toxins, good systems help conserve water use. “Effective, affordable wastewater treatment equipment is crucial to the health of our communities,” says Sean. “Or-Tec is in the business of helping towns, cities, manufacturers and others clean their wastewater so that we can all thrive.”
While the company is very proud of its growth, Sean says Or-Tec’s biggest success is its loyal customer base. Indeed, many of the early customers that Ciaran drove through the night to reach have been repeat customers for decades. “Over 20 years ago, we had a problem with nickel in our sludge and chose an Or-Tec press,” recalls Minerva, Ohio, wastewater treatment plant Manager Don Luedtke. “That was in 1997, and Ciaran has been a good friend ever since.”
Ciaran attributes this loyalty to a simple mantra that governs the company: Look after the customer. While he acknowledges that this sounds cliché, Ciaran says it’s about listening to customers carefully and selling them exactly what they need – and no more.
Sales & Marketing Manager and Vice President Jim O’Leary says Or-Tec’s customer loyalty is a result of thorough, personal service. “We don’t just deliver a system and then walk away,” he stresses. “We make sure that it is operating 100% correctly – and we make it a priority to be responsive through delivery, start-up, training and the life of the equipment.”
In an age of automated answering systems, Jim says that this begins by answering the phone. “When you call us, you get a human being who likely already knows who you are and who will help you talk through and solve your problem.”
Innovation; Customer Service; Diversification Equals Customer Loyalty
Customers also appreciate Or-Tec’s innovative products. For instance, the company developed a skid-mounted, turn-key belt press system. “Most of the time, when you buy a belt press, you have to buy a sludge pump, a control panel and a polymer dosing system from different suppliers,” Jim explains. “It’s like buying a Chevy engine and a Ford body and trying to assemble your own car!”
In contrast, Or-Tec skid-mounted belt presses are ready to go. In another innovation, Or-Tec presses runs solely on electricity, not hydraulics or pneumatics, which simplifies maintenance. Or-Tec equipment, 90% of which is manufactured in northeast Ohio, is built to last with stainless steel. Indeed, Ciaran recalls selling a belt press to a small town in South Carolina decades ago. “It’s still in operation. That must be 25 years ago!”
In the coming years, the company plans to continue to diversify its product portfolio, innovate new products and expand its national sales force. Sean and Jim both stress that the goal is to grow the company while maintaining product quality and continuing the tradition of honest, personal service that Ciaran started.
Ciaran is retired now and busy travelling the U.S. with Celine to visit grandchildren. He wants to us to share a 40thanniversary message. “I want to be sure to say thank you to our customers for their kindness over the years. I have met so many great people!”
As for Or-Tec’s employees, Ciaran laughs, “I am just so grateful they managed without me!” Then he adds, “Seriously, they are doing a fabulous job.”
As Or-Tec begins its 5th decade in business, the company plans to continue diversifying its product portfolio, innovating new products and expanding its national sales force. The goal is to maintain the highest product quality while continuing the tradition of hands-on service started by Ciaran in 1980.