A vendor must do more than simply satisfy the customers’ needs, Order-Matic Corp. (OMC) CEO W.B. “Bill” Cunningham says. Instead, the Del City, Okla.-based company strives to create innovations that will provide them with more efficiency. “We have to do that just to get our foot in the door,” he says. OMC specializes in point-of-sale (POS) and signage systems and restaurant accessories for “anyone who has drive-thru service,” Cunningham says. The company serves KFC, Taco Bell Corp., Pizza Hut Inc., Long John Silver’s Inc., A&W Restaurants Inc. and SONIC, which is its largest client.
Cunningham started OMC in 1955, and originally operated the business out of his garage. According to the company, it was in that garage that he developed the first patented curb-service ordering system with a built-in speaker.
Cunningham installed the new system at the former Cattlemen’s Drive-In, located in the Stockyards area of Oklahoma City. Carhops initially resisted Cunningham’s system, since they thought his invention would eliminate their jobs.
However, OMC says, the system eventually became the standard for electronic communication in foodservice. Cunningham and his employees also had a breakthrough when they were hired by Troy Smith, the founder of Top Hat Drive-In, which eventually became SONIC.
For the drive-in, OMC developed the Optimatic, a switchboard that could process two orders at once at a drive-in stall or drive-thru. “The first SONIC Drive-In location using the Optimatic was on Lindsay Avenue in Norman, Okla.,” OMC says. “This new technology improved service times, thereby changing the quick-serve industry forever.”
OMC followed this milestone with the introduction of its first POS system, which enabled operators to track times for such actions as cooking and delivery. “With this POS system, Order-Matic created its own new business intelligence for operating quick-serve restaurants,” the company says.
Today, OMC employs a staff of 140 and operates strictly in the fast-food market. “I wouldn’t want to make something for grocery stores or filling stations,” Cunningham says, noting that the company does not have experience in other areas. “And, as long as there’s enough business in the market that we’re in, there is no use venturing into something we don’t know anything about.
“We consider ourselves innovators in [the fast-food] business,” Cunningham continues. “We kind of feel like we do set the trends.”
The company’s ability to come up with ideas to improve efficiency has served it well in the fast-food industry. “We’re dealing with people that are more positive thinkers,” he says. “They just want things that make [work] faster [and] easier [so] they get home fast.”
This year marks OMC’s 55th anniversary. “The longevity of OMC confirms this Oklahoma company’s dedication to creating innovative, new products and providing customers with the finest equipment and service available in the industry,” the company says.
He notes that the company has earned recognitions for its work, including earning a spot on the Greater Oklahoma City Metro 50 list three different times. “If your company is one of the 50 honorees, then you must be privately owned and demonstrate an increase in percentage of annual growth with revenues of at least $1 million,” he says. “The years we won the award, we were actually in the top 20 small businesses in the Oklahoma City metropolitan rea.”
A Seasoned Veteran
Still working at the age of 84, Cunningham says he is proud OMC has nurtured a philosophy of caring for its customers. “We seem like we care more about the customer than we do about making money,” he says. “If you care about your client, then the money will come automatically.”
Within OMC’s manufacturing operations, workers focus on acting fast and resolving problems quickly. “We try to stay on top of these,” Cunningham says. “It doesn’t take long to make a decision to either change a part or whatever it takes to take care of the problem.”
In addition, to make sure those problems are resolved quickly, the company’s management maintains an open door policy. “It’s just a matter of communication in any business and acting upon what you hear,” Cunningham says.
OMC also has implemented lean manufacturing. “We manufacture only what we have orders for,” he says. “We do just-in-time manufacturing because it doesn’t take us long to gear up and design a prototype and get it in to manufacture.”
The firm also maintains a companywide recycling effort and has employed a recycling coordinator over the last five years, Cunningham says. “We recycle cardboard, copy paper, wood, plastics, ABS and our menu housings,” he says.
OMC’s coordinator, he notes, found a firm, Standard Iron and Metal Co. in Oklahoma City, that can take the entire menu housing and break it down. “The recycling company [then] separates the materials because the housing has metal, ABS materials or straight-out plastic or Plexiglas and filament lights, so we’re getting the entire housing recycled,” he says.
“As far as Order-Matic getting any monetary benefits for the recycled materials, it’s very minimal,” he asserts, noting that this process is cheaper for the firm than its sanitation or haul-off fees. “All of our scrap metals from the sheet metal department go to the salvager and we do get paid for that.”
Love for the Business
Drawing on his own experience, Cunningham advises other entrepreneurs to truly love their work. “If you go into business [for yourself], you’re going to have to work harder than you do in a regular job,” he says. “It’s tougher, [and] it could break up your family.
“Don’t go into business for yourself unless you’re really passionate for it,” he advises. “If you don’t love what you’re doing, you may not be a success. That may cost you more money than you want to spend.”
Looking ahead, Cunningham says OMC will add more new technology to its operations. With these innovations, “We [will] probably talk less and let the machines manage us instead of us managing them,” he predicts. “I appreciate the technology.
“I know 50 years ago, if I had a cell phone, things would have gone a lot easier,” he says.