Odessa company aims to help make things work
By B.C. Manion
You may not know what they’re called, but you take advantage of them every day.
They’re the tiny devices that make the microwave go on when you want to heat up your frozen dinner, or fire up the oven when you want to bake a pie.
The devices are called embedded controls, and there’s a company in Odessa that makes it its business to come up with ways to make all kinds of technology work.
Ray Carr and his team design these controls for clients that provide equipment used by defense contractors, medical providers, restaurants and industrial companies, to name a few.
In essence, the embedded controls they design are tiny devices that combine hardware and software to make things work, said Carr, whose company, called Occam Medical Designs, has adopted the slogan “simplicity by design.”
He started his business in 1999 in the garage of his home in Lutz, and when the company outgrew that space, he moved to a business park in Odessa. Now, Occam Medical is getting ready to move again and plans to relocate to Land O’ Lakes.
Carr’s interest in technology began more than three decades ago. The 46-year-old said his introduction to the marvels of what computers can do happened when he was 12.
He had traveled to Pennsylvania with his family to visit relatives. His uncle was a university professor and Carr recalls seeing computer-generated images of Abraham Lincoln and the Starship Enterprise.
The printouts captured his imagination.
When Carr returned to Florida, he began delving into the world of computer programming. He spent summers at the Science Center of Pinellas learning whatever he could.
“I was writing (computer programs) on teletype terminals,” Carr said. “I finally talked my dad into getting me a computer when I was in ninth grade.”
Carr attended Vanderbilt University, where he discovered a love of electronics as well as programming.
Since then, he has used those skills to develop 23 domestic and international patents on 14 different products, including an endoscopic shaver blade window positioning system, a blood product delivery system, a conveyerized oven and method for uniform cooking, a multi-purpose irrigation/aspiration pump system and a foot switch.
Carr’s company has been involved in designing embedded controls for all sorts of restaurant equipment, such as french fryers, smoothie makers and walk-in coolers.
Despite the recession, his company has grown from a $200,000 a year operation to one topping $3 million annually.
Carr credits the subcontractors he works with.
“We have some really excellent designers,” said Carr, noting many had been laid off by their companies. “We pulled them into our group.”
These designers have handled technologies for a wide range of uses. They’ve created for defense contractors including Honeywell, ATK, Burtek, Raytheon and E-Systems.
In the medical arena, they’ve done work for Baxter, GE Medical, Bristol Myers Squibb and MELA Sciences. And, general industry clients have included Manitowoc Food Service Group, Hobart and Polaris.
Carr didn’t start out his career expecting to launch his own company that now handles work for business across the country.
Initially, Carr pictured himself climbing the corporate ladder, he said.
“I actually advanced pretty quickly. I was a director when I was 27 years old,” Carr said.
He discovered it wasn’t the life for him.
“I didn’t like what it was,” Carr said, so he and his wife, Tami, decided he should set up his own consulting company and see where that led.
Carr said creating his own business has allowed him to put his priorities in their proper place.
He and Tami, have two children, 13-year-old Sean and 6-year-old Olivia. The children are homeschooled.
“Family is so important,” said Carr, who has set aside one-on-one time with his children on his calendar each week.
“It’s so important to schedule business around your family, instead of family around your business,” Carr said.
He also relies heavily on his faith.
“As the business was growing, I joined a group called the C12,” Carr said. “It’s a group of Christian CEOs in the area.”
C12 members lead companies doing anywhere from a couple of hundred thousand to more than a billion dollars worth of business, Carr said.
“We meet once a month,” Carr said. “You get one-on-one training and you also meet once a month with your core group, which has a dozen people from the area. That has been really, really helpful.
“These are guys who can mentor,” Carr continued. “They are extremely well-versed in business and what to do.”
As he makes his business decisions, Carr pays attention to how those decisions fit into his values.
“My goal is to listen and to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented and to filter them out from the ones that may be not right for us, or not a good fit,” Carr said. He added, “It’s important to just sit and kind of be peaceful. I don’t call it meditation. To me, it’s prayer. You feel if you should flow some place and you feel if you shouldn’t.”
Ultimately, Carr said, “It’s God’s company, not my company.”
To reach Carr, email him at .