Neatly tied and stacked bundles sit ready for shipment. Twine produces a tight tie without cutting into papers, thanks to the BUNN tying machine. (Photo by Jerry Simpkins)
Many of the tools we use in our business have seen dramatic improvements over the years. Our printing processes have incorporated auto presets, digital printing, digital output devices, computer to plate technology, automated registration, square halftone dots, round halftone dots, elliptical dot patterns, Photoshop, inkjet labeling—the list goes on. It seems every time we find some way to improve a process someone comes up with a new and better machine to do just that, improve the function of the machine and the way that equipment helps to streamline processes and improve efficiencies. Most of these new inventions have brought about improvements in our industry that have paid major dividends and moved newspapers and printing in general forward.
While all this innovation has been taking place, without a lot of fanfare, one company has made its way into majority of the newspapers across the country and we continue to reap the benefits of its “innovation” for more than 112 years.
In 1906, Benjamin Harrison Bunn decided to find a better way to tie bundles of the U.S. mail. A year later, he invented the world’s first automatic package tying machine, securing a U.S. patent by 1908. The design and functionality of this unit is the same concept used in mailrooms used across the country over a century later.
From that day in 1907, when Benjamin Bunn automated the process of tying mail, the B. H. BUNN tying machine has been a family owned company, now on its third generation. At the helm is John Bunn, whom I recently interviewed for this article. For John, it’s not just about making money, and it’s not just about getting his name out there; it’s about quality, family pride and building a machine that his grandfather invented more than a century ago.
To this day, John expresses his pride with one simple phrase, “I tell our customers and employees, ‘We come into this life with nothing, and we leave with only one thing, our integrity.”
What Makes BUNN Stand Out
Although we know them for what they have done for the newspaper industry, BUNN tying machines today are in a number of other industries. BUNN has built more than 1,500 variations from the standard unit to meet different customer applications.
When I spoke with John, he asked me an odd question during the interview: “Where was I raised?” Not quite sure what he was getting at, I told him “Upstate New York.” John was noticeably pleased and asked me when I went to the bakery in New York if they tied cake and cookie boxes with string.
“Let me guess, a BUNN tying machine?” I said.
I felt John’s sense of pride as I made the connection. It’s the same pride I see him putting into each machine that BUNN manufactures today.
In our industry, BUNN has become a staple for many small to medium sized newspapers. I can attest to the fact that many newspapers prefer the BUNN tying equipment over strappers because of its durability and simplicity. The cost to own one is reasonable, especially when compared to some of the high-end strappers, and they are extremely easy to repair if anything breaks.
I honestly can’t remember a single newspaper I’ve worked at that didn’t have a BUNN. While some are older than others, they all seem to be workhorses and their simplistic design makes them the go-to units when others fail.
In one of the conversations I had with John, he informed me that most parts for all vintage BUNN machines are still available. Even if they didn’t have the part, they had the ability to make it.
With a machine designed in 1907, I asked John how they competed with the new high-speed strapping equipment.
“How many companies actually use the machine to its full speed capacity?” John said. “They are paying for something they wouldn’t or seldom use at those speeds. Our history has shown us that the average bundle speed, per our customers, is around 25 to 30 per minute. The standard BUNN tying machines are rated at 42 cycles per minute. The BUNN tying machine will still tie faster than the operators can handle the product. Don’t get me wrong, there are some applications that do run faster, but that’s okay, there is always room for the others.”
In many of the small and medium sized mailrooms I’ve managed, BUNN continues to be the fallback unit when all others fail. When the high-tech $30,000 in-line strapper goes down mid-run and you replace it with another strapper that also goes down, it’s time to break out the BUNN tie machine. Its reliability and simplicity have truly made it not only a fallback unit, but have also made it a primary use unit at many small and midsize properties.
Over the years there have been changes in BUNN tying machines. In general, there have been minor improvements as the models grew based on bundling needs. One major change was in 1977 with the BT Series which included a V-Grove clutch pulley to reduce clutch slippage during the knotting process, repositioning of the tension device to the inside for better control, and a larger access door to provide more ease when threading.
Perhaps the most significant equipment advancement was in the manufacturing of the frame. In the 1980s, foreign metals were beginning to show up in the recycled metals as many products were being scrapped. The metal quality was much lower than American steel which was creating manufacturing issues in the cast iron components. John told his father, who was the owner at the time, that he wanted to build the frame out of tubular steel instead of cast iron, making it stronger and heavier than the previous units. That process took place more than 28 years ago, and BUNN has not replaced a single bearing due to wear since the production of the new frame began.