Service Makes the Sale

Jim Streicher established Bison Bag Co. in 1968 with a single bag converting machine that he personally built in the basement of his Buffalo, NY, home. He and his partners, including son Jim Jr., went on to build one of the most successful flexible packaging converting organizations in the Northeastern US.

Today, Bison Bag is headquartered in a 55,000-sq-ft facility in Lockport, NY. The company has the ability to custom manufacture and print a wide variety of flexible packaging products.

Meeting Market Demands

Jim Jr., who took over as chief operating officer in 2006, says two of Bison's earliest presses were manufactured in Italy, both with process printing capabilities. However, the company saw the greatest enhancements in speed and quality about five years ago when demand for eight-color printing led it to purchase its first Italian-made Uteco press, a used 60-in., eight-color Amber 808 model with high-end graphic, process printing capabilities.

“By 2006, we were starting to get more calls for eight-color work,” explains Streicher. “We started looking at new machines again but ultimately decided that we would try something used.” Coincidentally, an older Uteco Amber Model 808 came onto the market.

While not as well known as its German counterparts, “they print every bit as well” at a reduced cost, Streicher says. “We made a couple of upgrades to it, and we noticed the biggest thing with the Uteco was their fantastic service. I can't say enough good things about the service and machinery. But we found that Uteco took the American market very seriously in the '90s and early 2000s.”

Quality Comparison

By 2009, the Uteco Amber had increased business so substantially that Bison was ready to invest in a new central impression (CI) press. Streicher and his team looked at the offerings of 12 major manufacturers from around the world and eventually narrowed their choice to Uteco and a total of four other well-known international and US manufacturers. But when he gathered his pressmen and senior executives in a conference room with samples off each press, it wasn't a difficult decision.

“I threw the prints out there and asked our guys, ‘Can you pick out a quality that's better? Do any of these jobs jump out at you?’ And nobody could tell the difference,” recalls Streicher. “So, I didn't think I could go wrong with the Onyx.”

He ultimately chose an eight-color gearless CI Onyx press with a maximum printing speed of nearly 1,300 fpm and a maximum repeat of 31.5-in., a standard repeat for food and snack packaging. The Onyx 808 is equipped with an Advanced Vision Technology (AVT) Jupiter defect detection system and Uteco's Sprintwash automatic washup and in-line slitting systems.

“The Onyx does the equivalent of the two older presses and more,” explains Streicher. “We basically more than doubled our capacity.” He notes that eight-color changeovers have been reduced from four to five hours on the older press it replaced to just 60-90 minutes on the Onyx, including color matching. Bison has a full X-Rite color matching system.

The Uteco Onyx affords Bison the flexibility to economically print orders of 250-lb laminated rollstock runs and bag runs as small as 10,000 impressions. This diversity in equipment and technologies has made Bison a supplier to both Fortune 500 and smaller companies, many in the northeast US area.

“The new capacity that was created by the addition of the Uteco Onyx was critical as Bison Bag's new Seal Tear technology begins to hit the retail packaging market,” says Streicher. “This technology allows many types of packages to add an easy-open, convenient, value-added feature at a non-cost-prohibitive expense, where no opening feature could be provided in the past. It could change the way packages are opened from this point on.”

There's Something About Service

Like Uteco, Bison Bag Co. knows a little something about service, too. The company maintains “hold and ship” programs for even its largest customers in a 22,000-sq-ft warehouse. Streicher says it's not atypical for Bison to complete a 250,000-bag run, ship half, and hold the other 125,000.

“We constantly keep an eye on where [their levels] are,” he notes. “One of our biggest customers literally gave us an order on a Thursday to ship the following Thursday — and that was ten to twelve pallets of material! The thing that a lot of customers like about us is that we can tailor a solution for them.

“A lot of the bigger [converters], aren't willing to do that,” suggests Streicher. “With us, if a customer says their annual usage is one million impressions, we make sure there is always film there.”

Sustainability Efforts

In addition to its presses, the company operates 18 bag machines from the likes of RO-AN, Hudson-Sharp, and AMI Zip-Pak. Additional converting equipment includes Ashe slitter/rewinders and a new Bielloni Julia Super Star laminator.

Streicher is proud to mention that Bison also is a very green company. “We recycle as much as we can to reduce our carbon footprint, including solvents, film, corrugated, and so on. We use variable speed air compressors from Sullair to save power, and we have an Anguil RTO to eliminate our VOCs [volatile organic compounds].

“The combination of our new press coupled with our existing equipment makes Bison one of the most versatile companies in the industry,” says Streicher. “Bison has created a culture of service and quality first, and it is evident as major customers have classified our service as ‘second to none.’ Our customers know we will bail them out of emergencies 99.9% of the time and get rewarded with long-term relationships and referrals.”

Streicher learned his work ethic from his father, James Sr., who established the company 43 years ago and still can't seem to stay away, even though he seemingly retired ten years ago. And that might not be a bad thing. As Jim Jr. notes, “He's forgotten things that most of us will never know.”

Supplier Info

Contributing editor Edward Boyle, based in Reading, PA, has covered the converting industry for more than 27 years. Contact him at EJB Communications; 610-670-4680; ejbcomm@aol.com.

All in the Families

Jim Streicher Jr. started with Bison Bag Co. in 1988 while attending college. He became a full-time employee after graduating from the Univ. of Buffalo in 1991.

In 2000, Jim Sr.'s original partner, Dave Kruse, sold his interest to the Zgoda family, and the business has been run by the partners' sons, Jim Jr. and Scott, ever since.

Jim Jr. took over as chief operating officer of the company in 2006. Scott Zgoda serves as its president.

Their company supplies high-volume markets that comprise food, including bakery, seafood, snacks, and frozen foods; industrial, including plastic bags for auto parts, chemical powders, farming products, hardware, and swimming pool products; health care; sporting goods; and more — everything from plain bags to laminated zipper stand-up pouches and rollstock.

Serving such a wide range of both customers and markets, Bison has continued to enjoy double-digit growth in spite of the sour economy. Its owners both credit the strength of the company's 70 employees, including more than 20 in the pressroom alone, plus the breath and quality of equipment for Bison's continued success.

Converter Info

  • Bison Bag Co. | 5404 Crown Dr., Lockport, NY 14094 | 716-434-4380 | www.bisonbag.com

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