Progression in the Depression

If the 1920s was a booming period for The Harry Bundy Company and for the automotive sector, the 1930s would offer up a very different proposition. The Wall Street crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression hammered the U.S. car industry. By 1932, sales of new automobiles had fallen 75 percent, and automobile companies had a combined loss of $191 million in 1932 ($3.5 billion in 2021 dollars) or 25 percent of industry revenue.

It would seem untimely, then, that Harry Bundy’s company had been bought by Wendell Anderson mere months before the financial crash. Changing the name to Bundy Tubing Company, Anderson wanted to put his own stamp on the business, but he couldn’t possibly have predicted what was to follow. Of course, neither could he have predicted that his new company would prove capable, time and again, of weathering the toughest of times.

Vital to two industries, Bundy Tubing was spared from the worst of the hard times throughout the 1930s, and that was largely thanks to the advent of Bundyweld. Although Harry Bundy sadly didn’t live long enough to see the full measure of his invention’s success, dying of a heart attack in June 1931, his name would carry huge weight for decades to come.

Despite the setbacks of a financial crisis and the loss of the company’s founder, Bundy Tubing Company continued to make strides. Between 1931 and 1934, it sold 200 million feet of Bundyweld tubing. In response to a growing share in a condensed market, the business needed a larger space to operate from, and so it moved to a more spacious building in 1934.

This change in location was accompanied by other changes within the business. 1936 saw it enter into its first overseas venture – producing tubes in France and England – whilst in 1939, it manufactured its second major product, Electricweld.

Although it was faced with a whole host of challenges throughout the decade, including the rising influence and power of organized labour, Bundy Tubing Company came out of it in a strong position. This is testament to the company that the late Harry Bundy established, and to Wendell Anderson’s ability to pick up where his predecessor left off. The next period, however, was not quite as smooth…

The Roaring Twenties – a history lesson

The 1920s are synonymous with economic growth and greater mobility. The automobile reigned supreme, causing a mass migration into the suburbs and the rapid construction of all-weather surfaced roads to facilitate this burgeoning mode of travel.

Against such a backdrop, there was perhaps no better time for Harry Bundy to launch the company that would eventually become TI Fluid Systems. He not only had the right product, but he undoubtedly had the right customer, supplying oil and gas lines for the Ford Model T no less.

The company’s journey well and truly roared into life at a small space at Bellevue and Warren in Detroit. Here, Harry Bundy set up a ‘factory’ that was essentially a shop with a garage. With a workforce of 20 employees, Harry and the team went to work, establishing what would become a blueprint for the future of the American automotive industry.

As the decade progressed, so did tubing sales. As the ‘20s hit the halfway mark, these tubes were the auto industry standard, and in 1922 and 1923 alone, Harry had managed to sell 3.5 million of them. By 1926, the company had also made its mark in the refrigeration industry.

The innovation throughout the automotive industry in the 1920s propelled it to new heights, and Harry Bundy was never short of his own original ideas. 1927 saw the business consider introducing steel into production, using the material as an alternative to brass strips to make tubes. After some more Harry Bundy magic, he was selling steel tubes to automakers the following year.

He wasn’t quite done there, however. Harry introduced a process that became regarded as “Bundyweld”, a tubemaking technology that ensured greater fatigue strength and resistance to corrosion, as well as an enhanced ability to handle increasingly complex bending and torsion. The practice became widely recognized and was yet another facet of automotive progression.

Although the ‘Roaring’ aspect of the 1920s didn’t last, it was the perfect backdrop for a small automotive firm to grow into the industry giant that it is today. The hard work and innovation of Harry Bundy and his growing team set the framework for TI Fluid Systems in the 2020s.

The same, but different

Any business that wants success and longevity needs to keep moving forward and never stand still. As is the case with life in the wild, it becomes a matter of adapting to survive and thrive. Having been operating for 100 years now, it is safe to say that TI Fluid Systems has found the right formula.

No entity exists for 100 years without having experienced hardship, and there have been numerous periods of great difficulty for automotive manufacturers over the last 100 years. We’ve been through the Great Depression, World War II, the twin oil crises of the 1970s, the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Our key to success has been to tweak our approach where necessary, whilst always retaining the core aspects that make us what we are.

Take the 1990s as an example. What was once The Harry Bundy Company was now a critical part of UK conglomerate, TI Group Ltd. Other acquisitions led to other new partners, meaning that there were several voices of influence impacting the company. Things had changed since Harry Bundy started things up all those years before.

This time around, the challenge was how to react to an era of wholesale change. As part of TI’s response, an age-old concept of Harry Bundy’s was rediscovered: customer orientation. In embracing this approach to put the needs of the customer before the needs of the business, we have ensured our place at the forefront of the automotive industry.

As you can see, things have changed throughout TI Fluid Systems over time. Whilst the company’s name has evolved and ownership has changed hands, the business is, at its core, still the same customer-serving business that Harry Bundy started 100 years ago.