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News

Conceive It, Believe It, Achieve It

3M Europe : 08 April, 2002  (New Product)
This year 3M reached its 100th birthday
Since its inception, 3M has exhibited remarkable fortitude and resolve, continually focusing on the essential elements of creativity, initiative, close customer relationships and superior business practices. Its inventions have solved everyday problems from sealing holiday packages and protecting fabrics, to breakthrough contributions in dozens of industries and markets — health care, security, electronics, automotive and transportation to name just a few. Today, 3M continues to remain current and vital as it embarks on its second century of innovation. And the company attributes its success to a solid cultural foundation that began in 1902 and lives on today.

“Every company seeks the keys to innovation, but few find them,” said Jerry I. Porras, co-author of Built to Last. “Over the decades, 3M learned how to be innovative and today the company uses that skill to great competitive advantage.”

At its core, 3M has illustrated respect and value for human beings and their potential, as evidenced by the McKnight Principles (named after William L. McKnight, one of 3M’s earliest executives) and the recent implementation of “Six Sigma”— a set of innovative management and business-process practices. These fundamental ideas and philosophies have contributed to 3M’s supportive employee environment and to its commitment to deliver the best products, technologies and solutions to its customers.

McKnight Principles Tout Basic Ethics and Values

In the Roaring ’20s, William McKnight headed 3M. He rose through the ranks from assistant bookkeeper to president and CEO. Although he never graduated from Duluth Business University, McKnight developed a personal philosophy that was profoundly progressive and continues to permeate the company’s workplace and culture today. McKnight began his career at 3M at a time when the American businessman was viewed as a larger-than-life economic hero who ruled his enterprise with an autocratic hand. Workers should be seen and not heard, and if a breakthrough idea surfaced, it would surely come from the top.

McKnight saw business and the workplace differently. He built 3M into a “flat” organization with minimal hierarchy and created an informal, welcoming environment that prized innovation and put a tremendous degree of faith in 3M employees to make the right decisions. McKnight frowned upon micromanagement and took pride in delegating responsibility and encouraging employees to exercise initiative.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a comprehensive management system that stresses quality control, statistical analysis of a company’s manufacturing or service processes and tools that help management and teams of employees work through difficult issues. As the authors of the Six Sigma Way state, “It’s not a business fad tied to a single method or strategy … Six Sigma plays a [big role] in building new structures and practices to support sustained success.”

Six Sigma is a key corporate initiative for 3M and fits in perfectly with the company’s innovative, flexible and results-oriented culture. Although he has been CEO of 3M for just over a year, McNerney has implemented Six Sigma initiatives throughout the company, many of which are already positively impacting the bottom line. Six Sigma has played a key role in improving 3M’s cash flow, reducing costs, increasing the efficiency of the sales force and accelerating the company’s growth rate.

Company’s Unique Corporate Culture Is Nationally Recognized

3M’s unique and progressive culture is reflected by the dozens of prestigious awards and citations the company and its employees have received over the years. In March 2002, Fortune magazine ranked 3M as the most innovative company in America in its annual survey of most admired companies. That same month, Dr. Andrew Ouderkirk, 3M corporate scientist, was named one of Fast Company magazine’s “Fast 50 Disruptors,” an award designed to “unleash the spirit of innovation, creativity, determination and struggle that moves the world forward — and to recognize leaders, teams and companies that are achieving extraordinary results.” Ouderkirk invented multilayer optical films for 3M. These films, which replicate the reflective structures found in nature, provide amazing solutions for making laptop screens brighter and increasing fiber optic efficiency.

3M chemists Patsy Sherman and Samuel Smith, co-inventors of Scotchgard fabric protector, were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2001. Assigned to work on a project to develop a rubber material that would resist deterioration from jet aircraft fuels, Sherman and Smith paid careful attention to a lab accident that led to the development of a fluorochemical polymer that could repel oil and water from fabrics.

In 1997, 3M’s Dental Products Division (now known as 3M ESPE) received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Established by the U.S. Congress, the award was created to raise awareness about quality management and to recognize U.S. companies that have a world-class system for managing their operations and people to satisfy their customers. It was the first division within 3M to win the award, as well as only the second company in the health care industry to be awarded the prize.

Two years earlier, 3M received the National Medal of Technology — the highest honor bestowed by the President of the United States to America’s leading innovators. 3M was recognized for successfully producing thousands of commercialized products and technologies, from the lightweight fiberglass casting for broken bones to reflective sheeting materials that increase highway and pedestrian safety.

Pollution Prevention Pays

3M has had a very strong record on the environment for decades. When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1970, 3M realized it needed to address all three parts of the environmental equation: air, water and waste. To that end, 3M created Pollution Prevention Pays (3P), one of the first environmental programs in the world launched by a major manufacturing company. The premise behind the concept was radical for the time: i.e., it would cost less to reduce or eliminate pollution at the source, rather than trying to clean it up afterward.

With this initiative in place, 3M engineers replaced a solvent-based manufacturing process with a water-based system for applying adhesive to Scotch magic tape. That change eliminated millions of pounds of air discharges and significantly reduced pollution-control costs. By 2000, the 3P program had saved 3M more than $850 million and prevented 1.7 billion pounds of pollution through 4,750 program initiatives. Between 1990 and 2000, 3M lowered its volatile organic air emissions by 88 percent, cut its manufacturing releases into water by 82 percent and reduced its solid waste by 24 percent.

Community Commitment Extends 3M “Family”

3M has long demonstrated a deep and lasting commitment to the community. In 2001, it ranked among the top 10 companies in America for its reputation for social responsibility, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive. That same year, the 3M Foundation and 3M Community Affairs donated more than $47 million in cash and products to education and community initiatives. And more than 50 percent of 3M employees donated time as volunteers in 2001.
Through these donations of time, product and financial assistance, 3M strives to take a holistic approach to its giving. Some notable projects in the past year include:

• September 11 Disaster Relief — 3M quickly established a $500,000 fund to match employee and retiree contributions to the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the United Way. The company also donated at least $1 million in products, including 1,000 grinding shields and 200 welding shields; thousands of cases of 3M Vetrap bandaging tape and 3M Vetbond tissue adhesive for the search and rescue dogs; an abundance of medical supplies, including 1,800 inhalers and 1,000 cases of 3M Avagard instant hand antiseptic; more than 55,000 rolls of box sealing tape; pallets of reflective material; and cases of ear plugs.

• Educational Grants to Universities — 3M gave the University of Minnesota a $15 million grant to attract students and faculty to science and technology, while also expanding hands-on learning opportunities and entrepreneurial course offerings. In addition, $3.4 million was approved to other colleges and universities nationwide, including Purdue University and Texas A&M University.

• Monarch Watch Tagging Program — Each fall, hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies migrate from Canada and the United States to the mountains west of Mexico City to their wintering grounds. The Monarch Watch, designed to conserve the Monarch butterfly population, provides funding for students from 39 states and three Canadian provinces to tag up to 80,000 Monarchs as they move south. This allows researchers to estimate the size of the migratory population and assess the impact of human activities. 3M laminating adhesive is used to attach the tiny tags to the Monarch’s wings. The adhesive holds securely without hampering the butterfly’s flight.

• Donated Dental Sealants — 3M donated dental sealant materials to fight tooth decay among high-risk children in North Carolina. Also, almost 9,000 children in 100 counties were given the sealant in a single day.
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