Careers at 3M
3M’s mission is to solve unsolved problems innovatively.
3M is a diversified technology company. The firm operates five reportable business segments:
- Industrial Business – Serves a broad range of industrial markets; these include electronics, appliance, paper and printing, packaging, food and beverage, and construction.
- Safety and Graphics Business – Serves markets that increase the safety, security, and productivity of people, facilities and systems; examples are personal protection and traffic security products.
- Health Care Business – Serves markets that include medical clinics/hospitals, pharmaceuticals, dental and orthodontic practitioners, health information systems, and food manufacturing and testing.
- Electronics and Energy Business – Serves customers in energy and electronics products, electrical products, telecommunications networks, and power generation and distribution.
- Consumer Business - Serves customers in consumer retail, office retail, office business to business, home improvement, drug and pharmacy retail, and other markets.
In 1902 there were a number of mining operations in northeastern Minnesota. Five residents of the area – doctor, a lawyer, a butcher, and two railroad executives – decided to join the bandwagon by forming Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (nicknamed 3M) in Two Harbors, MN. Their goal was to mine corundrum, a rare mineral, and market it as an abrasive.
Unfortunately, what they thought was corundrum was actually a worthless igneous rock called anorthosite. Undeterred, the group established a sandpaper factory in Duluth. However, this operation performed poorly. Company investor Edgar Ober partnered with businessman Lucius Ordway to save the business by purchasing a majority share and pumping in capital.
By the end of World War I, the sandpaper business was thriving and 3M had paid its first dividend. Over the next few decades the company would be transformed by William McKnight, who served as its President. He championed policies such as product diversification, eliminating price cuts, increasing sales by 10% a year, quality control, and fostering employee morale.
McKnight also promoted a form of salesmanship that proactively sought customer feedback. He had sales reps visit stores and interact directly with consumers to identify desired improvements and new products. This process led to some of 3M’s early innovations, including its first non-abrasives product line – Scotch tape. The company went public in 1946 and officially changed its name to 3M in 2002.
Benefits at 3M
Business model of 3M
3M has a diversified market business model, with customers that have very different needs. The company targets its offerings at consumers, businesses, and government agencies.
3M offers three primary value propositions: accessibility, innovation, and brand/status.
The company creates accessibility by offering a wide range of options. It markets over 60,000 products that are used in homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, governments, and more. These items are divided into 12 areas of expertise: automotive, commercial solutions, communications, consumer, design and construction, electronics, energy, health care, manufacturing, mining, oil & gas, safety and transportation. In short, 3M sells something for everyone.
The company has embraced innovation throughout its history and continues to do so. It invests 5.8% of its revenues in research and development. This funding helps produce over 3,000 patents annually and a constant stream of new, cutting-edge products. In fact, one-third of its sales derive from products that were invented within the past five years. Examples of its innovations are as follows:
- The first waterproof sandpaper, which reduced airborne dust during auto manufacturing
- The first masking tape, which eventually led to Scotch Pressure-Sensitive Tapes
- The first disposable toilet scrubber with built-in bleach
- Post-it notes, which introduced an entire new category in the marketplace
In 2016 3M opened a state-of-the-art, $150-million R&D laboratory on its Minnesota campus.
The company has established a powerful brand due to its success. It maintains operations in 70 countries and sales in 200. It has 46 technology platforms, and introduced a number of brands that have become household names, including Scotch tape, Post-it notes, Filtrete, and Command. Lastly, it has won many honors, including placing on the “Best Companies for Leaders” list by Chief Executive (2015), ranking 12th on Forbes’ “World’s Most Respected Companies” list (2015), placing on Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands” list (2014), and being named a “Great Place to Work” (2014).
3M’s main channels are its website and retailers, wholesalers, distributors, dealers, and jobbers. The company promotes its offering through its social media pages, advertising, and conferences.
3M’s customer relationship is primarily of a self-service nature.
Customers use its products while having limited interaction with employees. The company’s website provides answers to frequently asked questions. That said, there is a personal assistance component in the form of phone, e-mail, and live chat support.
3M’s business model entails designing, developing, and manufacturing its products for consumers. The company relies on third-party manufacturers for some of its products, but does not specify their identities.
3M’s main partners are the retailers, wholesalers, distributors, dealers, and jobbers that sell its products.
Partners also include suppliers for its parts and third-party manufacturers. Suppliers have access to Supplier Direct, a portal that provides helpful references, documents, forms, and links.
3M’s main resources are its research and development staff members, who include over 8,500 scientists and researchers worldwide. Important physical resources include its labs in 36 countries and manufacturing facilities in 29 countries.
Lastly, the company places a high priority on intellectual property, with 46 technology platforms, 106,151 total patents, and 3,000 new patents each year.
3M has a cost-driven structure, aiming to minimize expenses through low-price value propositions.
Its biggest cost driver is cost of sales, a variable expense that includes engineering, manufacturing, and freight costs. Other major drivers are in the areas of sales/administration and research and development, both fixed costs.
3M has one revenue stream: revenues generated from the sales of its products to customers.
info: Inge earned degrees in Marketing and Economics from the University of Gothenburg. He previously held several roles at 3M, including Chief Operating Officer, EVP of International Operations, and VP of Europe and Middle East.
info: James earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Marquette University. His roles at 3M have included Senior VP of Business Transformation – Americas, Senior VP of Asia-Pacific, and VP and General Manager of Business.
info: Julie earned a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.E. in Speech Therapy/Audiology at the University of Wisconsin. She previously served as Executive VP of Safety and Graphics at 3M.
info: Joaquin earned an M.S. in Polymer Science and Engineering at University of the Basque Country and a Ph.D. in the same subject at Lehigh University. He previously served as Executive VP of the Health Care Business Group at 3M.
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