3M: Per­sis­tence be­hind Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion

Shanghai Daily - - CIIE -

When vis­it­ing 3M’s on­line store, you will prob­a­bly be dazed by the sheer va­ri­ety of the com­pany’s prod­ucts, from wa­ter and air pu­ri­fiers, to res­pi­ra­tors, post-it and tapes. How­ever, be­hind this ap­par­ent di­ver­sity, the real 3M is per­sis­tent and ded­i­cated.

Keep­ing con­fi­dence in China

One of the ear­li­est for­eign com­pa­nies to come to China af­ter re­form and openingup be­gan, as much as any other com­pany, 3M has wit­nessed and par­tic­i­pated in the evo­lu­tion of the Chi­nese econ­omy. As it does so, it has grown to know China well, and gained great con­fi­dence in it.

By 1984, when 3M China was set up, six years af­ter eco­nomic re­form was first mooted, 3M ex­ec­u­tives re­spon­si­ble for in­ter­na­tional busi­ness had al­ready been on the ground in China for years, to learn about pol­icy and the di­rec­tion that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment pro­posed to take. This rel­a­tively long his­tory in China is a her­itage 3M is rightly proud of and its great com­pet­i­tive edge.

“I think it is an ab­so­lute ad­van­tage for us. First off, by be­ing here since the early open­ing pe­riod, we have been able to learn more about the mar­ket than other multi­na­tion­als that have ar­rived more re­cently,” said Stephen Shafer, pres­i­dent of 3M China.

Even as it tried to learn more about China, 3M was also in­vest­ing in lo­cal­iza­tion-lo­cal­iza­tion of man­u­fac­tur­ing, R&D, and most im­por­tant, lead­er­ship. This, along with the knowl­edge of China, has al­lowed 3M to be “more re­spon­sive, faster and to in­no­vate quicker and that dates back to the fore­sight we had as a com­pany back in 1984 to be one of the first multi­na­tion­als here,” Shafer said.

To­day, a close at­ten­tion to gov­ern­ment plans re­mains 3M’s watch­word: The key to un­lock­ing a mar­ket is un­der­stand­ing its mega­trends.

Apart from a deeper un­der­stand­ing of China, by be­ing here early, 3M has played an im­por­tant role in the evo­lu­tion of the na­tional econ­omy. From in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s, to the ad­vance­ment of man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties since China’s ac­ces­sion to the WTO in 2001, to a new em­pha­sis on safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, 3M has been there dur­ing ev­ery evo­lu­tion­ary phase of the econ­omy over the last 34 years.

At the up­com­ing CIIE, 3M will be show­cas­ing the com­pany’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties rather than just an ar­ray of new prod­ucts. For 3M, bring­ing in new prod­ucts is re­ally noth­ing spe­cial, for the com­pany has been in­tro­duc­ing hun­dreds of new prod­ucts each year.

While the im­pact of the CIIE is yet to be seen, Shafer sees the expo as a plat­form for global op­por­tu­ni­ties and global in­no­va­tion. Apart from shar­ing 3M’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties with other com­pa­nies, they will “learn a lot from other peo­ple who are com­ing and shar­ing with us what they are do­ing and what they think China’s op­por­tu­ni­ties are.”

From the ear­li­est re­forms to the CIIE, as the Chi­nese econ­omy evolves, 3M is al­ways there. Per­sis­tence and com­mit­ment in China is its own re­ward.

Ded­i­cated to safety and the en­vi­ron­ment

“We view our­selves as a res­pi­ra­tory leader both around the world and here in China, so it is our obli­ga­tion to give some­thing back to com­mu­ni­ties,” Shafer said. It is mainly through safety ed­u­ca­tion that 3M fulfills its so­cial

When asked about the chal­lenges 3M faces, Shafer men­tioned a much faster chang­ing mar­ket re­quir­ing com­pa­nies to be more re­spon­sive and agile. Once again 3M’s com­mit­ment to in­no­va­tion is self-ev­i­dent.

The com­pany now has two R&D cen­ters in China, in Shang­hai and Xi’an re­spec­tively. Back in 1984, 3M China had no more than 20 em­ploy­ees. By now, it has grown into an op­er­a­tion with 8,200 peo­ple, 600 of whom R&D staff, and holds around 1,000 lo­cal patents.

The com­pany cred­its this ex­pan­sion to its in­no­va­tive cul­ture and mind-set. Shafer calls R&D “the heart­beat of 3M.” He is proud of its “15 per­cent” prin­ci­ple, which al­lows its R&D staff to work on any projects that in­ter­est them us­ing 15 per­cent of their work­ing time.

More­over, 3M has in­sti­tuted a host of awards and recog­ni­tion, such as the 3M Golden Step Award and IP award, to en­cour­age its sci­en­tists to gen­er­ate new ideas and de­velop patents.

“We re­ally treat our sci­en­tists as the su­per­stars of the com­pany, and re­ward and rec­og­nize them as such,” said Shafer.

Stephen Shafer, Pres­i­dent of 3M China.

46 tech­nol­ogy plat­forms of 3M

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