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2021 Shipper of Choice profile: 3M

Supply chain visibility tools, advance planning helped 3M rapidly expand production of medical equipment for COVID response

A 3M manufacturing plant for N95 respirators. (Photo: 3M)

Presented by FreightWaves, in partnership with ArcBest, the Shipper of Choice award recognizes the manufacturers, distributors and retailers who do the best job of keeping the American economy moving by fighting driver detention, providing accessible facilities and understanding what it takes to remove inefficiencies from the supply chain.

Among the top 25 Shippers of Choice for 2021 is 3M

About 3M
New York Stock Exchange TickerMMM
HeadquartersSt. Paul, Minnesota
2020 revenue$32.2 billion
2020 net earnings$5.4 billion
Shipper of Choice history2021 (4th)

Nomination Criteria for 3M

3M rapidly scaled up production of N95 respirators last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It added hundreds of workers and expanded the plant and production lines at its Aberdeen, South Dakota, facility, bringing production from 22 million to 95 million per month.

Since the pandemic, plant workers have produced 1 billion respirators — a feat that normally would have taken about four years. Accelerated production of respirators was made possible by steps taken by 3M well before the outbreak of COVID-19, including the addition of assembly lines that would stay dormant until needed, as well as collaboration among 3M’s sourcing, supply chain and engineering groups. 

During the pandemic, 3M has also worked with partners to get real-time data to provide a clearer picture of what supplies it had in stock for better alignment with customer demand. Real-time alerts, status and recommendations from visibility platforms like FourKites were crucial for making decisions with limited information about supply chain disruptions. 

3M had to deal with winter storms in the Gulf region last February that knocked out chemical manufacturers and delayed shipments as well as with ongoing tightness in all freight transport modes. 3M is working closely with suppliers to minimize disruption and cost increases to customers, CFO Monish Patolawala said in May at the Wolfe Global Transportation and Industrials Conference. 

Real-time data and agile workflows provided 3M the flexibility it needed to quickly adjust to the new environment. Strong forecasting ability helps shippers plan dock operations at warehouses and minimize wait times for truckers. 

Shipper of Choice-related links

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About Shipper of Choice partner ArcBest

ArcBest focuses on providing customers with the best possible experience with logistics capabilities including ocean and air, LTL, truckload, ground expedite, managed transportation, and warehousing. The company creates solutions for even the most complex supply chain challenges.