3M and the N95 mask empire that was established in Mexico


The super plant it has in Mexico has become a priority for 3M: on the one hand, due to a large number of products of all kinds that are manufactured there; and, on the other hand, because of its production of N95 masks depends on this place.

At some point in the geography of northern Mexico, whose site remains, until today, under reserve, the giant US conglomerate 3M has built, step by step, since the early 90s, a small empire. Right in the heart of our country, he built the most important production plant that the company, based in Minnesota, United States, has in the entire region of Spanish-speaking Latin America.

It is a group of eight buildings that daily receives just over 1,200 workers, who are responsible for making up to 8,000 of the nearly 64,000 products that the company sells throughout the world.

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In the company’s catalog, there are all kinds of key products. Only last year, the firm achieved, according to its 2019 financial report, global sales of more than 32.136 million dollars (million dollars), and, to date, it has in its hands more than 118,000 registered patents.

In recent weeks, Forbes Mexico had the opportunity to go through the entrance doors of this site, something that, today, is not easy to do, due to the large number of security measures that the company has established to prevent it from happening inside. any type of spread of the new SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus.

“For all the work we did, our plant was, from the beginning, considered essential, so we never stopped operating throughout the pandemic. We established a series of containment protocols, which have helped us a lot ”, explains, during the tour of the place, Jorge Andrade, general manager of the 3M plant.

The executive feels so satisfied with the protection work established, that he even points out that now the workers who work inside the plant are safer inside that place than outside it. Within its territory, there is not a single person who does not wear a mask.

In addition, dynamics were established that favor social distancing, with common areas, such as dining rooms, well-segmented; twice as many buses as they used before the pandemic were also enabled; this, to move their workers, from their homes to the workplace, keeping a healthy distance from each other.

“It has been a constant improvement effort. We have received up to five audits from different government bodies and each one of us has passed it, ”says Andrade.


Crossing from one side to the other the 3M plant, which has been present in Mexico, as a firm, since 1947, requires a lot of walking. Of the eight buildings mentioned above, five are dedicated specifically to production and are divided as follows: abrasive fibers, automotive, tapes, PSD, and multipurpose.

More than a hundred different products are manufactured here. For example, inside the tape production building, the American company manufactures everything from packaging or electrical tapes to tapes that are used to fasten diapers (which are used by brands like Chicolastic).

However, the two stellar products are Cinnamon Ribbon, of which up to 1.2 million rolls are produced monthly, and Post-its, which are manufactured in large blocks, also known as pads, which are subsequently cut to size. traditional and of which up to 900,000 units are generated every 30 days.

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Warehouse of the 3M distribution center. Photo: © Angélica Escobar / Forbes México.

A few meters beyond this building is the PSD building, in which all kinds of things are also made, ranging from household cleaning supplies (such as garbage collectors, water squeezers, or buckets with juicers), to different accessories specialized in safety issues, such as protective harnesses or industrial use glasses.

Up to 200 different types of harnesses can be produced on this company base, depending on the capabilities and characteristics that the purchasing companies are looking for.

The production of cleaning supplies in this building is complementary to the work that the company carries out within its fiber plant since most of these items are part of the catalog of its famous brand Scotch Brite.

Most of these products, which are developed and shipped from the company’s own distribution center within the plant (a space of 30,000 square meters), leave Mexico. Around 43% of the production goes to the United States and Canada; 6% go to Europe; 3% to Latin America and 2% is exported to the Asia-Pacific region. The remaining 46% of manufactured products stay within our borders.

“Much of what we produce today is destined for the north: the United States and Canada. However, in the future we aim to also increase production for the Latin American region, an area where we believe that there are many opportunities for growth ”, explains Jorge Andrade.


But, beyond all this gigantic production, 3M has placed emphasis, especially in the last six months, on the work of the plant … for a very particular reason.

And it is that this is the only place in Mexico, and in much of Latin America, where the firm produces N95 face masks, protection endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the medical bodies that today face the new coronavirus and his Covid-19 disease.

“ Our production of N95 face masks is carried out from our multipurpose building, in which medical products are also manufactured, such as, for example, Micropore tape, which is also well known,” says the plant manager.

The manufacture of the mask in that plant began in 2018 and consists of the arrangement of the different filters that the product carries and their subsequent ultrasonic sealing. As the last steps, the nose clip is placed, which allows its correct adjustment on the face, and the garters are stapled to hold it.

Things outside are not simple: the unleashed pandemic demands higher volumes of production of this article, which, eventually, could make the company look overwhelmed. The demand for this protective utensil has grown by up to 1,000%.

For this reason, since the beginning of the year, and once the spread of the virus around the world became known, the American company announced that it would double, as quickly as possible, all its production of “N95 respirators”, the name by which These face masks are also known, seeking to go, in less than a year, from generating 1,100 million to 2,000 million units.

“Today, this particular production line is a high priority for our company, which is why, here at the plant, we work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It never stops. Even if a person is absent for any reason, there is one more already waiting to take his place and continue to generate product, ”says Jorge Andrade.

The control over the line is so strict that the owner of the 3M site himself points out that every day, without any restriction, he reports (at 7 in the morning) the progress they had the previous day. Most of the respirators that are made here are destined for Mexico, but there is also a proportion that goes to South America.

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Pieces of protective lenses analyzed one by one to avoid imperfections. Photo: © Angélica Escobar / Forbes México.

From the region, only in Brazil, these products are also manufactured. The Mexican plant plans, shortly, to increase its production 50%, with the support of a new machine developed by a local supplier, which will strengthen the work of its manufacturing team.

“All [the workers of the company] know very well how important this work we are doing is; because it is not just any product, but [one that is capable of] helping to save more and more lives [in this contingency] ”, the executive says.

Source: forbes.com.mx

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