3M cuts 2,000 jobs as sales to China and other exports fall

ST. PAUL, Minn. - 3M reported first quarter sales fell 5 percent to $7.9 billion, as sales of industrial products - including sandpaper and adhesives - fell 6.6 percent. U.S. sales grew 0.1 percent, while those outside the U.S. fell: 6.5 percent in Latin America; 7.4 percent in Asia; and 9.4 percent in emerging markets. 

“The first quarter was a disappointing start to the year for 3M,” said Mike Roman, 3M chief executive officer. “We continued to face slowing conditions in key end markets which impacted both organic growth and margins, and our operational execution also fell short of the expectations we have for ourselves."

Though strongly associated with abrasives and adhesives in the wood manufacturing industry, 3M is highly diversified with much of its business in medical, transportation industries and consumer products, which account for $22 billion annually. Industrial products which include sandpaper and adhesives, total $12 billion annually. 

“While we take actions to manage through the near-term, we also continue to invest in growth to position 3M for the future,” Roman says. “We recently implemented a significant portfolio realignment from five to four business groups, which will enable us to better serve our customers and global markets.” Reflecting a slower than expected 2019, 3M initiated restructuring expected to lead to a reduction of 2,000 positions worldwide. Overall 3M employs 93,000.

Anticipating the downturn in results, 3M cuts its business segments from five to four earlier this month, largely merging transportation and industrial products, the latter including abrasives and glues. “Our new alignment will leverage our business transformation progress, accelerate growth and deliver greater operational efficiencies,” Roman says. 3M is also beset by major litigation, and has set aside more than half a billion dollars - $548 million - for enironmental liability for PFAS, a chemical used in manufacturing; and for respirator liabilities related to lawsuits over coal dust from miners in Kentucky and West Virginia. 

Ethan Harrison

In 2014 3M introduced Cubitron abrasives to the wood industry, which rely an advanced technology for uniform formation of the abrasive crystals. Cubitron was shown at the AWFS Fair in 2015. 3M also sponsors the WorldSkills competition, and this year is supporting Ethan Harrison who will compete in the cabinetmaking competition in the global competition. 


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About the author
Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for WoodworkingNetwork.com, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for WoodworkingNetwork.com.

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.