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12/08/2020

Shifting gears: How 3M Greenville stepped up to help essential workers

If your team typically produces plastic film for consumer electronics, you might not expect to fill a crucial need during a pandemic. But that’s exactly what happened to the team at the 3M film plant in Greenville, South Carolina; they stepped up to help COVID-19 frontline health care and essential workers.

A Friday night phone call in late March 2020 posed this question: Could the PET film produced at the plant be used to help meet the enormous demand for personal protective equipment in the United States?

Within 48 hours, PET film samples were collected, packed and shipped to companies, universities and smaller organizations that wanted to help produce face shields for use by frontline workers. And within another three days, a team of engineers, analysts and managers — with support from 3M Decatur, Ala. — were able to produce an upgraded film product: a thicker, clearer PET needed to help create effective face shields.

Throughout the next six weeks, more requests for this PET came rapidly from multiple 3M divisions, requiring extreme agility to manufacture and ship 2.25 million square yards of single-use plastic sheeting — enough for those companies, universities and smaller organizations to create more than 23 million face shields — for use in hospitals and health care facilities across the United States.

Will Carlson, value stream manager in the Greenville Film plant, said the project’s success was due to strong partnerships and the drive of the team. “It was a collaborative, multi-discipline, cross-functional effort in which manufacturing, sourcing, logistics, sales and marketing, finance and our technical labs all came together. The energy and passion from the entire team was phenomenal knowing that these shields could mean helping to protect frontline health care heroes. I am extremely proud of everyone involved.”

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