History of 3M Columbia
3M Columbia's history is a story of continuous evolution, innovation and invention. The Columbia plant's ability to attract and retain talent has enabled a culture of continuous improvement and operational excellence.
The site's central United States location provides convenient, direct access to major markets and customers. Columbia is a mix of rural family farms and mid-size commercial operations combined with a major university, colleges and medical research institutions. The community has been the springboard from which 3M has successfully commercialized multiple product platforms and developed the site into a 3M center of technical manufacturing excellence.
3M started working with the Columbia Development Corporation in the late 1960's to identify a manufacturing location. In cooperation with the support of local leaders, 3M initiated development of the site in 1969 and opened a new 160,000 sq. ft. plant in 1970. The initial operations at the site were related to film making for 3M's Visual Systems Division.
Within the next 10 years, 3M would launch flex circuit, interconnect solutions, microwave products, and overhead projection manufacturing operations in Columbia. In 1980, 3M invested in an 80,000 sq. ft. expansion to the site, and over the next several years, expanded the interconnect solutions operations. In the1980's, demand for the interconnect solutions and flex circuit products expanded which required significant investments in facilities and process improvements.
3M exited the microwave products business in 1986. During the ensuing two years, the 3M Columbia team worked with St. Paul development laboratories and, in 1988, 3M's security systems business initiated manufacturing operations in Columbia. Although the market for these initial security systems products no longer exists, additional investments and product developments led to moving a new line of RFID solutions for the 3M Track and Trace business to Columbia. In 1988, 3M consolidated the manufacture of interconnect solutions processing trays into the Columbia site, which significantly increased the sites molding capabilities and participation in the markets of interconnect solutions.
In the late 1980's a team of 3M Columbia and Austin engineers developed a revolutionary new way to manufacture flexible circuits. This new process eliminated the need to use organic solvents and enabled 3M to launch this technology in the printer market in the early 1990's. This team was awarded the prestigious Chairman's EHS Leadership award for their accomplishments. Over the next 15 years, the printer flex circuits business grew significantly and spawned multiple products. Multiple plant expansions occurred, and major infrastructure was added to the site. More than 10 major flex-based product platforms were developed and launched from Columbia. Over the past five years as flex manufacturing moved outside the United States, 3M Columbia supported the development of new operations elsewhere, including the establishment of 3M's Singapore electronics manufacturing operations.
Today, Lean Six Sigma is at the center of 3M Columba's drive to meet customer expectations, comply with regulatory requirements and provide an excellent return to shareholders. 3M Interconnect Solutions, RFID tags, and Traffic Control Materials products continue to be solid product platforms, and Columbia leads 3M's manufacturing and supply chain efforts for these products. In 2003, 3M Columbia got involved with the development of medical diagnostic products and in 2006, began manufacturing the Microcard product line. The success of these products demonstrate 3M Columbia's continuing drive and ability to respond to customer needs with speed, simplicity and excellence.