Jennifer Austin

Development & Implementation Leader, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Digitization and Advanced Analytics Group, 3M

Supernova Award Category: 

Data to Decisions

The Organization: 

The 3M Company, formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation operating in the fields of Safety and Industrial, Transportation and Electronics, Health Care, and Consumer Goods. The company produces a variety of products, including adhesives, abrasives, laminates, passive fire protection, personal protective equipment, window films, paint protection films, dental and orthodontic products, electrical & electronic connecting and insulating materials, medical products, car-care products, electronic circuits, healthcare software and optical films. It is based in Maplewood, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul.

The Problem: 

3M is a Fortune 100 company, diversified across a number of markets.  3M technology advances every company, 3M products enhance every home, and 3M innovation improves every life.  Their culture fosters self-sufficiency at a regional and business-unit level.  It allows 3M to be closer to customers, and be more efficient and agile, except when it doesn’t.  The ramifications of a self-sufficiency model when there are sales in 200 countries, operations in 70 countries, plants in 37 countries, and labs in 36 countries are disparate systems, dispersed employees, and long extended value streams - this sets the stage for a massive data nightmare.  The 3M corporate vision is to get better alignment to achieve digital transformation, which led to the creation of a Center of Excellence to tackle the people, process and technology challenges to move things ahead.

The Solution: 

3M created a Center of Excellence to build a Digital Twin of the business.  Initially, they conducted a number of workshops internally, taking businesses with the biggest services problems, and brainstorming independently.  When 3M approached C3 they asked, “Do you know where your inventory is?” and 3M realized they did not have an effective approach to answer this simple, but fundamental question. 3M decided that an inventory tracking application needed to be the first priority.  3M wanted to show results fast.  The first project was to develop a supply chain “Digital Twin” for inventory optimization to improve order fulfillment, service levels, and customer satisfaction for 55,000 products across 280 supply chain locations in 64 countries, in a little over 12 weeks with a team comprised of just 6 people. 

The Results: 

3M applications, including INVENTO, Sourcing Price Optimization (SPO) and Raw Material Risk Management (RM2), have all been developed and released into production under Jennifer’s CoE leadership in the last year. These applications are game-changers for 3M. Each application contributes to 3M’s Digital Twin by establishing the foundational groundwork for 3M. This is the first time 3M has access to the data in system-agnostic applications designed for individual business needs that allows users to visualize information and drive to action faster. These applications are expected to generate $200M in annual inventory savings while improving service levels across the business.  The CoE has since grown and currently includes 16 active developers, 6 data scientists, 5 developer teams with a total of 51 CoE members, and has produced 123 development sprints, 1587 development tickets, 3450 code commits, and 425 C3 types (i.e. RESTful, reusable data objects):  a remarkably productive effort.


See above.

The Technology: 

3M INVENTO is built on the C3 AI Suite™, which includes a comprehensive set of data integration, management and processing capabilities; time series services; AI and model management; and a robust security framework.  Together they speed data science and application development to accelerate delivery of AI at enterprise scale.  INVENTO leverages pre-built SaaS applications like C3 Inventory OptimizationTM, enabling actionable insights for end users to optimize inventory levels.

Disruptive Factor: 

One of the things 3M has really focused on is prioritization of initiatives. The program office tightly manages the hopper and understand the value each initiative is going to bring to the company and what effort it’s going to take. 3M has to prioritize is because this is more than just doing a quick project like some studies on analytics or some cool algorithm or model – they have to be aligned with the finance organization and the business. The dollars that are saved and recorded for applications like inventory optimization have to be done in a credible way that is approved by the 3M financial organization, so all the way up to the CFO they can say, “Yes, I agree, you saved this amount of money.” It’s finding the right businesses who have the problems, who want to work together and jointly pilot a project. The ones who are happy to be first and get to successful results can tell the rest of the company about it and become a big promoter internally that leads to more pull from other business partners. That’s been a really successful technique for 3M. They have been laser focused on how to solve problems for customers, how to improve delivery and service, and how to do it in a way that makes sense technically and will survive going forward, to enable asking those “what if?” questions with a little more confidence.

Shining Moment: 

After just five days of development, 3M had a fully-operational prototype of the application with real data ingested and available for analysis. This demonstrated the art of the possible to executives and bolstered confidence in the people and technology assembled for this solution.

About Your Organization

At 3M, we apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily. With $32 billion in sales, our 91,000 employees connect with customers all around the world. Learn more about 3M’s creative solutions to the world’s problems at or on Twitter @3M or @3MNews.