Global Team Leadership Award

3M Net Abrasive Team

3M Automotive Aftermarket and Abrasive Systems Divisions

For teamwork transcending technical challenges and timelines; for showcasing the achievements of women engineers; and for purpose-driven innovation that provides customers with a cleaner, safer, and healthier work environment.

3M is a global manufacturing company, consisting of four market-focused business groups. Within the Safety and Industrial Business Group, the Abrasive Systems Division (ASD) and Automotive Aftermarket Division (AAD) produce abrasives for their respective markets. A large team, spanning both divisions, four countries, and multiple corporate labs was assembled and continued to expand throughout product development and launch.

The team developed net abrasives, highly engineered ceramic particles coated onto a porous, mesh backing, which confers excellent dust extraction and containment with a visually striking appearance. The team commercialized this premium net abrasive line, 3M Xtract Cubitron II Net Disc 710W, the first patterned net abrasive product in the market. It outperforms existing net abrasives, lasting up to twice as long and with similar or better dust extraction.

The net abrasives team developed multiple new technologies while working on 710W, resulting in at least 15 patent applications and other trade secrets invented by team members. To scale up, 3M needed to add multiple capabilities to an existing coated abrasive manufacturer in the United Kingdom. It took a concerted effort of global resources from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany to design, install, and debug equipment, train operators, set production specifications, and ensure product quality amid supply chain challenges caused by the pandemic.

As the product evolved, the team expanded to more than 200 members with clear roles and responsibilities. Ann Gilman, research specialist; Ashley Sonnier, advanced research engineer; and Mary Kostuch, senior master technician from the 3M Corporate Research Labs, supported the early research and development efforts behind the technology and product design. Ann Hawkins, senior product development specialist; Sally Lewis, product development engineer; and Adriana Gorgan, senior specialist product engineer, were key product developers and product engineers who translated the technology into a manufacturable product during pilot runs and scale-up.

A large team of manufacturing engineers made the full-scale production process run smoothly and efficiently. This team included Angela McLean, product engineering specialist; Nicole Sanborn, global lean value stream engineer; Kathrin Buehler, lean Six Sigma black belt; and Jennie Harrap and Bridette Lauzze, both senior manufacturing technology engineers. Kim Harmon, global ASD research and development (R&D) operations manager, and Helen James, AAD project manager, maintained the team’s accelerated timeline and held team members accountable for their deadlines. Barb Ariola, regulatory affairs associate, provided support for the net abrasive commercialization, and Mary Anstice, global R&D platform director for abrasives, championed the project, providing guidance and support for the global team.

This team developed and launched two cost-effective 3M net abrasives that overcome compromise between efficacy and safety for customers. The net abrasive portfolio successfully launched in limited regions in 2021 and globally by the end of 2022, which had a significant business impact for 3M, changing the way customers work for the better.