Perspectives@Ford: Looking Back on My Time at 3M

Editor’s note: Jeff Miller, North America vehicle operations/powertrain operations IT site operations manager, was part of a Ford team embedded at a 3M facility in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Ford teamed up with 3M to assist with production of respirators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I type this trip summary, I am back home safe with my family. I was happy to be able to spend Easter Sunday with them after catching up on some much needed sleep.

The entire team of 35 Ford employees put in their last day of production at 3M on April 8, working all of the assigned shifts. While we were excited to be heading home, I must admit that I was sad to say goodbye to the friends I made both at 3M and those from Ford I had never met before. The camaraderie that comes from a special assignment like this will last a long time.

As of our departure date, the plant was setting new records – most respirators produced in one day and most in one week. We were into sustained numbers of increase at or over 55 percent – 1.1 million respirators per day – thanks to the help of both teams. My only hope is that they will continue at that pace without us. Several new hires were arriving and being trained to backfill us as we wrapped up, which should be sufficient if they can retain them for the near term.

One update that is worth mentioning: In my initial report, I shared the fact that many respirators were being scrapped for defects that were cosmetic only. They were still N95-certified, but they would not pass the strict quality specifications required for packing and shipping. We were able to get 3M to agree to allow operators to place those units into a separate box at the end of the line, which will be collected and donated to local hospitals, assisted-living centers and shelters.

We received a very nice note from the 3M plant manager and operations manager thanking us for our help. I feel we gave them enough of a backlog to work on that will provide ongoing benefits down the road. I’m so glad Ford was willing to partner with them and take on other life-saving initiatives in this time of need.

One of our team members captured the above picture on the way out of town. Some afternoon-shift 3M employees had created a sign and placed it in front of an F-150 on our route home. Awesome folks.

This photo was taken on the way out of Aberdeen, South Dakota. 3M plant workers set up an F-150 with a sign thanking the Ford team.
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