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3M – Heading forward in UK Operations

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"3M is a diversified technology company that was established in 1902 in the United States. The company chose UK as its first international expansion destination in 1929. It started out by distributing abrasives to the country in partnership with Durex Abrasives Ltd. and in 1951 formally established its subsidiary 3M UK Plc with its headquarters at Bracknell, Berkshire.

Today, the company operates in the UK through a group of operating and trading companies' viz. 3M UK which is its diversified chemical and consumer products arm, 3M Health Care, 3M Ireland Ltd, 3M Touch Systems UK Ltd and 3M Security Printing and Systems Ltd. 3M Health Care makes medical equipment and supplies like respirators and drug delivery systems and makes up the largest component of 3M UK's business. 3M UK along with 3M Ireland is the parent company's largest international destination with 16 locations including 12 manufacturing plants.

Market Trends

While the overall business environment for 3M and its competitors in the EU remains positive, companies' are facing pressures due to high and rising oil prices. Companies are being hard-pressed to pass on higher costs in product prices and closely match output to demand. However, the Material Sciences businesses have recovered impressively from the recession and are expecting to return to pre-crisis level targets by 2012.

The key challenges this sector is likely to face are

a) trying to managing costs, b) innovating to meet changing needs of the consumers, c) ensuring operational and financial flexibility to respond to market shifts quickly, and d) making acquisitions to expand and diversify to deliver a positive ROI.
Recent Developments and Controversies
3M has emerged as a global leader in providing practical solutions and is celebrated for manufacturing some of the world's most recognizable brands. It has been focusing on continuously inventing and re-inventing its core business by introducing new products. Its most recent introductions include Dirt Trap Booth Protection Material, Accuspray System, and Dynamic Mixing System.

The company is on the path of identifying and completing acquisitions that complement its core business. In this process, it recently acquired Rochford Thompson and Dailys Limited. The former is a passport reader manufacturer and will enhance 3M's line of products for secure document capture and authentication and will allow it to expand into transportation markets such as international airlines. Dailys Limited will support 3M's strategic direction by broadening its protective apparel portfolio.

On the flip side, a case was opened against the company in a London court, by lawyers representing the U.K. government and the Porton Group, for failing to commercialize an innovative technology that could have helped prevent deaths from the MRSA hospital superbug.
The company will have to tread very carefully in the coming times to ensure that it does not lose market reputation and fall prey to competitors."

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