Stellar Industrial Supply is a premier 3M authorized distributor within 3M’s industrial and safety markets center. In addition to stocking and selling 3M products, Stellar also employs 3M-certified specialists who receive special training on 3M solutions and can provide additional insight and guidance on which 3M technologies can best help meet a client’s objectives within a manufacturing environment. Stellar Industrial Supply distributes more than 35,000 maintenance, repair and operation (MRO) products and tools from more than 1,500 brands, and also offers customized Indirect Material Management solutions.

Stellar Industrial first became a 3M Authorized Distributor in 1998, according to Corey Maxwell, 3M Area Business Manager, Industrial & Safety Markets Center, Northwest Zone. Since that time, 3M and Stellar have partnered on many significant opportunities and initiatives. Recently, a Stellar Industrial 3M Certified Specialist (CS) encountered a challenge at a customer’s manufacturing facility. The production managers at the facility were expressing a number of concerns around their glue stations within their production environment.

Increasing Efficiency

“Based on the initial conversation with the production team at this facility, the Stellar CS called the local 3M Industrial Customer Specialist sales representative, and the two of them set up a joint call to visit the facility,” Maxwell says. During this initial on-site evaluation, several challenges—and associated opportunities—were identified.

First, the manufacturer was bonding dissimilar substrates together—leather, steel, ballistic nylon and neoprene, he says. It had been using low-cost fast-tack adhesives at two different glue stations: one with a water-based applicator, and another with a solvent-based applicator. In addition, the solvent-based applicator was blotching as glue was dispensed, while the water-based applicator was providing a consistent mist but was taking longer to bond the substrates.

Despite these issues, the production team appreciated the lower VOCs of the water-based solution. The company also wanted a standardized solution where all members of the team could be trained the same way. Lastly, it had concerns about the potential for a costly repetitive-use injury based on continued use of one of the applicators—an issue the customer had encountered previously with this application.

Defining a Solution

Knowing these details, the 3M industrial customer specialist consulted with a 3M bonding project specialist (BPS) on the various challenges this manufacturer was facing. The goal of 3M’s BPS team is to aid in the development and implementation of complex solutions.

After an initial internal phone consult with the 3M sales representative, the 3M BPS made a field-based call with the 3M sales representative and Stellar’s CS. Two different water-based adhesive solutions were presented, along with an applicator that was designed to be easier to use and, as a result, to potentially reduce the risk of future injury. After testing the two solutions in a production environment, the manufacturer agreed to a trial order. During the trial period, the 3M industrial customer specialist held a training session so all workers would follow the same process.

A standardized process was developed, which the customer says today has increased productivity, reduced injury concerns, and improved environmental conditions within the facility. The customer also reported a documented cost savings on this application, despite the cost of the product itself being higher than the previous solution. 

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Documented Cost Savings Program

“Stellar Industrial Supply advocates a win/win partnership approach,” says John S. Wiborg, president and CEO. “We offer customers our services and expertise to work with them to improve their financial performance. As part of that, and to earn our keep, we propose to customers and prospects that we first prove that we can improve purchasing and other aspects of their plant operations. Then we ask customers to help us.”

Improvements are tracked by way of a documented cost savings (DCS) program, which was launched in April 2010. “The DCS program has generated more than $88 million in customer approved documented cost savings,” Wiborg says. “Savings can be developed almost anywhere; top categories in 2017 were labor cost savings, pre-prepared savings, and longer-life product savings.”

The DCS program uses a centralized web-based portal that allows customers to review and approve proposed profit-improving ideas and work, according to Wiborg. The site also allows staff to accumulate their work and report it periodically to customers. In 2017, 3M and Stellar Industrial Supply saved joint customers more than $5.3 million.