A decade's worth of success

March 21, 2012

Ten years ago, 3M and ESPE Dental AG merged to instantly form the second largest dental manufacturer at the time, known as 3M ESPE. This gave 3M and ESPE customers a whole new product catalog, while the combined R&D engines have resulted in an ongoing stream of new products year-after-year.

Ten years ago, 3M and ESPE Dental AG merged to instantly form the second largest dental manufacturer at the time, known as 3M ESPE. This gave 3M and ESPE customers a whole new product catalog, while the combined R&D engines have resulted in an ongoing stream of new products year-after-year. To celebrate, we sat down with James Ingebrand, Vice President, Dental Materials and Gerd Brandhorst to talk about the company’s past 10 years and what they have planned for the next 10 years.

Why is the anniversary of this merger something you think dental professionals should take notice of?
Brandhorst: It marked the coming together of two innovation drivers of dental consumables and systems with a huge potential to improve dentistry for dentists and patients.

Ingebrand: Mergers often make the news when they happen but seldom do we get to hear the rest of the story except, perhaps, when things go terribly wrong. The 3M Dental and ESPE merger is important in that, at the time, it was a large and impactful event in a relatively small industry. Now, 10 years later, the effects are still very visible in terms of new products, brands’ geographical expansion and overall impact on the industry. 3M ESPE has been rated the most innovative dental company for 6 years running. The merger has been a positive factor in that success.

What was the atmosphere within the company like at the time of the combination?
Brandhorst: Both companies were highly respected in the dental market, thus the atmosphere was like at the beginning of a longer journey with some unknown destinations.

Why did a partnership of this kind make sense for 3M Dental and ESPE Dental AG?
Brandhorst: Combined innovation focus became even stronger, and additional benefits came with increased access to more markets globally.

Ingebrand: The two businesses were quite complementary in terms of product lines and geographical coverage. Most importantly the two companies shared a company culture and philosophy that focused on innovation, quality, ethics and a profound passion for the dental business.

What was the dental industry’s response to these two groups coming together?
Brandhorst: I think they knew to be more prepared for more competition in more countries based on the ability to launch more innovative  products through the now stronger combined marketing and sales organization.

What, if anything, did the employees of 3M and ESPE know about one another?
Brandhorst: Not too much, but that changed rapidly after the closure.

In light of that, describe the process of integration-how did two successful companies with different cultures become one?
Brandhorst: Meet, meet, meet and talk, talk, talk. Both parties were open to learn from each other.

What was the most challenging part of the integration?
Brandhorst: Aligning processes and overlapping responsibilities and areas.

How do you think going through that process made the resulting entity better?
Brandhorst: Respect for each other, supporting management and creating a new organization, in which one party does not conquer the other.

Ingebrand: The initial process no doubt forced some immediate connections and debate. That willingness to debate and exchange ideas openly has delivered lasting benefit. 3M ESPE continues to benefit from an open culture that fosters new ideas and technology between our global business and laboratory teams.

Looking ahead, how does the 3M ESPE brand intend to continue to build upon the strengths first identified in one another 10 years ago?
Brandhorst: Quality and innovation will further pave the way for 3M ESPE in the dental market.

Ingebrand: The combined strengths of both organizations will continue to enable 3M ESPE to be a force for positive change as dentistry continues to evolve. In particular expect to see 3M ESPE: Continue to expand products and services in the digital frontier; develop new products in the core areas of restoratives and prosthodontics; further expand its presence around the world; investigate and market new treatments for the prevention of carries and other oral disease states