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How the Invention of Scotch Tape Led to a Revolution in How Companies Managed Employees

Using tape for everything

The Scotch tape was released at the start of the Great Depression when people had to mend and make do.

People used the transparent tape for everything. While many companies were going under, tape sales helped the company to grow.

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How the Invention of Scotch Tape Led to a Revolution in How Companies Managed Employees

How the Invention of Scotch Tape Led to a Revolution in How Companies Managed Employees

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-invention-scotch-tape-led-revolution-how-companies-managed-employees-180972437/

smithsonianmag.com

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Key Ideas

The invention of scotch tape

Richard Drew invented The Scotch transparent tape while working as a lab tech at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, which was then manufacturing sandpaper.

  • Drew first invented masking tape. Drew would deliver sandpaper samples to auto manufacturers, who used it for the painting process. Workers needed to mask off part of the car, often using glued-on newspaper or butcher paper. But it was difficult to get off and often resulted in a sticky mess.
  • Drew promised a solution. He spent two years developing a tape until the company executive told him to get back to his regular job. Drew kept doing tape experiments on his own time.
  • In 1930, he received a patent for his masking tape. In the same year, he also invented his waterproof transparent tape, taking advantage of newly developed cellophane.

Using tape for everything

The Scotch tape was released at the start of the Great Depression when people had to mend and make do.

People used the transparent tape for everything. While many companies were going under, tape sales helped the company to grow.

Experimental work and the 15 percent rule

  • William McKnight, the executive who told Richard Drew to stop working on Scotch tape, became chairman of Scotch, then known as 3M's board. Drew helped McKnight understand that experimentation could lead to innovation.
  • McKnight developed a policy known as the 15 percent rule, which allows engineers to spend 15 percent of their work hours on experimental doodling.
  • After his tape successes, Drew led a Products Fabrication Laboratory for 3M, where he could freely develop new ideas.
  • He and his team filed 30 patents for inventions, from face masks to reflective sheeting for road signs. He also mentored young engineers to develop their ideas.

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