There are companies that have great histories and then there are companies that have iconic ones, like diversified industrial giant 3M (NYSE:MMM). But the fortunes of iconic companies wax and wane just like the fortunes of any other company.

Right now, 3M is facing some headwinds even as the broader market is trading near all-time highs. So investors don't need to wait for a market crash to pick up stock in this industry leader at a good price.

A brief overview

Tracing its founding to 1902, this nearly 120-year-old company was originally known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. 3M started life expecting to mine corundum for use in sandpaper. The company basically flopped out of the gate when the corundum mine didn't work out, and it was forced to use anorthosite instead. Sales were, according to the company, "weak."

A person holding their face with a computer showing stock losses in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

That initial failure actually helped to create what has become a resilient and diversified company with a focus on innovation, partly because it didn't have a choice but to figure out a new way to make money right from the start. Notably, its innovations are used internally to create high-margin products that you can only get from 3M.

Today, 3M breaks its business down into four segments: safety & industrial (34% of overall revenue), transportation & electronics (26%), healthcare (24%), and consumer (about 16%). Within these four categories are thousands of products 3M produces, including dental industry materials to the hook in your closet to the ubiquitous sticky notes you'll find throughout the business world (and in many consumer's homes, as well). That diverse grouping of products, and many more, have something in common: They all involve adhesives. And it shows how 3M takes a technology like adhesives and finds new and innovative ways to use it. 

The value and the problem

Today 3M's dividend yield is roughly 3.3%. That's not huge on an absolute level, but it is toward the high end of the company's historical range. And that suggests that income-oriented investors who buy today are getting a good price, using yield as a rough gauge of value. It's worth highlighting that 3M has increased its dividend annually and consistently for over six decades, making it a Dividend King -- an incredibly exclusive group of stocks. So dividends are a reliable metric to look at for this industrial giant.

MMM Chart

MMM data by YCharts

The big question at this point is why would 3M be on sale at a time when the S&P 500 index is trading near all-time highs? To add some extra color to the value story here beyond a historically high yield, 3M's stock price is also 30% below its all-time highs. So what's going on?

Today's inflation concerns are an obvious headwind, but the problems date back further than that to a collection of lawsuits over product liability and environmental issues at manufacturing facilities. The company has been working to resolve these issues, but litigation is not a quick or easy process. And, in truth, it will likely be expensive to put all of this behind the company when the lawsuits are finally resolved. Investors are, rightly, concerned. But don't make the mistake of thinking that this investment-grade-rated company with a $100 billion market cap is going to be taken down by these lawsuits. 

Simply put, 3M has the size and financial strength to take this hit. And, while management hasn't fully outlined this, it also has insurance coverage to help defray the costs. So, litigation is a headwind, but perhaps not as big a deal as investors may be thinking. And that means 3M's historically high yield is pretty exciting right now if you can think long term.

Act now and watch

The reason to jump today is that this litigation discount won't likely last forever. If you don't act, you might miss the opportunity. That said, once 3M is in your portfolio you shouldn't simply ignore it. The litigation issue is real and should be monitored; just don't lose any sleep over it. Instead, focus on the fact that you are collecting a generous dividend backed by a diversified and innovative company with a history that few can match. If that's not worth buying now, what is?

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.