Cabot will continue to deliver reliable, high quality performance materials to its customers, he said, and product development and innovation are keys to ensuring continued growth.
“We are becoming more structured in our approach to managing innovation, so that we can bring our great product ideas to market faster,” Keohane said. “We have our technology resources aligned with priorities of businesses to take advantage of opportunities with the most potential value.
“Our technology organisation is set up to drive a closer connection with customers and improve speed of delivery.”
Opportunities are plentiful for advanced materials to address global trends such as better energy efficiency and overall sustainability, Keohane maintained.
Cabot's specialty carbon and fumed silica products for the plastics and adhesives markets are enabling the company's customers to meet current-day challenges, he said.
He noted, too, that the firm's customers are investing in the development of high performance tires, “whether to improve fuel efficiency or extend the life of the tire and Cabot's materials are at the centre of these developments.”
But there are obstacles in its growth path, he admitted.
Cabot took a step back in its financial performance in fiscal 2015 due to a challenging macroeconomic environment and increasing competitive intensity. “In 2016, we continue to face challenges, such as a slowing economic environment in China and Brazil and the impact of low energy prices,” Keohane said.
To help offset that, the company already has taken a number of cost reduction and restructuring actions. The firm's aim is to create about $55 million in cost savings in fiscal 2016 compared to fiscal 2015.
Cabot's work force was reduced by about 300 full and part-time employees last year. In addition, on Jan. 1, the company ceased production at its carbon black facility in Merak, Indonesia, and is consolidating production at its plant in Cilegon, Indonesia.
“We have adapted to the current macroeconomic environment, and I believe that the actions taken will enable us to improve our performance this year,” he said. “We continue to strike a balance between the need for tight cost management while continuing to invest in innovation that will position the company for long-term success.”
In order to succeed, Keohane maintained, Cabot needs to zero in more on differentiating its offerings through a sharper focus on the commercial and application development sides of its operation. “We are investing to build world class commercial capabilities that will help us create value for our customers through new product development, as well as better manage the products and services we currently offer.
“We are becoming more disciplined in reducing complexity and aligning our service offerings with customers' needs.”
He said the company is getting a better understanding of customers' priorities, and “we will continue to invest in new tools and technologies that will better position us to respond to shifting demand trends and meet changing customer expectations.”
Keohane said many attributes make Cabot a great company. In addition to its 130-year heritage, it holds the top spot or number two position in all of its businesses, he said.
“We also have a strong global network of plants and people that bring the best every day to serve our customers, and this pursuit of excellence is built on a foundation of world class safety performance and a commitment to sustainability.”
When he thinks about Cabot, two things come to mind: “firsts” and people, Keohane reflected. “Throughout our long history, we have been a company of tremendous firsts. As the creators of carbon black, we spearheaded the industry we know today.
“After World War II, we opened a carbon black plant in the United Kingdom, making us the first US company to expand operations into Europe during reconstruction. We were also one of the first multinational companies to invest in China in the late 1980s.
“The spirit of being first is still with us today and is reflected in our entrepreneurial culture. Being pioneers and innovators in the industry is one of the greatest strengths, and I am confident that we will continue to build upon our proud and deep-rooted history of innovation and leadership.”