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My 10 Years at KEMET

By Per Loof, November 9, 2015​​

“Never a dull day at KEMET” is what I am thinking as I reflect on my 10 years as CEO of KEMET. When I joined in 2005, I was supposed to turn the company around and then sell it. But then I was bitten by the “secret sauce” and I am still here enjoying every bit of it! The ingredients of KEMET’s secret sauce are simple – products, people, quality and culture. These four key elements have propelled KEMET to become a leading global supplier of electronic components. Soon we will celebrate 100 years and I am looking forward to celebrating a great American industrial story and being part of KEMET’s history.

Technology has drastically changed just about every aspect of our lives and KEMET has been a part of that growth. It is amazing how the IoT has moved us forward so rapidly that we are able to connect to anyone, from anywhere, and at any time in the world. I remember not too long ago, before I became CEO at KEMET, I was trying to sell a data warehouse system to Walmart. The data they were attempting to store was equal to everything written by mankind from the beginning of time to 1940. Today, the amount of data is multiplied every 2 years or less. And Moore’s law still rules! “The Cloud,” actually transacted in huge bunkers, should really be called “The Fog,” a really intense cloud.

In 2005, I saw a tremendous amount of opportunity at KEMET with the products, people, quality and culture. At that time, KEMET offered around 500,000 products, consisting mostly of tantalum and ceramic capacitors, and we were viewed as a “fast follower.” We actually thought that was an appropriate place to be. My expectation was to create a company that could sustain itself over time. Having been formed in 1919, it shouldn’t really be a big task! All of us at KEMET have been through a lot during these last 10 years, some the market created (good and bad), and a few that were self-inflicted. However, during this time period, KEMET has experienced tremendous growth and change.

KEMET in 2005 versus today:
  • In 2005, revenue was $420M and 8,900 employees. Today, we have $820M in revenue and 9,500 employees. If I include our joint venture with NEC/TOKIN in Japan, we have 17,000 employees and revenues of $1.3B.
  • We were a US-based business with 65% of our revenue from the US. Today, we have a global footprint, with only one-third of revenue coming from the U.S.
  • In 2007, we created a plan to expand our reach by acquiring capability first in other capacitor technologies, then by growing outside of capacitors in adjacent technologies –all while trying to somehow, someway establish a foothold in Japan.
  • In 2010, we decided that we needed to find a socially responsible way to better control our material supply chain. Thus, we began our journey to source tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This resulted in one of the electronics industry's first comprehensive, socially and economically sustainable sourcing models based on tantalum ore from the DRC and culminating in the only closed-pipe, vertically integrated conflict-free supply chain.
  • In 2012, we established the Kisengo Foundation to effectively and sustainably improve the lives of villagers of Kisengo in the Katanga Province, DRC, through an integrated rural development program in infrastructure, health, education and environmental development. Today, Kisengo has a fully functional hospital and a school with almost 2,000 students. Last year, the hospital administered over 13,000 treatments!
  • During the last 10 years, we acquired six companies and created one joint venture with NEC/TOKIN. Additionally, we made our cost structure more competitive, specifically in our Film and Electrolytic business. We closed 11 factories and built two new plants.
  • Today, we are a technology and material science company and “easy-to-design-in."

KEMET is and continues to be about “possibilities.” We aim to be “the leader of the pack” and the preferred supplier of passive components to the world’s most demanding customers. By offering customers the broadest selection of capacitor technologies in the industry, along with an expanding range of electromechanical devices, electromagnetic compatibility solutions and supercapacitors, we are truly committed to an unparalleled customer experience.

We are a global company that aims to attract the best and brightest in their fields. The entrance at our headquarters in Simpsonville, SC, is lined with over 30 flags from countries all over the world. I am proud of these flags, because these countries represent our employees and current multinational footprint of offices and manufacturing facilities. We now offer over 4.8 million products manufactured and sold from these locations.

As I look to the future, I am excited about our ongoing joint venture with NEC/TOKIN in Japan and the ultimate objective to fully merge the two businesses. We are committed to improving our performance year after year. To that end, we improved our operating income last fiscal year by over $40 million. We are convinced that we will improve further this year. We will do this by engineering products for the future by aligning our cost structure, and, most importantly, by providing the best customer service in our industry. Our products can be found in the air, in space (we’ve been to the Moon and back and on Mars), on the ground, under the ground and in your body. KEMET is there – yesterday, today and in the future.