Problem Solving for Future Transportation Issues, Today

A clear, blue ocean - a scenic treasure, a tranquil escape.

You may be thinking, "Why's he writing about his latest vacation?"

I'm not. Instead, it's a glimpse into a set of business objectives and goals within BASF.

Our strategy is not only driven by growth with our current solutions and customers, but also taking advantage of "blue oceans," or opportunities to break into new spaces, markets, regions, etc. through a consistent pipeline of innovations.

We're positioning ourselves to swim in the blue waters and this ideal drives our focus on innovations that will solve future mobility challenges.

"Blue Ocean Strategy" is a book that has gained popularity in recent years and uses the metaphor of red versus blue oceans to emphasize the importance of innovation. A "red ocean" signifies a market that already has a lot of players and a great deal of competition. A "blue ocean" is an open space where no one is currently operating - where a company can create added value that doesn't currently exist.

BASF has expansive research and development investments each year - just shy of 2 percent of our annual revenue. In our senior level discussions, we spend a lot of time thinking through our long and midterm strategies and how we can tie our investments to those strategies. In addition, our employees regularly participate in cross business unit teams so that expertise is shared, collaboration is fostered and fresh ideas and potential innovations are brought to the table. We have a strong focus on innovation and how we can provide solutions to our customers.

Within the automotive and transportation industry, we're positioning ourselves to swim in the blue waters and this ideal drives our focus on innovations that will solve future mobility challenges.

In our Performance Materials group, we talk a lot about lightweighting the vehicle, and ultimately increasing fuel efficiency and lowering emissions. But, we understand the need to offer solutions that make these decisions both cost effective and easy for the automaker and other suppliers to implement. The lighter materials may be more expensive per pound, but together with our customers, we look at the total operating process from start to finish. Using proprietary tools, we can find ways to eliminate waste and make the transition more economically sound. This is something that sets us apart and puts us in the blue ocean.

Beyond addressing the sustainability and regulation challenges facing the industry, there are also a lot of opportunities to help define what the vehicle will look and feel like 10, 20, even 30 years from now. We are on the verge of significant changes about how people will view their vehicle, especially as autonomous driving becomes a reality. The cockpit experience will morph and our deep understanding of chemistry will play a role here, from the creature comforts of the interior fabrics and materials to the increased electronic capabilities needed to keep up with the connected world.

It's a very exciting time in the automotive industry with more blue oceans than before. We have the opportunity to try new things and take the vehicle to new heights, and do so quickly. We want to develop solutions in partnership with our customers to address the future mobility challenges, potentially before drivers, government officials or automakers even discover the need for such a solution.

Our expertise and close integration with our customers and partners will help us create the products, tools and technologies that will make this a reality.

Joel Johnson
Joel Johnson Vice President of Transportation for the Performance Materials (PM) division of BASF Corporation About Joel Johnson: Joel Johnson is currently Vice President of Transportation for the Performance Materials (PM) division of BASF Corporation. Mr. Johnson joined the company's Coatings and Colorants Division in 1986 and held various positions in Quality Management and Information Systems as well as working in coatings manufacturing plants and product development labs. He joined BASF's Polyurethanes business in 2004 to oversee the acquisition of Foam Enterprises and has been with this division since.