[Interview] SK Innovation executives talk about plans in 2022, the first year of Financial Story execution ④ SK On CEO Jee Dong-seob: “We will become Global No. 1 with batteries that are safe, well-performing, and economical”

▲ Jee Dong-seob, CEO of SK On


2022 marks the first year of being an independent company for SK On after the spin-off from SK Innovation in October 2021. In the recent interview with SKinno News, Jee Dong-seob, CEO of SK On, shared that “When SK On develops our dynamic force for the virtuous cycle of growth internally and foster the growth potential externally, I believe becoming the Global No.1 is not a distant dream, but a ‘future in ready.’” Let’s check the talk in full length by reading the content below.


Q1. Not only SK but the whole global mobility industry now sees electric vehicle (EV) battery as a core business. As the CEO of SK On, a global leading EV battery company, what is your resolution for 2022, the first year since SK On set off as an independent corporation?


SK On has passed many new milestones every year. As 2022 is the year that we start making our full-fledged step for a great challenge to become Global No. 1, my resolution for this year feels different. For our big leap forward, together with SK On’s members, I would like to focus our strength on three main goals for taking action.


Firstly, we would like to produce the best product that satisfies our clients. We, SK On, promised to to provide batteries that are safest and most economical with the best performance. It sounds like a cliché, but it is a goal that is not an easy at all to accomplish unless the company has both technologies and organizational power. We would like to meet our clients’ needs by securing cost competitiveness and diversification in chemistry based on our foundation of reinforcement and maintenance of stability, our best competitive power that has been proven by the market and clients.


Secondly, as a Global Major Company, we aim to upgrade our delivery quality and capability. For now, we will concentrate our capability on stably maintaining the global mass-production system, which we have successfully established. In particular, we are going to set up a stable global supply system in terms of the process and system. Moreover, on top of everything, what makes all of this possible is the power of bright minds, we are making our best effort to secure and foster talent at our organizational level.


▲ SK On CEO Jee Dong-seob talks about the company’s Financial Story strategies at SK Innovation’s Story Day event held in Seoul, South Korean in July 2021.


Lastly, we aim to improve our executive prowess to make our Financial Story come true. The Financial Story of SK On contains our grand vision of becoming “Global No.1,” and it is a rough sketch that has been prepared based on our substantive potential and achievements. From now on, our role is to do our best to enhance our executive prowess to fill up this sketch. Through accomplishing solid financial performance and SUPEX* level of operating rate/production yield, we will secure an engine for a virtuous circulation structure. We will move fast toward the Global No.1 target by continuously discovering global partnering opportunities and managing these partnerships well.

*SUPEX: “Super Excellent Level,” which means the highest level attainable by human ability.


Q2. Could you please explain in detail about the core of SK On’s Financial Story, which is being Global No.1 in 2030?


In the past five years, SK On has achieved incredible growth. Based on accumulated order amount and sales, the company has grown by 27 times, and our accumulated order volume has reached 1,600Gwh by the end of 2021. This, however, is the only beginning of SK On’s Financial Story that will be accomplished in the future. As the paradigm of the automobile industry has quickly shifted to electric vehicles (EV), our growth potential is becoming even bigger through winning new orders and partnering. Also, for orders that we have already received, our clients continuously request for increasing supply volume.


▲ Attendees are taking a commemorative photo at the SK innovation and Ford’s JV investment and manufacturing plant announcement event held at Shelby Farm Park in Memphis, Tennessee, USA on September 28, 2021 (local time). (Second from left, CEO of SK On Jee Dong-seob, Tennessee Economic Commissioner Bob Rolfe, Ford Chairman Bill Ford, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, and Ford CEO Jim Farley)


The successful partnering with global companies is an important factor for SK On to improve our global capability to become the Global No.1 and securing a stable market in the future. Last year, SK On entered a JV Partnering with Ford, and we are speeding up this joint business. Besides, we are accelerating our growth while looking for more business opportunities based on partnerships with other global companies.


Just as I mentioned about key business goals for this year, when we develop our dynamic force for the virtuous cycle of growth internally and foster the growth potential externally, I believe becoming the Global No.1 is not a distant dream, but a “future in ready.”


Q3. Could you please elaborate on SK On’s global business operation plan?


▲ (Left) Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Commissioner Pat Wilson visited SK Battery America’s EV battery plant in Commerce on April 19, 2021 (local time). From left: CEO of SK Innovation Kim Jun, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson and CEO of SK On Jee Dong-seob hold battery cells produced at SK Innovation’s EV battery plant in Commerce City, Jackson County. / (Right) CEO of SK On Jee Dong-seob (fourth from the left) visits SK Battery America’s plants located in Georgia, USA on September 29, 2021 (local time).


I would like to explain SK On’s global operation plan from three different aspects.


First is to establish “Global One Factory.” Global One Factory means building and spreading the production facilities and manufacturing system of the same generation at each stage worldwide to enable production with globally uniform quality. In fact, SK On has the ramp-up capability to stably start mass-production of our global plants within one year, and intends to build additional plants based on these know-hows and experiences.


Second is localization, which is to have local staff perfectly operating plants. For this, it is important to incubate local engineers who will take core positions for operation. We need to set up a system, in which resident engineers teach and foster local engineers fast especially during an early stage of establishing global production plant, and then, those local engineers foster and manage operators by themselves. In fact, we have been implementing this set-up and running overseas sites under this plan.


Lastly, I would like to mention global balanced capacity. Without inclining to one specific region, we are establishing production bases by making a balanced investment in major global strategic regions in North America, Europe, and Asia. By this, we plan to timely and stably supply our products with good quality and quantity as many as our clients demand.


SK On already has the experience of quickly and stably building multiple plants overseas simultaneously and operating them successfully. For new plants that are to be built, I am confident that SK On will set up an optimal production system based on the aforementioned global operation plans.


Q4. We believe what has made SK On’s battery supply orders and market evaluation increase is because of its well-recognized battery performance. What kind of strategies does SK On need to keep leading the market in your opinion?


▲ (Left) Ford’s F-150 Lightning EV pickup truck equipped with NCM9 battery cells displayed at SK Innovation’s booth at InterBattery 2021 / (Right) SK Innovation’s NCM9 battery cell


The EV battery business is the most closely-related field to people’s lives, so battery products have characteristics of user-friendliness and safety. Therefore, I believe the core motto for SK On’s battery products is “Longer, Faster, and Safer.” In other words, we aim to produce batteries that are long-lasting with high energy density, able to be charged quickly, and safe to be used.


In the past decade, there have been many advancements in the development and production of “Longer” and “Faster” batteries. However, for “Safer” batteries, as the energy density became higher, there were factors that could cause more danger in case of fire. In order to lead the market, we must focus more and more on the significance of the safety. Furthermore, this will become the most differentiating factor in the future of the battery business, from my point of view. So, I would like to briefly talk about how SK On is working hard to produce safe batteries.


I know it is obvious, but first and foremost, batteries should not catch fire. What’s next is that even if a fire breaks out, it should not be spread out. So far, we have kept a good record of no EV catching fire due to our battery products. It has been possible because of SK’s Z-folding technology and excellent quality control system. Just by any chance, even if a fire breaks out, we have also exclusively developed a technology to prevent fire from spreading, and we aim to commercialize it this year.


In addition, in order to produce safer battery cells, we are planning to apply various technologies to our products continuously. Once we develop and apply technologies that enable additional enhancement in drive range and fast charge, I can confidently say that consumers will choose our battery products, which are the most convenient and safest.


Q5. Lastly, could you please send a message to all members of SK On, readers of SKinno News, and stakeholders who support SK On?


To all members of SK On, as I mentioned earlier, SK On’s dream is getting bigger, and our challenge is getting bolder. By putting our heads together, I would like all of you to take one step forward toward our dream while respecting each other’s diversity, exchanging ideas frankly, and clearly sharing our object and direction.


To dear readers of SKinno News, we ask for your endless love and wholehearted support to SK On that is writing a new history, and I wish wellness and happiness to all of you and your family.


Author | SKinno News