WACKER’s production operations faced a series of challenges in 2009. Amid the sharp sales downturn, capacity utilization rates averaged between 70 and 80% – clearly below the chemical industry’s usual level of 85%. In the semiconductor industry, wafer fab utilization fell to under 50% in the first quarter but recovered steadily thereafter. WACKER SILICONES shut down 14 facilities completely for between 4 and 16 weeks. At WACKER POLYMERS, two reactors were switched off for around nine months and a dryer was entirely closed down.

Despite the economic slowdown, we continued to expand WACKER’s production network, with our Corporate Engineering teams being responsible for project management. It is one of WACKER’s great strengths to have in-house engineering specialists. First, investment projects require a great deal of technical and project-management know-how. Second, in-house Engineering secures our polysilicon-production expertise, for example. Due to our wealth of experience, we can repeatedly lower specific investment costs, reduce construction times and boost plant productivity. Investments in new production facilities amounted to about €708 million in 2009. Currently, our most important projects are setting up polysilicon production at Nünchritz and starting the second expansion stage for pyrogenic silica at Zhangjiagang.

Production Adjusted to Demand

2009 saw WACKER bringing several new production facilities on stream. But the South Brunswick (USA) site, acquired as part of our takeover of Air Products’ shares, was closed, with the production of dispersions being transferred to Calvert City.

  download table

Key Start-Ups











New Capacity












Dispersible polymer powder


30,000 t/a





Poly 8 expansion stage


10,000 t/a





Cyclodextrin plant


7,500 t/a (total)



WACKER enhances productivity along the entire supply chain via its “Wacker Operating System” (WOS) program. 2009 was an unusual year for WOS because of our low plant-utilization rates. Since the strategic approach of cutting specific (volume-related) production costs was not tenable, our aim was to significantly reduce overall costs.

To reinforce awareness for WOS issues among our employees, we set up the WOS ACADEMY in 2009. It offers various productivity-related training courses and is the central groupwide training unit for all employees. In real-life projects, participants get hands-on instruction at plants and can thus immediately use the methods learned. WOS ACADEMY instructors act as advisors, supporting participants during their projects. We have also established a WOS Forum for exchanging ideas and experiences.

Wacker Operating System (WOS) Receives Its Own Academy in 2009