A Team on the Sunny Side - Wacker Chemie AG


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A Team on the Sunny Side

300 days of sunshine a year – working in Southern California definitely has its advantages. A managing director based in Germany who came to Chino was so impressed by the climate that he had a habit of panning the camera at the window during video conferences. Especially when he knew it was gray and rainy in Germany. Kim Liberato is still amused by this today. “I advised this managing director not to be too overly ambitious; otherwise his colleagues would never forgive him.”

Kim Liberato (2nd from left) has headed SILMIX® production in the metropolitan region of Los Angeles since 2009.

That was 15 years ago, when WACKER had just taken over the highly specialized silicone compounder. At that point, Liberato was vice president of Sales and Marketing. Since 2009, he has managed the production plant, which is located in the metropolitan region of Los Angeles.

The city with its skyscrapers is only 60 kilometers away, but the 80,000-resident community Chino is a different world: a sprawling suburb, surrounded by strawberry fields. You can see the 3,000-meter-high San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.

Today, 31 employees work here producing silicone rubber under the brand name SILMIX® – a versatile material that is used for applications as diverse as aircraft doors and the cladding of water tanks. In California – the land of immigrants – every third person has Hispanic roots, and at WACKER, too, most of the workforce originates from from Mexico, Latin and South America. This is why the operation is bilingual and almost everyone also speaks Spanish.

Augustin Avalos (right), who operates a monster rolling machine, pictured here with Virginio Benitez.

Augustin Avalos, for example, was born in the Mexican region of Michoacán. He has been working in production at Chino for 18 years and operates a calender, an imposing rolling machine. Avalos loves this monster, which no-one can handle as well as he does. He enjoys coming to work every day, he says. “The work environment here is very good.”

Because most employees share this view, workforce fluctuation at WACKER in Chino is low. For example, Barbara Hartford has been one of the team for 25 years. She works in customer service and knows their customers’ service needs inside out. This substantially contributes to the operation being regularly recognized by key customers as best supplier. For managing director Liberato, this is a trump card in the competitive market. “The price pressure is high,” he says.

The site distinguishes itself through offering tailored solutions. Many customers have special requests or need small quantities. “We do have standard products, but we acquire new business primarily with individual solutions,” says Liberato. This requires creativity and a lot of knowledge, which is why he also likes to describe the Chino operation as a think tank.

Barbara Hartford (right) has been part of the team for 25 years. She and Kerry Hartford provide excellent customer service.

WACKER is supporting a project with the University of California - Berkeley involving renewable energy. “These types of projects are geared toward helping save and conserve our natural resources and are very important to all of us, including WACKER in California,” says Liberato with pride.

Renewable energy is a megatrend that offers growth prospects worldwide. When it comes to exploiting such opportunities, the workforce in Chino benefits from being part of WACKER’s global network. “In helping each other out, we have a win-win situation,” Liberato is convinced.