3M to spend $135m to expand Tuas plant

Mr Fong, the first Singaporean to lead 3M's business here, says the company's South-east Asian operations are based here because of the Republic's safety, efficient logistics systems and talent pool.
Mr Fong, the first Singaporean to lead 3M's business here, says the company's South-east Asian operations are based here because of the Republic's safety, efficient logistics systems and talent pool. PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Mr Fong, the first Singaporean to lead 3M's business here, says the company's South-east Asian operations are based here because of the Republic's safety, efficient logistics systems and talent pool.
Among the things the expanded Tuas building will produce: Acrylic foam tapes. PHOTO: 3M SINGAPORE
Mr Fong, the first Singaporean to lead 3M's business here, says the company's South-east Asian operations are based here because of the Republic's safety, efficient logistics systems and talent pool.
Among the things the expanded Tuas building will produce: Surgical tapes.PHOTO: 3M SINGAPORE
Mr Fong, the first Singaporean to lead 3M's business here, says the company's South-east Asian operations are based here because of the Republic's safety, efficient logistics systems and talent pool.
Among the things the expanded Tuas building will produce: Transparent film dressing.PHOTO: 3M SINGAPORE

US manufacturing giant, marking 50 years in S'pore, focuses on premium products here

It may be known for Post-it notes and Scotch tape, but global science company 3M manufactures many more products, ranging from healthcare to the SG50 decorative film applied to Singapore Airlines' A380 planes.

Singapore is already a key base for the United States firm, but 3M's contribution is set to grow with the expansion of the Tuas manufacturing plant.

3M will invest $135 million over the next 21/2 years to increase the floor space by about 25 per cent. It also plans to hire about 100 more staff by the end of 2018.

The Minnesota-based industrial heavyweight made the announcement at a dinner last night as it celebrated 50 years in Singapore.

Mr Arthur Fong, managing director of 3M Singapore, told The Straits Times in an interview last week that the company is selective in its manufacturing investment here.

"In Singapore, our investment has to be focused towards more premium technology, more premium products, less labour-intensive and, most important, things that are proprietary and require stronger intellectual property protection," he noted.

The Tuas expansion will produce its famous acrylic foam tapes as well as healthcare-related products.

3M, known for its innovation and solid dividend payouts, has come a long way from its beginnings in Singapore as a trading company with only eight employees. It now employs more than 1,600 people across three facilities, in Tuas, Yishun and Woodlands.

Yishun is home to its customer technical centre, which allows clients to see 3M's solutions, while its manufacturing plant in Woodlands produces diverse products such as N95 respirators, window films and traffic safety systems.

The Woodlands centre also houses the company's first Smart Urban Solutions lab, focused on addressing issues in urbanisation. Launched last October, the $10 million lab has developed lighting that cuts down on maintenance and power consumption. The lighting projects are being tested in HDB parking lots and corridors.

Mr Lim Hng Kiang, Minister of Trade and Industry (Trade), told the dinner last night that 3M's investment in Singapore "attests to Singapore's attractiveness as a location for high value-added activities".

He also highlighted government initiatives to ensure the manufacturing sector's competitiveness, such as committing $3 billion over the next five years to develop advanced manufacturing and engineering capabilities, as well as a $400 million package over the next three years to help companies adopt automation.

3M has invested more than $1 billion in Singapore, which houses its South-east Asian operations, despite the higher labour costs.

This is because of Singapore's safety, efficient logistics systems and its talent pool, said Mr Fong, the first Singaporean managing director to lead the company's operations here.

He aims to develop local talent even further, implementing a "2x2x2" programme that encourages employees to gain experience in two geographic areas, two functions and two business areas.

Mr Fong, who joined 3M more than 20 years ago and has worked in 12 roles across engineering and sales, said the company aims to have 30 per cent of its employees making a move every year.

Since he became managing director four years ago, Mr Fong said the company has moved beyond marketing and selling products, citing the example of the window film material, which helps reduce energy consumption.

Mr Fong wants Singapore to become a key driver for the commercialisation of 3M's many products and solutions.

"My aim is to leverage on the R&D centre and manufacturing capabilities here to use Singapore as a first place for commercialisation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline '3M to spend $135m to expand Tuas plant'. Print Edition | Subscribe