SINGAPORE - American consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark has expanded its manufacturing in Singapore by two new lines making Huggies baby wipes and diaper pants that will use advanced and automated technology.
Kimberly-Clark's latest investment outlay at its Tuas plant, which was not disclosed, brings the firm's total investment in Singapore to S$400 million to date.
The new products will be exported to 11 other countries in the region, including China and Australia. The Asia-Pacific is Kimberly-Clark's biggest international region by revenue.
Speaking at the launch on Tuesday (June 7) of the new factory lines, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said Singapore will focus on advanced manufacturing capabilities and workforce upskilling to remain competitive as technological advancements disrupt traditional ways of production.
"Manufacturing continues to be a key pillar of Singapore's economy, contributing nearly 20 per cent of our nominal GDP in 2015... advanced manufacturing has been identified as a key growth sector with significant opportunities for Singapore," Mr Iswaran said.
He noted that the Tuas Mill expansion will "incorporate a high level of automation for the manufacturing of baby wipes, which will bring about significant productivity improvements".
"These efforts are in line with our national productivity drive," he said. "The Government is committed to investing in the development of such advanced manufacturing capabilities and supporting their adoption by the industry."
Under the new Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 Plan, around S$3 billion will be allocated to support the development of advanced manufacturing and engineering capabilities.
In this year's Budget, the Government introduced a S$400 million Automation Support Package over three years to help companies leverage technology and automation to boost productivity.
"We will continue to partner the industry to train and prepare our workforce to take up new job opportunities in advanced manufacturing," Mr Iswaran added. He cited Kimberly-Clark training its staff to operate and maintain advanced production lines as an example.
"Such efforts are in line with our national SkillsFuture initiative to support Singaporeans in developing the requisite skillsets to take on good jobs."
Kimberly-Clark began in Singapore in 1981 with a small office handling local sales. The Tuas Mill began operating in 2003. By 2012, Kimberly-Clark had established its headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region at the Marina Bay Financial Centre. Today, it employs over 240 staff, a majority of whom are Singaporeans and permanent residents, undertaking a range of activities from manufacturing to sales & marketing and shared services.
The company has also set up a Digital Innovation Lab in Singapore, one of three it has globally. It aims to bring together investors, start-ups, government agencies and the academic community to innovate for the consumer goods sector.
"Such open innovation partnerships will play an important role in creating value for Singapore's future economy," said Mr Iswaran.