Medtech firm ResMed opens its largest advanced manufacturing plant in Tuas

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (left) and ResMed CEO Michael Farrell opening the ResMed Advanced Manufacturing Centre on Nov 16, 2022. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Global medical technology company ResMed officially opened its largest advanced manufacturing centre on Wednesday.

ResMed, a California-headquartered company, pioneered the use of positive airway pressure to treat sleep-disordered breathing in 1989.

Products manufactured in the Tuas facility will reach over 250 million people globally each year by 2025, and will represent a significant proportion of Singapore’s medtech exports to the world.

The four-storey 270,000 sq ft facility – almost the size of five football fields – produces devices and systems primarily aimed at tackling sleep apnea, a condition where breathing stops and restarts many times while a person is asleep.

An estimated 936 million people, including nearly 2.3 million in Singapore, have sleep apnea, according to medical journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine. 

Another 810 million people suffer from pulmonary-related complications.

As one-third of a person’s life is spent sleeping, the amount of impacted rest-hours is a huge burden on public health.

Some 900 staff, including design engineers and research engineers, currently work in this new facility, which began operations in March.

It is ResMed’s first such facility here. It has similar facilities in countries such as Australia and the United States, supplying products to some 140 countries.

Besides the Tuas plant, ResMed, which has been in Singapore for more than a decade, has its regional headquarters for Asia and Latin America based here. It also has a research and development team of about 200 people at one-north.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, ResMed contributed significantly to the global supply of ventilators.

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was at the plant’s opening, along with Australia’s High Commissioner to Singapore William Hodgman and US Ambassador to Singapore Jonathan Kaplan.

Mr Tharman, the guest of honour, said in his opening address: “Despite the challenging global economic outlook, our local medtech industry continues to be a bright spot in the economy, tripling in value from just under $2 billion in 2010 to $5.8 billion in 2020.”

The medtech sector is a key contributor to Singapore’s economy, accounting for 1.4 per cent of gross domestic product, he added.

In the quarter from June to August, it posted a double-digit growth in output, fuelled by higher demand for medical devices from China, Europe and the US.

(From left) Australian High Commissioner William Hodgman, US Ambassador Jonathan Kaplan, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and ResMed founder Peter Farrell touring the Tuas plant on Nov 16, 2022. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The sector is poised to grow further, especially in areas such as diagnostics, automated solutions that can reduce the burden of healthcare workers, and contactless, digitally enabled devices that can provide predictive insights, Mr Tharman said.

Chief executive Michael Farrell explained why Singapore was picked as the location of its biggest plant despite the tight labour market and higher labour costs.

“The Singapore Government has a huge respect for intellectual property, something that is really important in high-tech manufacturing. We are also able to find the right talent we need for data analytics, material science, materials engineering and commercial innovation,” he said.

“So... Singapore is a huge and important hub for us in not just our Asia market, but also for our global markets.”

But, Mr Farrell added: “Even though our factory has the capability to take care of the whole world’s demand for sleep apnea, the biggest challenge we face is supply chain shortages, particularly in electronic parts and pieces, semiconductors and other micro processes.”

Mr Tharman said the new facility will give ResMed greater resilience as the company continues to work more closely with local and regional suppliers, as well as diversify its suppliers.

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