Rolls-Royce to focus on fan blades here, move some operations to UK

Singapore is currently the only country outside Britain where Rolls-Royce manufactures its hollow titanium wide chord fan blades.
Singapore is currently the only country outside Britain where Rolls-Royce manufactures its hollow titanium wide chord fan blades.PHOTO: REUTERS

British jet engine-maker Rolls-Royce will manufacture its wide-chord fan blades entirely in Singapore and move some operations back to Britain, as part of the aerospace giant's consolidation plans amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Republic is currently the only country outside of Britain where Rolls-Royce manufactures its hollow titanium wide-chord fan blades, used to propel the Trent aeroplane engines on models like Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

From next year, it will begin to consolidate manufacturing volume at its Singapore campus at Seletar Aerospace Park, Rolls-Royce announced yesterday.

Engine assembling and testing operations will be moved back to its plant in Derby, England, said Dr Bicky Bhangu, the firm's president for South-east Asia, the Pacific and South Korea.

Rolls-Royce will seek other opportunities within its ecosystem here for the 300 or so workers in the Singapore assembly and test unit, Dr Bhangu said in a statement.

"With the expanded capabilities in both our high-value fan blade production and our maintenance, repair and overhaul joint-venture facility, we are presented with potential opportunities for our people," he said.

The company is also exploring options for the assembly and test facility to be used for "near-term aerospace growth activities".

Rolls-Royce's Singapore campus, its first Asia-based aerospace facility, was hailed as a major boost for the sector when it opened in 2012.

It employed about 1,000 people here as of early this year, but announced last month that 240 would be laid off as part of a global restructuring.

Rolls-Royce said in May that about 9,000 jobs worldwide - nearly a fifth of its total headcount - would be slashed due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus on the aviation industry.

Dr Bhangu said the decision to consolidate was similarly driven, adding that demand for Rolls-Royce's civil aerospace products and aftermarket services has been badly affected.

On the consolidation, he said: "We believe it will deliver an operationally effective and sustainable solution for the reduced level of demand in the commercial aerospace market that is expected to take several years to recover."

  • 9,000

    Number of jobs worldwide that Rolls-Royce said in May would be slashed due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus on the aviation industry. The number is nearly a fifth of its total headcount.

He added that Rolls-Royce remains fully committed to Singapore as a strategic hub for high-value manufacturing and research and technology, among other roles.

Mr Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, said the consolidation of one of the largest aerospace companies in the world underscores the deep fissures brought about by the pandemic.

"What this says is it's beginning to affect the supply chain - it's not just aircraft makers but engine suppliers and those lower down the chain."

Rolls-Royce's Singapore plant caters to the Asia-Pacific, which was the fastest-growing market before the outbreak, he noted.

The merging of operations between Singapore and Britain was likely a trade-off, considering the firm's significant investment here, Mr Shukor said.

Engines assembled here are for wide-body aircraft, such as the A330neo and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

"Those are not going to be coming on stream for the next few years since there are no more international long hauls, so there is a mismatch between the production line and activities being done in Singapore," he said.


Correction note: The article has been edited to reflect the correct models of aircraft the engines assembled at the Singapore plant are for. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2020, with the headline 'Rolls-Royce to focus on fan blades here, move some operations to UK'. Print Edition | Subscribe