Panasonic moves refrigeration compressor business here

This article is more than 12 months old

In a first for Japanese electronics giant Panasonic, the company has moved the global headquarters for its refrigeration compressor business to Singapore.

Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say announced its first such relocation outside of Japan in recent decades yesterday at the official opening of Panasonic's refrigeration compressor business unit (RCBU) here.

The manufacturing plant here will also be transformed from a traditional manufacturing plant into a "smart factory", which will make use of big data and make processes more automated.

Although workers could be worried about being replaced by robots, Mr Lim said Panasonic "shows us that while technology may replace some jobs, it can also create new and better ones".

Even as Panasonic's operation has become more manpower lean, it did not retrench local workers, but instead retrained them to work alongside robots, noted Mr Lim.

Retraining benefits workers, he said, adding that Panasonic's retraining of its local staff has resulted in a 35 per cent jump in the median salary over the last five years.

However, Mr Lim said companies may still need specific expertise that they cannot find here.

In the case of Panasonic, they had to hire foreign workers with skills in advanced element design and process innovation.

Citing "the complementarity of our local and foreign manpower", Mr Lim said the foreign experts "helped to train and strengthen our locals to master these skills", improving the local workforce.

At a press conference yesterday, the company's top management pledged to keep the jobs of its 650-strong Singapore workforce, even as it turns its operations in Bedok South into a smart factory.