SINGAPORE: British technology firm Dyson is looking to hire "substantially" more workers in Singapore, its CEO Jim Rowan said as the company continues to ramp up production and capabilities in facilities across the country.
Dyson currently employs about 1,100 people at a manufacturing facility in Jurong, a technology centre at Science Park and a commercial office in one-north.
"That (number) will grow quite substantially over the course of the next few years," Mr Rowan told reporters on Tuesday (Jul 9).
"We’ll continue to add capability and production at the digital motor facility in Jurong. And we continue to expand the Singapore Technology Centre in the Science Park ... to facilitate growth and engineering."
Dyson makes its patented digital motor - which powers its cord-free vacuum cleaners and personal care machines - at the Jurong facility and develops future technologies like artificial intelligence at the Science Park centre.
While Mr Rowan declined to reveal how many more workers Dyson would hire in Singapore, he said the figure would be "significant", especially as the company shifts from mechanical engineering to software and electronics.
"We’ve been having so much software and electronics in our products, and so much intelligence that that’s the skillset that we need," he said.
Dyson is also looking for skills like digital marketing, Mr Rowan said, pointing out that digital retailing has become more important with a decline in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
This means building more websites and sales channels through platforms like WeChat to "reach the social media shopper".
"All of that has been some of the skills that we’ve had to go after," he added. "But of course, those are the skills that many companies are looking for."
Nevertheless, Mr Rowan said he is confident of getting the right people with the right skills "if we put (in) enough effort", stating that competing for labour in Singapore is not tougher than, say, in the United Kingdom.
"We can actually get the skills we need partly because the education levels in Singapore are so high," he said. "We can get very high quality graduates that we can then probably train up.
"So they come to Dyson with all the ingredients that we need: Cognitive intelligence, a degree in engineering disciplines that we need."
Mr Rowan said Dyson could also tap on the fact that Singapore is a hub for the disk drive and semiconductor industries.
"That’s driven a capability of precision engineering and mechatronics," he explained. "In the digital motor facility, we have a lot of ex-disk drive people. They’ve joined us and we’ve managed to use those skills that they’ve honed in different industries."
NEW BEAUTY LAB IN SINGAPORE
One industry that Dyson is currently strongly invested in is personal care, which it called its fastest-growing sector with products like air purifiers and a lamp that simulates natural daylight.
On Tuesday, Dyson launched its first beauty lab demo store at the revamped Funan mall in Singapore, featuring its Supersonic hair dryer and Airwrap hair styler.
Mr Rowan responded to claims that the dryer is expensive (it costs S$599) by saying it dries hair faster and is quieter and safer to use. That's because it contains a glass thermostat and processor that measures heat 20 times per second, ensuring hair is not damaged.
To showcase the qualities of the Dyson products, customers can try a wet-to-dry hair styling session, where experts will wash their hair before styling it with the Air Wrap or Supersonic.
"We will take you through the best way to use it and the attachments and styles you can create with the different aspects and settings of the machine," said Graeme McPherson, head of Dyson's personal care category.
"Any questions about style, hair health, how to protect your hair, or technology in the products, you can also ask on site."
There are four styling stations on site, and interested customers can reserve a slot by dropping by the store or visiting Dyson's Singapore website. Each session lasts about one hour depending on hair length and type.
"We’re not just getting people in and out," Mr McPherson added. "It’s really a place that we can have time with people. The real benefit is to ask questions and see (the technology) in action."
A Dyson spokesman said this kind of demo lab is the "first of many to come" in Singapore, adding that it would next open a customer service centre at the nearby Capitol Piazza.
As for the addition of new products at the Funan store, Mr McPherson said "as always at Dyson, we’ve always got a lot of things coming in the future".
"Personal care is a category of products which we’ve invested really heavily in," he continued.
"Now we’ve got this base knowledge and foundation, experts in science and technology to work with here, obviously we are looking for future products and machines. But obviously, I can’t divulge anything right now."
TIGHT-LIPPED ON ELECTRIC CAR
Details of another product that Dyson is determined to keep secret are for its electric car, which Mr Rowan said remains on track for launch in 2021.
"2021 would be a reasonable time scale for that product," he said, noting that the product and technology involved is "pretty complex".
"It’s a very competitive market and becoming more competitive, so we’re keeping things close to our chest for the moment."
By the time Dyson's first car is ready in 2021, Tesla might already be selling locally produced cars in China after it signed a deal with the Shanghai government to build its first overseas Gigafactory.
When asked if he was confident Dyson's electric car could stand out amid fierce competition, Mr Rowan said it was about making the product different and meaningful to the customer.
"I think you need to be clear on what segment of the market you’re going to go into, where the differentiation is going to take place," he added.
"When you’re comfortable that you’ve got enough differentiation, and it’s in line with Dyson’s philosophy, then that’s when we can get pretty excited."
In the broader picture, Mr Rowan said Dyson prides itself on inventing and disrupting markets through technology differentiation that solves problems.
"The time where you can make one machine and hope to sell that globally is gone," he stated.
"You need to make sure that you make a machine that is specific for each demographic or region in the world, that solves a problem that particular part of the world has – smaller homes, faster hair drying, lighter machines.
"That’s the thing which keeps me awake at night."