UK medical equipment maker Smith+Nephew opens first SE Asia plant in Penang

Opalyn Mok

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and other VIPs look a plan for the Smith and Nephew High Technology Industrial Plant in George Town November 19, 2019. — Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 19 — British medical equipment manufacturer, Smith+Nephew is expanding into South-east Asia and has chosen Penang for its first regional production base to support its orthopaedics franchise.

Smith+Nephew Manufacturing Network Strategy vice-president Ross Macken said the new facility will provide 800 jobs for locals in the first five years.

“Construction will start in early 2020 and the first production batches to be shipped are expected before the end of 2022,” he said in a press conference announcing the company’s investment in Penang at the Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s office here today.

The global medical technology manufacturer has invested on a 17-acre piece of land in the Batu Kawan Industrial Park here.

“We will build a new facility of 250,000 sq ft with the opportunity to expand in future if required,” he said.

He said the new plant will produce hip and knee implant products that will largely be exported worldwide with only a small portion of for domestic use.

“We plan to start recruitment in 2020 with a majority of the positions open for locals and a long-term plan of local employees running the operations here,” he said.

The first five years of the facility will concentrate on production and the company may consider establishing a research and development (R&D) centre after that.

Manufacturing Network Strategy of Smith and Nephew vice-president Ross Macken speaks to the press during the Strategic Investment announcement in George Town November 19, 2019.

Macken said the company had considered many locations around the world before deciding on Penang, Malaysia.

“We chose Penang because it provides a great balance of manufacturing expertise here and a highly skilled workforce,” he said.

He added that Malaysia is attractive overall for investment as it has a stable economy, infrastructure and a long history of foreign direct investment base here.

Smith+Nephew was founded in Hull, the United Kingdom in 1856 and generated annual sales of US$4.9 billion in 2018.

Chow said with Smith+Nephew’s investment in Penang, the state is poised to further expand its capability in the medical technology and devices industry.

“While the E&E and semiconductor sector are important pillars in Penang’s export driven economy, in the past 10 years, the medical technology and devices industry is playing an increasingly important role in Penang,” he said.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to the press during the Strategic Investment announcement in George Town November 19, 2019.

He said the FDI inflow to Penang for the first half of 2019 came from US companies in the semi conductor and electronics manufacturing services activities.

He said Penang recorded RM9.2 billion of total approved manufacturing investment in the first half of this year which surpassed last year’s total manufacturing investment of RM5.8 billion.

He said Smith+Nephew’s investment will be recorded for the second half of 2019.

“The state government is committed to continue working hand-in-hand with the federal government in attracting investments that are sustainable as well as capital and technology-intensive,” he said.

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