Early this week, global tech giant Dyson celebrated the launch of the fourth expansion of their Development Centre in Senai, Johor. Designed as a dedicated research and development facility for their line of floorcare and health and beauty appliances, the fourth expansion increases the now 18-year-old Development Centre’s footprint to 35,000 square metres and now houses 22 specialised laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment and machinery.
Present at the event was Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade & Industry, Yang Berhomat Datuk Darell Leiking to officiate the launch.
“We are pleased that Dyson is expanding and deepening its presence here in Malaysia,” he said. “With its focus on high quality and intelligent machines, Dyson’s Malaysia Development Centre will create exciting jobs in areas such as product design, machine learning electrical and electronics development, innovation in materials and supply chain analytics.”
“This will in turn inspire young Malaysians about the transformational possibilities of engineering and manufacturing, and support our drive to build and innovation-led economy.”
This all comes as a significant development for Malaysia’s tech development sector, with Dyson considered a global innovation leader in the various sectors it currently involves itself in. Last year, the company from Malmesbury, United Kingdom marked the production of its 100th million machine as manufacturing volume reached a record 80,000 machines a day.
In close proximity with regional suppliers, the facility in Johor will now only continue to increase in importance as a centre for innovation and the streamlining of manufacturing techniques and processes.
As it stands, the Johor facility employs about 1,200 individuals (of which 800 are engineers), with a healthy percentage (between 80% to 90%) of their workforce hailing from around Malaysia. In 2019, the Development Centre plan to take on board 200 more engineers to complement their current development team.
On Acquiring Talent
Having a chance to speak to Dyson’s Global Vice President of Engineering and Operations during the launch, we asked him for his thoughts on the quality of Malaysian engineers relative to those from their other facilities around the world.
“I think Malaysian engineers are on par with engineers on a lot of our other sites as well,” he stated. “I think what we’ve done over the years was work with Malaysian universities, which have been incredibly open—some of the most open in the world—who want to understand what the cutting edge in industry is and how they can get their students to understand and get ready for that.”
He explained that this active involvement with the education sector currently contributes heavily to Dyson’s ability to attract top talent all over the world and keep them committed to the brand for the long term.
“I think that partnership has really helped us get engineers that are extremely qualified—all the way up to PhD levels—that have already been working on developing real-world products, and that’s pretty special,” he explained.
He also stressed the importance of the tech industry as a whole working together with universities to create a symbiotic relationship.
Here he gave the example of the James Dyson Foundation—Dyson’s very own charity that involves itself with education institutions all the way from primary school to university. In Malaysia, the foundation runs activities such as engineering workshops, industry talks, and student competitions all in an effort to help bring the best engineering talent through.
So far, educational institutions benefitting from Dyson’s educational efforts have included Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNMC), and University of Southampton Malaysia (USMC), all of which have been recipients of credit-based internships, senior leadership advisory, industry talks, and eligibility for the James Dyson award.
“I think if you can get the combination of education and industry working well together, it all works,” Scott said. “But if you have them working separately, you get the industry saying that graduates aren’t good enough and the universities saying that the industry aren’t engaging with them enough.”
“But we’ve always found Malaysian university students to be very open and engaged with what we’re doing here which is real R&D—not many companies do actual R&D in Malaysia, and they’re incredibly engaged,” he said.
“There aren’t many companies in which you can do that within a such a short period of time and for me, that’s been most motivational.”