IPC — Association Connecting Electronics Industries® announced today the May findings from its monthly North American Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Statistical Program. The PCB book-to-bill ratio stayed strong for the sixth consecutive month, remaining at 1.10, an indication that recovery from nearly a two-year slump may be starting.
Total North American PCB shipments were down 4.4 percent in May 2013 from May 2012, but bookings increased 8.3 percent year over year. Year to date, PCB industry shipments were down 4.9 percent and bookings were down 0.3 percent. Compared to the previous month, PCB shipments in May increased 0.9 percent, and bookings grew by 6.5 percent. Bookings have outpaced shipments for the past six months. The PCB book-to-bill ratio held steady in May at a strong 1.10.
Flexible circuit sales continued to strengthen in May, while rigid PCB sales continued to lag behind last year’s levels. Orders went in the opposite direction, with flex orders experiencing negative year-on-year growth while rigid PCB orders outpaced 2012.
“PCB sales and orders have been below last year’s levels for most months of the past year, but they have been improving in recent months,” said Sharon Starr, IPC director of market research. “Order growth rates have improved faster than sales growth rates, which accounts for the positive book-to-bill ratios of past five months,” she explained. “PCB sales are slowly emerging from almost a two-year slump, but the recent positive order growth makes the sales outlook for the second half of this year more promising.”
The book-to-bill ratios are calculated by dividing the value of orders booked over the past three months by the value of sales billed during the same period from companies in IPC’s survey sample. A ratio of more than 1.00 suggests that current demand is ahead of supply, which is a positive indicator for sales growth over the next three to six months.
Domestic Production Holds Steady
IPC’s monthly survey of the North American PCB industry tracks bookings and shipments from U.S. and Canadian facilities, which provide indicators of regional demand. These numbers do not measure U.S. and Canadian PCB production. To track regional production trends, IPC asks survey participants for the percent of their reported shipments that were produced domestically (i.e., in the USA or Canada). In May 2013, 86 percent of total PCB shipments reported by survey participants were domestically produced. These numbers are significantly affected by the mix of companies in IPC’s survey sample, which change slightly in January, but are kept constant through the remainder of the year.
Interpreting the Data
Year-on-year and year-to-date growth rates provide the most meaningful view of industry growth. Month-to-month comparisons should be made with caution as they may reflect cyclical effects and short-term volatility. Because bookings tend to be more volatile than shipments, changes in the book-to-bill ratios from month to month may not be significant unless a trend of more than three consecutive months is apparent. It is also important to consider changes in bookings and shipments to understand what is driving changes in the book-to-bill ratio.
The information in IPC’s monthly PCB industry statistics is based on data provided by a representative sample of both rigid PCB and flexible circuit manufacturers selling in the USA and Canada. IPC publishes the PCB book-to-bill ratio near the end of each month. Statistics for the current month are not available until the last week of the following month.
Detailed Data Available
More detailed monthly findings on rigid PCB and flexible circuit sales and orders, including separate rigid and flex book-to-bill ratios, military and medical market growth, demand for prototypes, total market size and forecasts, are published monthly in IPC’s North American PCB Market Report. This report is available free to current participants in IPC’s PCB Statistical Program and by subscription to others. More information about this report can be found at www.ipc.org/market-research-subscriptions.