Time to focus on PCB and EMS

IPC’s president of European operations, Sanjay Huprikar, argues that revitalising and growing the PCB and EMS segments is essential to building a robust manufacturing ecosystem

A major finding from a new IPC report states key segments of the European electronics manufacturing industry face significant challenges and require more support, considering their vital role in Europe’s strategic autonomy and the twin transitions to a greener, more digital economy.  

The report says the recently enacted European Chips Act is a welcome step. But ‘the near singular focus’ on the semiconductor industry ‘has obscured critically important segments of the electronics ecosystem’, specifically printed circuit boards (PCB) and electronic assembly (EMS), without which semiconductors cannot function.

Over the last 20-years, the European PCB sector experienced a steep decline, shrinking from approximately 20 to 30 per cent of global production to just two per cent today. Over this time, the EU has become ‘highly dependent on China’, which now accounts for some 65 per cent of total EU PCB requirements. 

The EMS sector has experienced ‘solid’ average annual growth in recent years, fuelled by factory investment by large global companies and also by the growth of the downstream markets the sector serves, including automotive, industrial, aerospace, defense and healthcare. However, the EU imports roughly 90 per cent of required EMS products and services. 

President of European operations, Sanjay Huprikar, said: “Revitalising and growing the PCB and EMS segments is essential to building a robust European electronics manufacturing ecosystem, which in turn is essential to ensuring supply chain resiliency, advancing the twin transitions and promoting European innovation. It takes all elements in the supply chain—from silicon to systems—to successfully produce the electronics we all depend on in so many ways.” 

IPC’s report delves into aspects of the EU’s PCB and EMS sectors, including:

• Europe’s reliance on the PCB and EMS sectors of other nations, especially China, and its vulnerability to global supply chain disruptions related to trade wars, health crises, and natural disasters

• Europe’s leadership and opportunities in ‘embedded systems’ in automotive, industrial, aerospace/defense/security, telecommunications and health care 

• Changes in employment, growth rates, market share and the number of companies in the European PCB and EMS sectors  

• Government policy decisions that need to be considered including: investment in research, development and innovation; incentives to invest in future factories; workforce development; and international trade policy