IPC releases PCB industry results for April 2012

IPC — Association Connecting Electronics Industries® announced today the April findings from its monthly North American Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Statistical Program.

PCB Industry Growth Rates and Book-to-Bill Ratios Announced

Rigid PCB shipments were down 3.6 percent in April 2012 from April 2011, and bookings decreased 8.6 percent year over year. Year to date, rigid PCB shipments decreased 5.8 percent and bookings increased 1.2 percent. Compared to the previous month, rigid PCB shipments decreased 10.5 percent and rigid bookings decreased 13.0 percent. The book-to-bill ratio for the North American rigid PCB industry in April 2012 remained above parity at 1.03.

Flexible circuit shipments in April 2012 were down 13.8 percent, and bookings were down 5.2 percent compared to April 2011. Year to date, flexible circuit shipments decreased 8.9 percent and bookings decreased 2.4 percent. Compared to the previous month, flexible circuit shipments decreased 10.9 percent and flex bookings were down 18.8 percent. The North American flexible circuit book-to-bill ratio remained high at 1.16.

For rigid PCBs and flexible circuits combined, industry shipments in April 2012 decreased 4.5 percent from April 2011 and orders booked decreased 8.3 percent from April 2011. Year to date, combined industry shipments were down 6.0 percent and bookings were up 0.8 percent. Compared to the previous month, combined industry shipments for April 2012 decreased 10.6 percent and bookings decreased 13.5 percent. The combined (rigid and flex) industry book-to-bill ratio in April 2012 decreased slightly but continued in positive territory at 1.04.

“April PCB sales and orders in North America continued slightly below last year’s levels and reflected normal seasonal patterns,” said Sharon Starr, IPC director of market research. “The good news is that the book-to-bill ratio continued to be positive for the fifth consecutive month. When orders exceed sales, there is potential for sales growth over the next three to six months.”

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 two to three months.

Book-to-bill ratios and growth rates for rigid PCBs and flexible circuits combined are heavily affected by the rigid PCB segment. Rigid PCBs represent an estimated 89 percent of the current PCB industry in North America, according to IPC’s World PCB Production Report.

The Role of Domestic Production

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 April 2012, 83 percent of total PCB shipments reported by survey participants were domestically produced. Domestic production accounted for 82 percent of rigid PCB and 85 percent of flexible circuit shipments in April by IPC’s survey participants. 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.

Bare Circuits versus Assembly

Flexible circuit sales typically include value-added services such as assembly, in addition to the bare flexible circuits. In April, the flexible circuit manufacturers in IPC’s survey sample indicated that bare circuits accounted for about 36 percent of their shipment value reported for the month. Assembly and other services make up a large and growing segment of flexible circuit producers’ businesses. This figure is also sensitive to changes in the survey sample, which may occur at the beginning of each calendar 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 and flexible PCB manufacturers in the USA and Canada. IPC publishes the PCB Book-to-Bill Ratio and the PCB Statistical Program Report each month. Statistics for the previous month are not available until the last week of the following month.