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Total North American PCB shipments in December 2018 were up 7.7% compared to the same month last year, according to the IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries' North American printed circuit board (PCB) Statistical Program. Shipment growth ended the year at 8.7%. Compared to the preceding month, December shipments increased 17.1%. The book-to-bill ratio also strengthened in December and stands at 1.05.
PCB bookings in December were down 3.1% year-over-year but bookings ended 2018 at 5.7% above the previous year. Bookings in December were up 26.3% from the previous month.
“Despite slowing PCB sales growth in North America in recent months, the industry ended the year well ahead of 2017,” said Sharon Starr, IPC’s director of market research. “Although year-on-year PCB order growth was negative in December, order growth also remained positive for 2018. Despite declining orders and a related decline in the book-to-bill ratio,” Starr added, “the ratio bounced back in December. It has now been in positive territory for almost two years, which indicates a positive outlook for continued sales growth in the first half of 2019.”
Note: The January 2018-March 2018 growth rates have been revised since their original publication due to updated data from statistical program participants.
Interpreting the Data
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 twelve months. A ratio of less than 1.00 indicates the reverse.
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 reflect seasonal 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 might not be significant unless a trend of more than three consecutive months is apparent. It is also important to consider changes in both bookings and shipments to understand what is driving changes in the book-to-bill ratio.
IPC’s monthly PCB industry statistics are 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 at the end of each month. Statistics for the current month are normally available in the last week of the following month.