Challenges of the 2022 PCB Market: The Party’s Over

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With his knowledgeable insight into the business and technology of the printed circuit industry, Dr. Shiuh-Kao Chiang, managing partner at Prismark Partners, has put a global perspective on the challenges of the 2022 PCB market. His presentation at the EIPC Summer Conference in Orebro, Sweden, on June 14 was eagerly awaited by an attentive audience, keen to share his vision. From his comments, it was clear that 2022 will be an interesting year and does not appear particularly friendly for the PCB business.

In his presentation for EIPC’s Technical Snapshot webinar in February, Chiang commented that the 2021 PCB market was characterised by surging revenue and profit growth in packaging substrates, although strong demand, high material costs, fractured supply logistics, increasing inventory, and tightening cash flow squeezed the margins of most PCB companies. Other issues influencing the 2021 market were supply availability and capacity constraints for PCB raw materials, currency exchange rates, long lead times for critical processing tools, and supply shortages for selective semiconductors and other devices.

Now he was able to reflect upon 2022’s first quarter results. “The electronics industry is in the late stages of a historic cycle fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, but cracks are now forming at the edges,” he said. “No party lasts forever.” The pandemic dividends have been quickly evaporating with the end of synchronous demand cycles for PCs, TVs, and gaming, and the 5G bump for smartphones is waning. The inflated “just-in-case” demand due to supply chain uncertainty is disappearing, with the end of double ordering and the digestion of heightened inventories.

The current forecast is for modest growth, with factors like inflation, high interest rates, a strong U.S. dollar, the Ukraine conflict, and China’s zero-COVID policy to be considered. 

Chiang summarized the main challenges to the electronics industry as:

  • High inventory along the supply chain
  • Weak demand due to declining purchasing power
  • High inflation and high interest rates
  • Over-supply of rigid and flexible boards
  • Geopolitical conflicts causing high energy costs
  • Pandemic lockdowns causing disruptions in supply-side production and logistics
  • Labour shortages and material cost volatility

He believes that the strongest segments are those with the longest lead or that are undergoing transition. He listed industrial and medical, automotive, computing and communications infrastructure, and other consumer electronics, particularly wearables.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the July 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.


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