A newly released report from the Association Connecting Electronic Industires, or IPC, shows rigid PCB shipments were down 1.9 percent in May 2012 from May 2011. At the same time, bookings increased 12 percent year over year. On a year to date comparison, rigid PCB shipments decreased 5 percent, with bookings increasing by 3.1 percent. Compared to the previous month, rigid PCB shipments were up 2 percent and rigid bookings gained 1.9 percent.

In the category of flexible circuits, shipments in May 2012 were down 10 percent, with bookings off by1.1 percent compared to May 2011. Year to date, flexible circuit shipments decreased 9.1 percent and bookings decreased 2.1 percent. Compared to the previous month, flexible circuit shipments decreased 2.6 percent, but flex bookings were up 19.8 percent.

For rigid PCBs and flexible circuits combined, industry shipments in May 2012 decreased 2.6 percent from May 2011 and orders booked increased 10.6 percent from May 2011. Year to date, combined industry shipments were down 5.3 percent and bookings were up 2.6 percent. Compared to the previous month, combined industry shipments for May 2012 increased 1.7 percent and bookings increased 3.3 percent.

The book-to-bill ratio1 for the North American rigid PCB industry in May 2012 remained above parity at 1.02, while the North American flexible circuit book-to-bill ratio held high at 1.17. Looking at rigid and flex combined, the industry book-to-bill ratio in May 2012 decreased slightly but continued in positive territory at 1.03.

Observers believe the activity is largely cyclical. “North American PCB sales and orders in May continued slightly below last year’s levels and reflected normal seasonal patterns,” said Sharon Starr, IPC director of market research. “The May book-to-bill ratio remained positive for the sixth consecutive month and was especially strong for the flexible circuit segment of the industry. This reinforces our hope that sales will gain strength in the second half of this year.”


  1. 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.