Over the last two years the PCB manufacturing business has had something of a rough time of it. Firstly, of course, was the small matter of a global recession. When people have less money in their pocket they are less likely to splurge on items such as the electronic gadgets that have printed circuit boards at their very heart. As a consequence of that, demand for electronic goods such as phones and home entertainment drifted downwards. On the whole, people now had their phone, they had their DVD player, TV and stereo and had no impetus to upgrade. What was needed, therefore, was a revolution to shake up the entertainment and telecommunications industries What was needed… was Apple.
So god bless Steve Jobs. First the i-Phone, and then the i-Pad, completely changed the way we communicate and access entertainment. In the wake of Apple came Android devices, Kindles, and other fantastic gadgets and gizmos from the likes of Samsung, Phillips and LG. Suddenly, it was not enough to have a phone… we needed a “smart” phone. It was not enough to have a book… we need a “tablet”, a device unheard of and unimagined just a few years ago. And guess what… they all need PCBs!
And the news gets better from there. Apple, of course, keep releasing new generations of i-Phones, i-Pads and now i-Pad minis for those who for some reason can’t make up their mind. The competition is also racing to catch up, with some people now preferring competitor tablets, such as the Galaxy. And this fierce consumer competition in the electronics industry means global demand for PCBs is now heading in an altogether more positive direction, driving growth for PCB manufacturers such as Hi-5.
So, in macro-environmental terms, the economic outlook looks altogether cheerier, across key international markets such as China and the States. In the US, for instance, the book-to-bill ratio for the industry was back into positive territory in the early part of this year, after drops in 2012, and is now strengthening even further. It is now the opinion of industry experts that smartphones and tablets alone will continue to drive growth. And that is only good news for our domestic market here in the UK as well as the US, as an estimated 10,000 electronics businesses operate in this country and rely on good levels of demand.
We are by no means out of the woods. The global downturn has affected economies across the planet, with knock-on effects for imports and exports. It is proving to be a slow climb back out, with many economies, like the UK, still vulnerable. And there are still issues with the end-market for PCBs, which then concertina back down the line to the manufacturing side. However, with new innovations continuing in the electronics industry, and Apple alone rumoured to be working on both a TV and a watch, it is this high end of electronics that might way lead the way out of the dark of recession. For instance, demand is now certainly up for the more advanced end of the market, such as HDI PCBs.
So, Steve Jobs has now departed terra firma, spending his time in the great iCloud in the sky. But his influence lives on and his vision still powers this technological, digital and, indeed, lifestyle revolution. This new demand touches all aspects of the electronics industry, filtering down to this new renaissance in PCB manufacture. And we say “i” to that!