PCBWay 3rd PCB Design Contest
  1. Blog>
  2. Conversations with...IPC's Sharon Starr

Conversations with...IPC's Sharon Starr

by: May 05,2014 1168 Views 0 Comments Posted in Engineering Technical

Printed circuit board PCB board

IPC’s 2012-2013 Analysis & Forecast for the North American PCB Industry report has just been published so I thought it would be a good idea to sit down with Sharon Starr, director of market research, and talk about how she and her team went about producing this impressive document. The best thing about this document is that it was compiled using real facts from a number of PCB fabricators representing 44% of the North America PCB market. Read on as Starr talks about the report, what it contains, and its target audience.


Dan Beaulieu: Sharon, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. I know that you're a very busy person. First, congratulations; I have read the report and find it well researched, very informative, and, quite frankly, filled with fascinating data. How did you do this?

Sharon Starr: We have our members who participated in the project to thank for this. They answered our surveys and provided all the interesting data. We cleaned and aggregated the data, and analyzed it to discover growth rates and other trends. It is a really fascinating process, but we couldn’t do it without our participating members. We also owe our thanks to Dr. Hayao Nakahara who contributed the four-year forecast of PCB Production in North America and the world, which is included in this report.

Beaulieu: How often to you publish the report?

Starr: We conduct this study annually. The survey goes online in the spring, and we spend a couple of months collecting the data and following up with prospective participants to get as large a sample as possible. We publish the report in the summer.

Beaulieu: And let’s talk about the logistics of putting something like this together. How many people work with you in a project like this?

Starr: We are a team of three. Market Research Manager, Sree Bhagwat, manages the project, which includes designing the survey, collecting the data, doing the analysis, and drafting the report. Market Research Coordinator, Piyamart Holmgren, helps at all stages of the process by testing the online survey, collecting the data in our secure server, following up with participants, creating graphs, and proofreading the report. I’m involved at all stages too, mostly reviewing, commenting, and overall supervision.

Beaulieu: You mentioned you used data from 31 PCB fabricators. How did that work?

Starr: We began by collecting data from many of IPC’s monthly PCB Statistical Program participants through a year-end survey. Then we went out to non-participating companies with a survey to expand the sample. We targeted the largest PCB companies to obtain the broadest representation of the industry. Thirty-one companies may not sound like a lot, but these companies have combined sales of around $1.6 billion and represent about 44% of the North American PCB market.

Beaulieu: You say the report is for North America, but are there plans to put these together for other markets?

Starr: We conduct global research on PCB production with the help of our World PCB Consensus Committee, a team of the world’s top experts on the PCB industry. Our World PCB Production Report for the Year 2012 was just published. We also have a biennial PCB Technology Trends study that is global in scope. The 2011-2012 report is available in IPC’s online store.

The next PCB technology trends study will be conducted in early 2014 and the findings will support the development of IPC’s 2015 Technology Roadmap. Apart from those studies, IPC’s focus is on North America because we collaborate with PCB associations in Europe and Asia that also conduct market research. Many of our members are global and belong to multiple PCB associations in different parts of the world. Rather than bombarding our members with duplicative surveys, we prefer to combine our efforts for the good of the industry. The result of that sharing is the annual WECC Global PCB Production Report. The 2012 edition is being published this week.

Beaulieu: What was the most surprising piece of information you found when putting the report together?

Starr: PCB production in North America has been on a downward trend since 2001, so it was a pleasant surprise to see some growth, however modest, in Dr. Nakahara’s forecast for the next four years.

Beaulieu: What was the most obvious thing learned?

Starr: U.S. imports and exports of PCBs both increased in 2012. They have been slowly, but steadily, strengthening since the recovery from the downturn began in 2010. This is a good sign for both the domestic industry and the market in North America.

Beaulieu: Who is this document for? How would they use it?

Starr: This report has useful information for anyone who makes, sells, or buys PCBs, and for suppliers to the PCB industry in North America. PCB fabricators can place their own performance metrics in the context of the industry’s performance, for a reality check. In addition to sales and market data, they will find metrics on PCB companies’ average R&D spending, amount of quick-turn and prototype production, cost of labor as a percent of sales, and revenue per employee. Suppliers to the PCB industry will see what types of materials are being used to make PCBs and trends in PCB technology such as layer count and high-density interconnect production. Everyone in the PCB supply chain, including downstream customers, will find changes in spending on materials and industry growth forecasts relevant to their businesses.

Beaulieu: Okay, Sharon, here's a question I've been dying to ask you. In fact, it’s a question I ask everyone I interview, but, since you are the industry’s official prognosticator, I'm delighted to ask: Where you see the PCB market in three years and in five years, both here and globally?

Starr: Growth rates in the major economies and in the electronics industry are slower than expected since the 2008 downturn, but growth forecasts show gradual improvement over the next five years. Electronics sales should continue to grow faster than the economy, due to demand for new and innovative electronic products. Manufacturing will continue to seek out low-cost production locations, but I believe more onshoring will continue. Suppliers are finding opportunities to differentiate their products through customization, service, and working closely with customers. North America has the advantage of being the home of many of the world’s largest electronic device companies, and OEMs set the trends for the supply chain based on their needs.

Beaulieu: Sharon, thanks again for taking the time to talk with me. I have one more question: How can readers purchase a copy of this report?

Starr: Readers can look at the table of contents, read more about the report, and order it for immediate download at www.ipc.org/PCB-Study-2013. And they can peruse all of the current market research reports in IPC’s online store at www.ipc.org/marketresearchreports.

Finally some good news: We will continue to see onshoring as well as new product development work which will help the North American market to grow albeit conservatively in the next few years.

  • Comments(0)
You can only upload 1 files in total. Each file cannot exceed 2MB. Supports JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP
    View More
    Back to top