Manufacturing Moves Show Promise

Apple recently announced plans to beef up its domestic manufacturing by investing $100 million in a production facility in Texas. Though there are plenty of questions about the state of manufacturing in the United States, Apple’s plan highlights the strength of American factories.

U.S. manufacturers are taking steps to remain competitive with low-cost countries, employing robots and adopting new techniques like additive manufacturing. Recently, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) reported that first quarter shipments in North America totaled 5,736 units valued at $369.5 million. That shattered last year’s records for the first quarter by 24 percent in units and 23 percent in dollars.

The United States also has a strong position in the hot new area of additive manufacturing. The Wohlers Report 2013 said that 38 percent of all industrial additive manufacturing installations are in the United States. That’s substantially higher than the 10 percent level for both Japan and Germany.

The circuit board industry is also showing mostly positive signs. PCB orders in North America increased 7.2 percent year-over-year in April, while the book-to-bill ratio rose to 1.10, a 34-month high. The latter figure bodes well for PCB sales in the next two quarters.

Monthly data is available in the IPC North American PCB Market Report. More information is available at www.ipc.org/market-research-subscriptions.

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