More Plants, More Headaches?

I have to admit, Viasystems’ decision to pour up to $100 million into capacity expansions worries me just a tad.

Ours is a boom/bust industry, characterized by periods of substantial growth followed by years of sheer gut-wrenching pain. I’ve been through four of these cycles in my 20 years in PCBs, and what’s clear to me is that, overall, there is ample capacity worldwide to suit the PCB industry’s needs.

Granted, a large amount of the funds are earmarked for machine upgrades, and Viasystems has not publicly stated how much of the investment will be geared toward additional space. Not to pick on Viasystems, because this problem clearly is industry-wide, but what I’d like to see is more than three quarters of growth coupled with the possibility of more to come before the industry starts ramping capacity. Pricing has long been a problem for PCB fabricators. Adding capacity won’t fix that.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow