Predictions for 2013

For this column, we compiled the top 5 predictions for compliance in 2013 as it will concern members of the Actio Network (and the majority of business persons with industrial concerns). Categories encompass the electronics industry, EPA/TSCA/etc, Power, Air and Water regulations — and tech tools to manage it.

1. Electronics. This is a highly readable and insightful “quick takes” from the editor of Circuits Assembly magazine, Mike Buetow. His six bullet point predictons for 2013 hit the mark, including:

  1. Accelerated migration of manufacturing in North America
  2. Flextronics will purchase significant stakes in RIM (Research In Motion)
  3. Action in the PCB CAD bullpen

Buetow’s six predictions

2. EPA, TSCA, REACH. Bergeson & Campbell published a comprehensive piece, predicting 2013 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). An excellent document. Predictions include:

  1. TSCA legislation outlook: dim, with updates unlikely
  2. OPPT will continue leveraging existing TSCA authorities to assess and regulate chemicals
  3. REACH: deadlines as usual

Other topics in the article: Regulation of nanoscale materials, California Safer Consumer Products Regulations, FIFRA/FQPA, rodenticide cancellation, pollinators, Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP), Asia forecast: China, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Japan, Korea.

Get the EPA / TSCA outlook

3. Software. In the 2013 quality and stewardship arena, expect to see huge strides in technology. Next-generation software engines will solve (examples provided, use links):

  1. Material disclosure and supplier management
  2. GHS document authoring and management
  3. SEC conflict mineral reporting

4. Power companies. This piece includes the top ten predictions for the power industry by the editor of Power magazine. Predictions include:

  1. Kyoto 2 is Dead
  2. Natural Gas Prices Rise 20%
  3. The Carbon Tax Dies

See the top ten

5. EPA: air and water. Over the next two years, EPA will propose and finalize many new and significant rules, particularly under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. The pipeline is full, and electric utilities, agricultural operations, the construction and real estate industries, and facilities using large boilers need to pay special attention. Specifically there will be:

Stricter Air Requirements Utility MACT/Mercury Rule, Boiler MACT, and Revised PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for starters.

Stricter Water Requirements  Revisions to the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Discharge Permitting Regulations — Particularly, areas like the Chesapeake Bay are implied, where nutrients are believed to be significant contributors to water quality impairment, will see more stringent permitting requirements.

Effluent Guidelines for The Construction and Development Industry  New construction activities can expect more stringent requirements governing stormwater discharges.

Stormwater Discharges from Developed Sites  Expect to see a proposed rule on restrictions on stormwater flow (as opposed to limits on pollutants in stormwater) possibly as early as the summer of 2013.

Effluent Guidelines for Electricity Generating Units  EPA expects rulemaking to address discharges from ash ponds and flue gas desulfurization (FGD) air pollution controls, as well as other power plant waste streams, for power plants. The proposal should be released in the next few months.

Definition of “Waters of the United States”  EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are attempting to develop a proposed rule to clarify which waters are subject to regulation and protected by the Clean Water Act. It is not clear when or if this proposed rule will be published.

by Thomas G. Echikson

Details here


For reference, a list of EPA forecasted projects

For reference, try browsing the list below to get a predictive view of forecasted projects for 2013.  The information in EPA’s forecast database (link below) is based on the best information available at the time of posting and is intended for prospective contracting planning purposes. Please note that some records in the database contain the statement of work (SOW) from the current contract, which can be interesting.

2013 EPA Project Forecast Database

‘The Past is Prelude’

“The past is but a prelude to the future”

In 55 BC Cicero was attributed with saying, “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.” Amazing! We never seem to learn!

This is the time of year that all of our industry seers reflect upon the past and forecast the future. It is an all but impossible task this time. Economic woes, political game playing, power plays, personal attacks, and continued posturing and bickering of elected officials in “Foggy Bottom” (Washington, DC) all remain with us — without problem resolution. They took an 11th hour step at year-end (2012) and beginning (2013) that defers major decisions, leaves the future of federal employees in doubt, eliminates the some tax increases for the”middle class” while increasing their payroll taxes. They deferred facing the issue major cuts of sequestration for another two months while further dividing the country.

Meanwhile, there is talk of Japan’s “new” (he was there once before) prime minister Shinzo Abe nationalizing the electronics industry in an attempt to save it.

At the same time, China’s manufacturing unexpectedly expanded in December at its fastest pace in 19 months, boosting optimism that a recovery in the world’s second-biggest economy is gaining traction.

As a result, I must admit that my crystal ball is not only broken, but it also appears to be cracked.

We note that the prognosticators take a “long term” view and state that production of printed circuit boards will reach $76.2 billion by 2015. The IDC’s (International Data Corporation) Semiconductor Applications Forecaster states that semiconductor global growth for 2013 will be 4.9% to $319 billion following a 1% increase in 2012. It is expected to reach $368 billion in 2016.

What will the major drivers be? Automotive electronics, tablets, “smart” phones, and new displays.

What will a fabricator need to improve his ability to succeed in the future (in addition to cleaning up his act, stabilizing his work force, and training it better)? Most likely he will need a strong process engineering team and a very close communication link to designers to ensure that new boards or systems are designed for manufacture. Available processes and materials as well as cost options and the final package must all be considered.

Suppliers will have to provide materials with greater and finer dimensional tolerances and stability through a wider range of manufacturing cycles and environments.

ODM and OEM companies will have to re-evaluate the business strategy of partial or full regional manufacturing to provide product in within a particular geographic marketplace.

Assembly and fabrication equipment makers will have to consider new cost-cutting manufacturing strategies. E.g., noncompeting organizations could share overhead and direct costs by using a common custom “toll” manufacturer for machine assembly.

All segments of the interconnect and electronic packaging industries supply chain will have to evaluate solving problems in providing products and technical support services to maturing or growing manufacturing areas as well as to local markets, e.g., Thailand and India.

Predictions for 2013

It’s been awhile since I used this space to make any predictions about the coming months, but the end of the year is always the logical (if cliched) time to do so.

So here goes:

  • The migration of manufacturing to North America will accelerate, and the mainstream media will begin to report that OEMs are also reestablishing internal production lines.
  • Flextronics will buy at least some of RIM.
  • Robots as substitutes for human labor will be heavily hyped but lightly used.
  • Ousted Altium founder Nick Martin will hook on with a budding cloud-based software company and build a PCB CAD tool.
  • At least two new PCB CAD vendors will emerge.
  • Electronics manufacturing companies will end 2013 with less cash in the bank but brighter prospects for the future.