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in the electronics industry

  • Ben Reynolds

Supply Chain Regionalization Update: PCB Manufacturing in Thailand

Updated: May 21

As the gradual exodus of major electronics OEMs from China continues to pick up steam, upstream materials and component suppliers are facing growing pressure to follow suit or risk losing business with their most important clients. The stakes are particularly high in the PCB sector, where Mainland China today accounts for roughly 53% of total production by value. With Taiwan contributing approximately 14% of global PCB production in 2022, fully two-thirds of global PCB production is now directly exposed to US-China-related geopolitical risk.


The rationale for geographical diversification is clear, but shifting production outside of China will be costly. China’s rapid rise to global dominance in PCB manufacturing over the past two decades attests to the country’s clear advantages in cost and production efficiency. Between 2000 and 2022, China’s PCB sector grew at an average annual rate of nearly 12.5%. Even as manufacturing wages have risen dramatically in China over that time span, China’s PCB industry has remained the most cost-efficient production site for most PCB applications thanks to its deep reservoir of PCB manufacturing talent, world-class infrastructure, and hyper-efficient logistical networks.


Since no country can easily replicate the scale and efficiency of China’s manufacturing ecosystem, the electronics industry is instead taking a patchwork approach that prioritizes regionalized supply chains to ensure access to major end-markets. For PCB makers, Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand offer the most natural alternative to China due to their proximity to key Asian markets, low-cost electronics manufacturing talent, and favorable trade and business policies. The rest of this post takes a closer look at recent investment trends in Thailand’s PCB industry. For more information on Malaysia, Vietnam, and other emerging PCB markets, keep an eye out for Prismark’s forthcoming Discovery Series report on trends in the global PCB supply chain.


PCB SHOPS IN THAILAND


PCB SHOPS IN THAILAND
©PrismarkPartners

Thailand’s current PCB production is minimal as a share of the global market, but the basic foundation for a budding PCB ecosystem is in place. Although there is only one Thailand-headquartered company – KCE – currently ranked in the global top 100, Japanese PCB manufacturers like Fujikura and Nippon Mektron have been operating plants in Thailand for more than two decades. As shown in the graphic above, a handful of other major PCB suppliers have also established manufacturing presences in the major industrial regions around Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok.


Thailand’s linkages to the global automotive market make it a particularly appealing expansion site for automotive PCB makers. Thailand has long been the top automotive manufacturing nation in Southeast Asia owing to its deep connections with the Japanese automotive industry. Unsurprisingly, automotive PCB suppliers, including Taiwan’s Chin Poon and Japan’s CMK Corporation, have been among the most active investors in Thailand’s PCB sector over the years. The Thai government is expending significant capital to build on this advantage by offering substantial tax cuts and subsidies for domestic EV production and R&D and investing in a nationwide buildout of EV charging infrastructure.


The recent growth of Thailand’s PCB industry extends well beyond the automotive sector. Sixteen of the top 100 global PCB suppliers have either established or are currently building a manufacturing presence in Thailand, and new investment plans are being announced at an accelerating pace, as shown in the table below. Taiwanese PCB makers have led the most recent round of PCB capacity expansion in Central Thailand. In 2022, WUS Printed Circuit announced plans to spend $280M to construct a new PCB plant in Rojana Industrial Park. WUS cited the need to diversify production for overseas clients, along with Thailand’s advantages in land, workforce, and taxation, in explaining its rationale for the investment. Taiwan’s 2nd and 3rd largest PCB producers, Unimicron and Compeq, have also committed funds to procure land in Thailand as part of longer-term expansion plans. These initial outlays will be followed by more substantial investments to build fully operational plants in the coming years. Although further details have yet to be announced, the total investments from Compeq and Unimicron will likely be comparable to WUS’s ~$280M investment. Chinese suppliers, including Aoshikang and Huizhou CEE, are also increasing their investment in Thailand as part of their efforts to ensure continued access to markets outside of China.


RECENT TOP 100 PCB MANUFACTURER INVESTMENTS IN THAILAND


RECENT TOP 100 PCB MANUFACTURER INVESTMENTS IN THAILAND
©PrismarkPartners

For all its strengths, Thailand’s status as a future PCB manufacturing hub is far from assured. There is still some doubt within the PCB industry that Thailand can provide adequate land, water, and electrical supplies to accommodate a large-scale influx of PCB production capacity. Moreover, Thailand’s efforts to attract PCB investment will face stiff competition from its Southeast Asian neighbors in Vietnam and Malaysia. With the US and China stuck in an apparently intractable standoff, the push to build capacity outside of China will likely intensify in the coming years. Thailand’s PCB industry is well-positioned to benefit from this trend, but whether it can fully capitalize on the opportunity remains to be seen. Prismark is tracking developments in Thailand and other emerging PCB markets closely.


If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to Prismark directly by Email: partners@prismark.com |Phone: +1-631-367-9187 |www.prismark.com

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