ITSA sees connector orders surge

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Business is booming in the UK connector market says the Interconnect Technology Suppliers Association (ITSA). At its recent quarterly meeting (the first face to face for two years) member companies reported increases in sales between 8% to 20% year on year and UK orders are now up over 43% on 2020 and up 16% on 2019.

ITSA members’ book to bill ratios are now an average of 1.08:1 in 2021.

Overall ITSA members’ sales are up an average 14% YTD versus the same period in 2020 and even more interesting is that members are now tracking up 5% versus 2019

“Even higher levels of growth are being recorded in some market segments,” says John Biggs, ITSA chairman. “Test and measurement grew 31%, broadcast is up 32% and mass transport rose 18%.”

The medical market saw a reduction of 11% over 2020 but it is still up 63% over 2019.

Value Add sales surged again in the third quarter of 2021 and members are now reporting a growth of 45% driven by Fibre Optic, up 90% and Coaxial solutions up 67%.

Distribution continues to be very buoyant with sales now up 71% over 2021 and up 36% over 2019, and that’s a good barometer of market activity,” adds Biggs.

Future order books are strong, and ITSA members continue to experience extraordinary demand in 2021 but feel that this is not likely to continue into 2022 at the same level.

Costs and prices on the rise

This good news has to be seen in the context of increased costs affecting all industries – and connector makers are not immune.

Raw materials are more expensive, and transportation costs are rising steeply. For example, the cost of a container to transport product from the Far East has risen from £2,000 to £18,000 in the past year.

Energy prices are on the increase as are employee costs as companies strive to fill vacancies to cope with order demand.

“This is not just a result of Brexit,” asserts John Biggs. “Apart from increased red tape, Brexit seems to have had a minimal impact. The issue is a global one and everyone is facing the same increases in costs.”

This is also supported by the IHS/Markit CIPS report for UK manufacturing, which instanced supply chain delays, rising material and labour shortages as constraints on businesses.

While suppliers have absorbed some costs, price increases have been imposed on customers, ITSA members confirmed.

Lead times, double ordering a concern

A major concern for ITSA members is lead times

“They are having a major impact on member companies with some raw materials having up to 1-year lead times – although this is rare,” explains Biggs.

ITSA members are also concerned that there has been double of even triple order booking in the order pipeline. This could lead to cancellations in the future.

Covid could be a game changer

ITSA members also addressed the COVID elephant in the room.

Working practices have changed and ITSA chairman John Biggs revealed that most members believe industry will not return to the old way of everyone in the office.

“Many have implemented hybrid working policies,” he comments. “It would also seem that face to face sales/design/application meetings may not return to pre COVID levels but this did vary between member companies, whatever happens moving forward one thing is for sure and that is we have entered a different way of conducting business which will impact all members, their customers and the markets for some time to come.”

All members were positive about 2022 and beyond and most expected moderate growth to continue.

About ITSA

The Association’s origin can be traced right back to the early 1980s when it was fashionable to include specific interest groups within the Electronic Components Industry Federation or ECIF. Being fundamental to everything that is technology based, interconnection was a natural choice for an interest group and so the Connector Manufacturers Association (CMA) was established.

Through several changes, the CMA became the Interconnection Business Forum or IBF which itself stopped functioning around 2005. In 2008, ITSA was formed by several ex. CMA and IBF members as the British Connector Manufacturers Association and was relaunched in 2017 to more accurately reflect the activities of its members. It is the only dedicated trade industry body for interconnect technology companies operating in the UK.

ITSA has a presence on several standards bodies where the aim is to influence both current and future changes to standards affecting the interconnection sector. These include the appropriate BSI standards committees as well as RoHS compliance and exemption groups like the Oko Institute and the RoHS umbrella group.

Editorial Contact:

John Biggs

Chairman

ITSA

Tel: 07768147677

Email: jbiggs.itsa@btinternet.com