A Conversation with PerkinElmer’s Dirk Bontridder and John Luck


PerkinElmer, an instrument manufacturer with more than 6,000 employees, is on the forefront of the analytical instrumentation market. The company manages more than 500,000 laboratory assets worldwide, with distribution centers in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

The market for analytical science instrumentation is expected to grow to $66.27 billion by 2028, up from $49.47 billion in 2024, according to data from market research provider Reportlinker. Instrument manufacturers are facing pressure to develop new and more automated analytical instruments, which can pair with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions.

John Luck (left) is the chief commercial officer of PerkinElmer. Dirk Bontridder (right) is the chief executive officer of PerkinElmer. © PerkinElmer

John Luck (left) is the chief commercial officer of PerkinElmer. Dirk Bontridder (right) is the chief executive officer of PerkinElmer. © PerkinElmer

Spectroscopy sat down with John Luck, chief commercial officer of PerkinElmer, and Dirk Bontridder, chief executive officer of PerkinElmer, at Pittcon in San Diego, California to discuss the latest market trends in analytical science and how the company is thinking about the future of the industry.

New Product Development and Trends

Q: What are the big application areas that you are focused on right now? Is there a big focus on per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS)?

Bontridder: We serve, broadly speaking, five different customer segments: food, pharma, industrial, academia, and environmental. We have a very broad reach where our instrumentation is being used. And this is across the globe. We have solutions that are applicable everywhere. But what we see for PFAS, North America and Europe are increasing the bar in terms of sensitivity. You must make sure that your science and your instruments can follow that and have sufficient detection limits. For us it is critical to advance that science in our instruments, but then you need to make sure these instruments are being integrated into the environments of the customer. And these environments differ from continent to continent from country to country. We are very proactive in following up these market trends. Another example is the semiconductor. We have a good instrument for elemental analysis. But it's about how the instrument is integrated into a bigger setting for instantaneously analyzing the flow of production. That is critical. The time where you take a sample, and somebody walks with the sample to the machine, and then a day later, the result is ready, these times are over. It should happen instantaneously. Your instrumentation needs to have the right software, the integration channels, all that needs to seamlessly fit into real production flows of what customers do.

Q: Are you investing in artificial intelligence technology at all? 

Bontridder: AI is a trend. It's linked with data analytics. What our instruments essentially do is generate a lot of data. AI is typically sitting outside of the instruments and in the cloud. It's interpreting the data for all kinds of purposes. One of the big trends that we elaborated first on is the automation, the integration, the solution for our customers. That's a very important driver for all of us advancing the science for our customer. And what we try to understand is their applications, tailor our instruments, and tailor our science in the instruments for our customers. And then, of course, we complement that with analytical tools. And obviously, also, artificial intelligence. We are in the kind of infant stage in terms of artificial intelligence, it's a very big buzzword, and everybody calls it artificial intelligence, what we try to do is to be very pragmatic on it. We have work groups in the company that are trying to experiment internally, what artificial intelligence can do for us, and can do for our customers. But our instruments operate in customer settings that are regulated, clinical labs, pharma labs, food labs, they all have regulations. You don't want to have an artificial bot telling you what the result is going to be, you need to follow a certain protocol. But it is clearly something that is going to help in advancing the interpretation of the data. And therefore, our data should be compatible with these artificial intelligence engines and so forth. So yes, it's a point of attention with us. But it's early stage.

Q: Can you give us a preview of what you'll be releasing this year?

Luck: I would say that cost of ownership is a major focus for us, we are very cognizant of the pressures that our customers are under. We have a tremendous ability to innovate our instruments to reduce cost of ownership, but also uptime and the reliability of those instruments, because cost of ownership comes in a couple of different ways, right? There's the actual cost of running the instrument. But in addition to that, and potentially even more importantly, is the reliability of an instrument downtime costs money. Both with the products that we have launched late last year, and we'll be launching throughout this year, a major part of that innovation cycle is that cost of ownership as well as reliability.

Bontridder: One trend that I see, I’ll give an example of our OneSource laboratory services. OneSource is a service that we offer to biopharma and pharma companies, and it is trying to give back scientific hours to lab technicians. Last year, we gave back more than 700,000 scientific hours back to lab technicians. This is why instruments are getting more complicated, they are connected, they need to be calibrated, they need to be regulated, they need to be maintained. Researchers in the laboratory of pharma, they want to focus on the molecule they develop, they are focused on lead times and how to get the drug on the market, they are focused on improving the drugs, that is what they focused on. They don't want to be busy with cleaning an instrument or moving an instrument from point A to point B and being GMP compliant. And so that's what we all take care of for them. This means they can focus on what really matters for them, namely, advancing their science. That is a trend we see where the market is going beyond just selling an instrument. An instrument is critical because it gives you the raw data. But it's what you do with the data is becoming much more important.

Q: What trends are you seeing as far as what customers are interested in buying?

Luck: There are a couple of major trends there. One is that there is higher turnover in lab personnel and ease of use applications, the instruments, and training capabilities of the vendors. With that higher turnover that we are seeing in the lab, if you look, there are some interesting studies where it talks about how many linear feet per lab technician exists today versus in the past. Technicians today are expected to have a broader range of capabilities, in how to operate the instruments. We look at it in terms of making the instrument easier to use. But also, we have a focus on our training capabilities to ensure that we can provide those technicians with ongoing support and training, and those customers with a resource. As they expand their capabilities, take on new projects, and look to increase the productivity of their lab, we can help them address that as well.

Q: Can you talk more about how you’re working to address employee turnover in the lab with your customers?

Luck: It really starts when the instrument first arrives, we do fundamental training, when they buy the equipment. It includes how to turn the instrument on and how to use some of the basic features with the instrument. We then have basic training, which would be how to run some of their applications, how to generate data, how to ensure the health of the instrument. We then have advanced training, which would be multiple days either in a classroom or in one of our facilities, or on site with the customer, where we will go in depth into their specific application. Beyond that we have a tremendous reach of field application scientists that can do specific application development and method development for those customers. These field scientists provide training, but also ensure that the methods they're using are the best science possible and provide customers with the best results possible so that they're using the instrument as productively as possible. And that really goes to provide analytical science with purpose, where our purpose extends all the way to how the customer is using the quality of that experience with the instrument and ensuring that the quality of the science is front and center with those customers.

Q: What are you looking for when you are hiring and recruiting for your own team?

Luck: We have a couple of different roles. We have R&D, in which case, we are looking for very strong domain expertise in specific areas that we target as growth areas. Data management is a great example. Thinking about the future, ensuring that as we hire people into the organization, we are thinking about innovation for the next step, where are our customers going. Where are customers looking for us to go? Where do they need support? How do we think about our instruments? How do we think about data management? How do we ensure that as those trends begin to emerge and take root, like with AI? We want people who have industry experience coming from regulatory groups, coming from industry, specific areas where they understand those applications in a fine level of detail. Or even have helped set those standards with whoever the governing body might be depending on the industry. That then provides tremendous value to our customers. When we bring a field application scientist into the conversation who understands the regulatory environment in which that customer is operating. And then we have salespeople. Our salespeople need to be solution minded, they need to look to maximize the value to the customer, they need to have the ability to think broadly across our portfolio, to adapt to emerging trends within the different industries. And to communicate that in a way that makes sense to the customers where we are understanding the customer's goals, their strategic objectives, and what they're expected to deliver for the year. And we are then a good value add partner for our customers. Sales reps need to have that customer centric solution set timelines.

Bontridder: What is binding people at PerkinElmer are people with passion, and people with affinity to science. At the heart of our company is science and I am about a year running the company now. That's what I see one of the key ingredients and making the success of our companies is people that love science and are passionate about it.

This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.

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