I have just returned from Atlanta after attending Pittcon 2016, the annual conference and exposition for laboratory science. It is now in its 66th edition, and despite its old age, it is in reasonably good health. However, the dynamics have changed a lot: Ten to 20 years ago, it was one of the must-attend events of the year for many in industry because it was “the” place where manufacturers would debut new analytical instrumentation. Unfortunately, as companies now have more (and more affordable) marketing channels at their disposal, it is less so these days; saying that, there were plenty of new product launches at this year’s show.
In terms of trends that I observed at the show, I’d say that miniaturization and portability, where appropriate, continue to be two of the key features that are now required of new equipment that is launched. The emphasis is toward better performance in smaller, lighter, and more competitively priced solutions.
Automation is also key as operators continue to be responsible for more and more instruments and an increasing workload. The aim is to reduce the amount of human intervention. Long gone are the complex analytical workflows that need a highly skilled worker to run the apparatus. The focus now is toward “plug and play” solutions, with compatibility across vendors becoming increasingly important for both the industrial and academic markets. Informatics and data analysis software are more crucial than ever before because there is a wealth of data that needs to be interpreted appropriately so it can deliver meaningful answers. Some manufacturers refer to this as “turning data into knowledge.”
An area of increased focus for manufacturers is sample preparation technology. This is designed to minimize preparation time and variability, enhance reliability and ease of use, and result in better cost containment or reductions in operating costs. A second area of focus for manufacturers continues to be customer service. Several times throughout the show I heard this rationale: “Good customer service is expensive; bad customer service is even more expensive.”
Upon my return from Pittcon, I did not unpack my bags and instead headed directly to the 251st ACS National Meeting, which is taking place in San Diego this week. By the time you read this, we will have had C&EN’s first-ever “Networking Globally: Spanish Resources” reception in collaboration with the International Activities Committee. This event was designed to highlight the range of activities that ACS has created to support the Spanish-speaking community from around the world. C&EN is involved thanks to the translations into Spanish of some of our most-read articles, which now include the ever-popular Periodic Graphics. You can find them all at cen.acs.org/espanol.html.
Also during the ACS national meeting, the 2016 Priestley Medalist, professor Mostafa El-Sayed, came to the ACS booth as is now tradition and signed copies of C&EN for fans and readers. This year we wanted to make the signing more special and host a live interview with professor El-Sayed based on the feature about his life and achievements (see page 34) that we have published this week and the address (see page 41) that he will deliver when he collects the award on Tuesday.
A new addition this year is the event “C&EN talks with Douglas Muzyka.” Muzyka is DuPont’s chief science and technology officer, and the format of the event involves a presentation by Muzyka followed by a Q&A with me and then the audience.
If you’d like to keep up-to-date with what is happening at the national meeting, C&EN will be providing coverage daily, which you can find online at http://acssandiego2016.cenmag.org. In the weeks ahead we will also highlight some of the most significant moments as well as the most cutting-edge research presentations in the weekly issue of the magazine.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.