Laboratory instruments

We got our start in the laboratory market and understand what it takes to succeed with scientific buyers. From ultra-low refrigerated circulators to benchtop distillation to pipetting machines, we’ve seen it all. Through highly segmented market research, we connect you to scientists, engineers, and researchers who are the decision-makers in their labs.

Laboratory instruments typically have a shorter sales cycle than automated packaging equipment, for example. Decisions can be made within weeks or even days, so detailed research is required to identify specific users and labs with the right applications. Budgetary scheduling sometimes plays a role in when – or even whether – new lab equipment is purchased.
In the United States, life sciences research is clustered in Boston and San Francisco. Chemical and pharma research is less centralized, with the largest hubs located in the Philadelphia/New Jersey corridor and North Carolina.

Packaging for pharma and manufacturing

The field of packaging equipment is broad and deep. It is useful to think in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging.

With the growing need for personalized medicine, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly challenged to produce smaller and more variable batches. Automated packaging machines must therefore be highly flexible, with fast changeover times to deal with different dosages, pack sizes and formulations. This flexibility ensures that companies can efficiently produce and package a variety of personalized treatments without significant compromises in speed or accuracy. European suppliers with innovative solutions in the field of personalized medicine enjoy advantages when selling to American customers responding to these demands. Target customers are uncovered through detailed market exploration and targeted research.

Anti-fraud measures are also a crucial factor when selecting automated packaging machines. With the rise in counterfeit products, strict regulations and the need for robust track and trace systems have increased. Modern packaging machines are equipped with advanced serialization and coding technologies that allow each pack to be uniquely identified and tracked throughout the supply chain. These technologies include QR codes, RFID tags and tamper-evident features. By incorporating these anti-fraud measures, companies can protect their products, maintain consumer trust and comply with regulatory standards.

Sustainability and reducing the environmental footprint are other important considerations for American manufacturers, who are increasingly insisting on eco-friendly materials and minimized waste. This is not just about regulatory requirements, but also about environmentally conscious consumers and stakeholders. Here, too, European suppliers often have the advantage, as the EU has been regulating the use, return, and recycling of packaging in the European Union for almost 30 years. This experience proves to be a plus point with American buyers.

Factory automation machinery

Visitors to American factories often notice two things: a tattered “Help wanted” sign outside of the building. And a large number of European production machines inside. Both are there for the same reason.

Like the highly industrialized economies of Europe, manufacturers in the United States rely heavily on automation to enhance efficiency, remain competitive, and buffer against labor shortages.
Labor shortages, in particular, are a persistent challenge in the US and Europe. Manufacturers struggle to hire enough workers who stay on the job long enough to make a profitable contribution to the company.

Labor shortages, in particular, are a persistent challenge in the US and Europe. Manufacturers struggle to hire enough workers who stay on the job long enough to make a profitable contribution to the company.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, labor participation in 2024 remains below “pre-pandemic” levels. In fact, aside from a period of relative stability from 2016 to 2020, American labor participation had been on a steady decline since the early 2000’s. While it has recovered since late 2020, the number of Americans participating in the workforce has still not reached pre-2020 levels.
In contrast, Europe has increased its labor participation rate steadily since the early 2000s. But even with a larger workforce, the EU countries still suffer chronic labor shortages. In Germany, the number of open positions peaked at nearly two million in the fourth quarter of 2022 (equivalent to about 4% of the total workforce). The story is simliar in the larger EU, with the rate of job vacancies steadily increasing since 2013 and peaking at about 3% in late 2022. Because Europe and America face similar challenges with regard to the supply and demand of labor, automation solutions developed in Europe often sell well in the United States. What’s more, European engineers and manufacturers have earned a reputation for quality and innovation in industries ranging from consumer products to automobiles to industrial automation solutions. Americans are generally positively disposed to European products and solutions.
Finally, although quality standards differ between Europe and the United States (CE vs. UL), there is a high level of transparency regarding necessary modifications. Specialized firms in the US are ready to assist with engineering modifications, testing, and certification.

While European makers of automation solutions can expect a generally positive response from American buyers, establishment of a robust service network remains a barrier to entry for many midsize or Mittelstand firms. The big players have had decades to build up not just a customer base, but also a technical staff and network of partners throughout the country.
One way for smaller firms to overcome this challenge is to focus initially on a limited geographic territory with a high density of potential customers. This approach maximizes the effectiveness of their investment by allowing them to provide an equivalent level of service within the chosen region. This approach also simplifies the sales process, allowing for a higher frequency of customer visits at lower cost.
In many cases, it makes sense to focus on smaller manufacturing customers and/or smaller projects initially as a way to avoid competing directly with more established firms that may not consider smaller projects to be “worth the trouble”.
Another approach is to sell and service solutions through a partner like a systems integrator. MHTC maintains a database of established systems integrators in our region. Depending on the client’s chosen strategy, we can often plug new clients into systems integrators who assume at least some of the sales, marketing, and service duties on behalf of the client.
For manufacturers of automation solutions, the mid-Atlantic industrial region, stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C., is an attractive place to plant their flag. This area is home to the country’s densest concentration of pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturers in the United States. More generally, the relatively small region comprised of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island contains more than one quarter of all American manufacturers (SIC codes 2 and 3) with sales greater than $1 million. From a centralized location near Philadelphia, for example, salespeople and service technicians can drive to either Boston in the north or Washington, D.C. in the south and return home the same day. The suburban areas of Philadelphia are an excellent choice for this strategy. Secondary cities like Allentown or Scranton in Pennsylvania are not only centrally located but also more economical in terms of commercial property and living expenses.

For most European clients of factory automation machines and solutions, we focus our lead generation efforts on the northeastern seaboard in order to simplify appointment scheduling, manage travel expenses, and make the best use of the client’s time. From airports in Newark and Philadelphia, clients offering industrial automation solutions easily reach a large number of potential customer sites with a rental car (traveling with us or independently). Once relationships are established during an initial visit, subsequent visits to discuss projects, close deals, or provide support can be planned with relative ease.
Other major industrial clusters can be found in California (San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), Chicago, Colorado, Atlanta, St. Louis, and North Carolina. Of these clusters, Raleigh, North Carolina is often fruitful for factory automation solutions serving the pharma industry, for example.

Industrial control systems and components

Programmable Logic Controllers, or PLCs, are integral and essential to all modern automation solutions.

Although there are at least twenty different manufacturers of PLCs, Allen Bradley and Siemens are the dominant players in the United States and Europe, respectively.

Figures vary by source, but it is fair to say that, in the United States, Allen Bradley enjoys market share above 50%, Siemens has about 25%, and other manufacturers like Schneider Electric, Mitsubishi, and ABB make up the rest. In Europe, the figures are flipped, with Siemens being the dominant player.

In the wake of the global pandemic, American and European consumers, businesspeople, and political leaders recognized the risks of excessive offshoring and began to accelerate the “reshoring” trend. In fact, according to Reshoring Initiative, US manufacturers had been steadily, if inconsistently, bringing manufacturing back to the US since at least 2010, but the real growth in reshoring has been underway since 2020. The American Chips Act of 2022 will help bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the US with grants, tax incentives, and research investments. Other legislation, such as the Facilitating the Reshoring of Energy Grid Component Manufacturing Act of 2023, has been considered by the US Congress.

European manufactures of PLC hardware, sensors, machine vision, drives, safety devices, and security solutions now have a tremendous opportunity to gain new market share as investments in the American manufacturing base expand.

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