Custom Suits for Analysis

Interview with Thomas Eck and Jan Wilke, Managing Directors of BIT Analytical Instruments GmbH

BIT Analytical Instruments Headquarters in Schwalbach

To diagnose and treat blood diseases, highly specialized devices are required. As a developer and manufacturer of custom in-vitro diagnostic systems, BIT Analytical Instruments GmbH, based in Schwalbach near Frankfurt, has been a partner for OEMs around the globe for more than 45 years. For their innovations in the analytical IVD, medical, and life science equipment sector, they are not only valued by their customers but were also awarded by the MedTech Outlook magazine in 2023.

The history of BIT in Germany began in 1976 when the company manufactured its first medical instrument. Until 2007, the company dedicated itself exclusively to contract manufacturing of diagnostic benchtop devices, before it entered development and began offering additional services around the product lifecycle.

At the same time, internationalization began. “In this context, a Chinese company was established, and a research and development center was acquired in the USA. However, the operation in the American branch was discontinued in 2021 because the effort was too great, and the focus was shifted to Europe,” reports Jan Wilke, one of the two managing directors of BIT Analytical Instruments.

Thomas Eck, Managing Director of BIT Analytical Instruments GmbH
Thomas Eck, Managing Director
Jan Wilke, Managing Director of BIT Analytical Instruments GmbH
Jan Wilke, Managing Director

He has been with the company for 15 years and is responsible for the areas of development and regulation. BIT is part of the Messer Group, which was part of the Höchst Group until 2002. Messer is now the world's largest family-run specialist for industrial, medical, and special gases.

Internationally Active

BIT has established two mainstays, on the one hand with white label hematology devices and on the other hand with services, each accounting for half of the sales. "Among other things, we have made a name for ourselves in the niche of cell counter in hematology by distinguishing ourselves through the use of LEDs instead of lasers," explains Thomas Eck. He has been responsible for the areas of OPS, HR, and Supply Chain as COO for 16 years and has been the managing director for ten years.

Besides Germany, BIT today has branches in France and China. 240 employees work for the company, most of them in Germany, where the production is located. "The Chinese site is a supplier of parts and assemblies. We are considering expanding our presence there in the field of services and devices made in China," says Thomas Eck. They exclusively supply OEMs. The number of customers is manageable. However, since these are globally oriented, BIT exports worldwide.

BIT Analytical Instruments MAX Analysis Devices
MAX Analysis Devices
BIT Analytical Instruments MAX Analyzers

Consulting as a Recipe for Success

Not only large international clients make use of BIT's expertise, but medium-sized enterprises and start-ups are also among their clients. The two managing directors are currently observing a market shift. Jan Wilke reports: "The middle segment is disappearing, leaving the large companies and the start-ups. Especially with start-ups, we have been successful recently by offering them customized solutions."

This fits into BIT's concept of giving the customer exactly what they need. "We tailor a custom suit for the client, not an off-the-shelf product. Being suitable for mass production is important," says Jan Wilke, who also explains: "When making adjustments or device updates, we have to ensure not to change the devices too much since that would require new approval. Only then does it make economic sense. This obviously doesn't apply to new developments. "

The development cycle of a device for the simpler devices is less than three years, but for complex developments, it can also last eight to ten years. Thomas Eck points out: "We always try to create added value for our clients. For that, we need to understand exactly what the client needs and advise them on what makes sense. The consulting approach is a recipe for success. I also point this out to start-ups at the beginning who want everything: Start with what's important!"

The devices are becoming more digital, features that were analog in the past are now realized with software. "The clear trend in the field of image analysis is AI. It allows for faster processes. Self-learning software that recognizes patterns can offer new possibilities. At the moment, however, we do not yet know exactly how the self-learning AI will react; it still needs time," says Thomas Eck. A concern in development is 100% reproducibility. "This is especially important because of the rapid pace of change," he adds.

Active Mindset

The high competency at BIT is based on the employees' experience and knowledge. "Many tasks cannot be automated, so much is still done manually by us. Having a stable and innovative team is very important to us," says Jan Wilke. Acquiring employees is currently challenging across the board, and BIT is continuously working to be an attractive employer. He emphasizes: "We have an open communication culture and work out a common direction. Moreover, we collaborate with universities and train ourselves. The recruitment is very person-centric; we are in an employee's market."

Proven methods are to be retained, while being open to new things, explains Jan Wilke: "Never change a running system. We need an active mindset to be innovative. Nothing is worse than stagnation. That's what makes it exciting." A focus in the future will be on acquiring new customers in classical medicine. Thomas Eck sees the further development in fundamentally positive terms, but also says: "Our environment is difficult and not exactly conducive to innovation. That's why we're thinking about what more we can do. After all, the competition does not sleep."