Technology transfer to developing countries : the case of physical asset management in South Africa
This research investigates technology transfer (TT) to developing countries, with specific reference to South Africa. Particular attention is paid to physical asset management, which includes the maintenance of plant, equipment and facilities. The research is case based, comprising a main case study (the South African electricity utility, Eskom) and four mini-cases. A five level framework adapted from Salami and Reavill (1997) is used as the methodological basis for the formulation of the research questions. This deals with technology selection, and management issues including implementation and maintenance and evaluation and modifications. The findings suggest the Salami and Reavill (1997) framework is a useful guide for TT. The case organisations did not introduce technology for strategic advantage, but to achieve operational efficiencies through cost reduction, higher quality and the ability to meet customer demand. Acquirers favour standardised technologies with which they are familiar. Cost-benefit evaluations have limited use in technology acquisition decisions. Users rely on supplier expertise to compensate for poor education and technical training in South Africa. The impact of political and economic factors is more evident in Eskom than in the mini-cases. Physical asset management follows traditional preventive maintenance practices, with limited use of new maintenance management thinking. Few modifications of the technology or R&D innovations take place. Little use is made of explicit knowledge from computerised maintenance management systems. Low operating and maintenance skills are not conducive to the transfer of high-technology equipment. South African organisations acquire technology as items of plant, equipment and systems, but limited transfer of technology takes place. This suggests that operators and maintainers frequently do not understand the underlying technology, and like workers elsewhere, are not always inclined towards adopting technology in the workplace.