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ESTABLISHMENT OF NATIONAL CAPABILITY Providing Instrumentation Support Services : Case Study

The limited quantity and large variety of measuring instruments in developing countries cannot provide
enough technical work to justify the establishment of the efficient service stations needed by the
individual manufacturers. However, the wide variety of the equipment and instruments being used by the
various institutions in developing countries limits their capabilities and the capacity to maintain and repair
them. The instruments are also a sizeable part of the national wealth. The efficient use of national
instrumentation resources is necessary for the viable operation of the existing systems and is also a
prerequisite for technical, industrial and economic development.

The safe operation of quality systems is greatly hindered by the poor condition of precision measuring
instruments. Thus, there is an urgent and broad need for the establishment of local capability that can
provide the needed services on site.

The experience of a local unit in Malawi that can provide instrumentation support services to customers is
analysed in this study. In one year, the unit (with one full-time electronic engineer and five part-time
scientific operators, engineers and supervisors, all from Malawi) has repaired several precision measuring
instruments in the proper order of priority.

The use value of the precision measuring instruments, which were repaired by the local unit in the period
from October 2002 to August 2003, was about US$ 130,000. The current value of those instruments,
which can solve the measuring tasks mentioned, would be approximately US$ 400,000. This sum neither
includes the value of the measurements, which are carried out with the repaired measuring instruments,
nor the effects of the measurements or the operation of the repaired instruments on social and economic

The first analysis of the costs and expenditure during this period shows that a total income of US$ 9,320
was generated. Total expenditure, which includes the cost of a basic repair tool-kit, salaries, spare parts,
transport, allowances and renovation of the workshop, was US$ 4,800. This calculation shows that during
the project a surplus of US$ 4,520 was generated. In the next fiscal year, without any outside support, the
Malawi Bureau of Standards succeeded in increasing the part of the income from clients from 32 per cent
to 69 per cent, which is an important step in the direction of self-sustainability.


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