4.2 Physical technical systems
This is the most tangible part of a capability. The machines, databases and software acquired or developed over time are probably the only part of a capability that does not disappear once an organisation’s employees leave a building. The physical system is made up of many widely available machines, but some machines may have undergone development or modification within an organisation over time and so may not be available on an open market. These modifications are the result of learning within the organisation and are a way of embedding the knowledge gained. This makes the knowledge accessible into the future, even after the individuals involved leave.
The availability of physical systems to all organisations is complicated by the existence of patents and other restrictions on use. Many industrial processes may have their specifications clearly described within patent specifications, although in the public domain their use is restricted. This makes their imitation by competitors difficult. For this reason, some physical technical systems are kept secret, although it is worth noting that as the skills and knowledge required to utilise physical systems resides with employees, simply imitating a competitor’s ‘secret’ technology cannot guarantee gaining the competitor’s capability.