iSixSigma

Global Problem Solving with TRIZ

To help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the TRIZ Future Conference, hosted by the European TRIZ Association (ETRIA), Nov. 3-5, 2010, we present the following excerpts from Domb’s extensive coverage.

DAY 1

Function-oriented search is a problem-solving tool based on global knowledge search, using functions as the key search items. In his presentation, speaker Simon Litwin, of Gen3 Partners, claims that this resolves the classical TRIZ contradiction: The solution should be disruptive to insure significant improvement, and the solution should be already proven to reduce implementation time. Function-oriented search is based on a generalization of functions using both the action and the object of the function, which expands the search beyond what would be found using a single definition. Litwin reports that the power of function-oriented search is so great that Gen3 very seldom uses ARIZ [Algorithm for Problem Solving] or standard solutions now.

As an example with great appeal for the parents in the audience, Litwin showed the case of improving disposable baby diapers by increasing the density of holes in the plastic sheet using a technology developed in the space industry for testing the micro-meteorite resistance of metal sheets. The function-oriented search found an effective technology, already developed and deployed and proven, and the researchers at the diaper company were able to accept technology from outside their industry in a way that they would not if they had only an idea. He showed similar success with using Formula 1 racecar pit crew coordination for hospital emergency treatment and using ideas from condom production for food wrapping. (Leaks are important – think about it!)

Litwin also presented an 11-step algorithm for the method and then demonstrated the use of the algorithm with the popular case study of seasonal allergies, addressed both from the point of view of the sufferer and the point of view of the producer of drugs and devices. Both parties want to avoid side effects, breathing resistance, wearing conspicuous devices and high expense.

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The development of the solution from a concept initially developed for dust control in cement production was a great case study, which included secondary problems (the cement industry doesn’t have to worry about removing the device; the person with allergies wants to remove and dispose of it.)

Daniele Murara and Alessio Tonetti from the Italian part of the global company Coster, producer of many kinds of valves, showed their implementation of TRIZ along with Lean, helped by conference organizer Caterina Rizzi, from the Bergamo University faculty. Since very little has changed in many years in their customers’ world, they can only improve competitiveness by reducing either weight of parts or labor to produce them.

Coster has a very flat structure, with all workers having the same title. They have considerable experience with Lean methods, and they started adding TRIZ a few years ago. They have a unique approach to TRIZ: “We produce ideas the same way we produce valves – each team passes its work on to the next at the end of the shift.”

The case study was an example of real life in a manufacturing plant. Murara showed several kinds of defects that can cause jamming of the production machine. Changes in the production line that appear simple (rolling instead of sliding; an opening to remove defective caps) came from a detailed function analysis and operationl zone analysis, and made use of the resources that were already in the system. The multi-shift method of doing the analysis assured that people who would be working on each shift understood the method and the reason for the changes, at the cost of some inconvenience with transfers between groups.

Management consultant Viktoria Zinner presented “Understanding Populations Better Than They Understand Themselves,” based partly on the German modifications of Darrell Mann’s work on trends, and partly on the technology and business/social evolution concepts. Zinner framed the work in terms of systematically identifying where to innovate, where to look outside the well-known box. She demonstrated the practical method of starting with a trend, then looking at other trends in conflict or in harmony with it, then using TRIZ to resolve conflicts. She also showed the more analytic method of creating network maps and doing geometrical analysis of the map to find opportunities.

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DAY 2

Wessel Willems Wits from the University of Twente in the Netherlands presented “TRIZ-based Interface Conflict Resolving Strategies for Modular Product Architectures,” developed with Tom Vaneker, president of ETRIA. He started with formal definitions of modular architecture and integral architecture, and the different design challenges of the two approaches, focusing on the different levels of complexity of interfaces. They model the system using function, behavior and structure, or using kinematics and dynamics – or both.

The link to Simon Litwin’s talk the previous day was very clear, when Wits went into detail about the context-sensitive nature of function, and discussed how the same structure can be used to achieve different functions under different circumstances. An electronic design case study, emphasizing heat problems in design, was used to illustrate the method.

“TRIZ Tools to Enhance Risk Management” was presented by Daniele Regazzoni and Davide Russo, from the host Bergamo University. The speakers based a six-step method on TRIZ subversion methods, as well as classical failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) and reliability engineering. Russo illustrated the steps with examples of common products and explained how they plan to test the method in the next two years for product problems. In the discussion session, he also explained how modification might be needed for risk management of processes, and how this will be part of the research.

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Hans-Peter Steinbacher and Stefan Huber presented their work “Supporting Innovation Processing with Integrated Information Models for Activity Support and Information Structuring.” Their work started with the observation of the chaotic nature of product development in small and medium enterprises. They created a system called Tech it Easy (TIE) to give subject-matter experts (SMEs) structure for both the marketing and technology phases of product development, which creates re-usable knowledge for the organization’s future developments, as well as guidance through any particular project. They used TRIZ (particularly the contradiction matrix) to design the tools, becoming their own case study.

DAY 3

The morning opened with engineers Walter D’Anna and Gaetano Cascini’s paper, “Supporting sustainable innovation through TRIZ system thinking.” Their goal was to create design support tools that could be used by people without explicit TRIZ training. Their sustainability map – a matrix that plots the elements of Maslow’s hierarchy (against objects, tools, resources, suppliers, etc.) and includes customers’ energy resources – is used by the designer graphically: If the number of interactions and the complexity of interactions can be reduced, the design becomes more sustainable. D’Anna demonstrated the use of the map for design creativity with a case study of men’s clothing care, which generated several new, low-energy designs.

Giacomo Bersano presented the work of a French-Italian Industry-Academic consortium, “European Testing of the Efficiency of TRIZ in Eco-innovation Projects for Manufacturing SMEs.” The challenges of water, oil, epidemics, climate change and hunger were viewed at the system level as the results of past decisions. The EU project REMake will enable 300 SMEs in six countries to participate in advanced methods development and training to become “eco-innovators.”

Life cycle assessment (LCA), one of the most commonly used tools, quickly identifies opportunities for innovation to enhance sustainability, but it has deficiencies: It is not designer-friendly and it requires expensive software that can only be used by specialists. The study produced an extensive analysis of methods for eco-assessment and improvement, with emphasis on usability; they are now in the test phase on improved LCA and others. The program will be evaluated in 2012, both from the point of view of how easy it is to adopt and how much impact there is on eco-issues, and how much return on investment to the businesses.

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Manabu Sawaguchi (a TRIZ Journal frequent author) presented an extensive evaluation of 10 “big hit” products in Japan, selected with some TRIZ-related criteria, to understand how industry and consumers see innovation. He also tried the same study with university students and found that three products (Wii, iPod and E-money) showed differences between male and female students in the rating of the products. Technical business people had the same top choices, with slightly different profiles.

Sawaguchi presented some very interesting top criteria for the most popular products: 1) accomplishment of (latent) required functions. 2) big impact to society, and 3) solution of contradictions, with issues such as quality rated much lower in importance. The first two items changed places on some products, and solution of contradictions remained a strong factor in all evaluations, becoming the leading factor in health drinks. Common factors (which Sawaguchi said surprised him and the research team) were that innovators 1) use existing technologies, 2) radically change business models, and 3) create new social values, but must also be in harmony with existing social trends. They took the full results of the survey and developed a map of trends of value creation, creating a scenario that others can use to explore possible avenues of value creation.

Amir Roggel, recently “early-retired” from Intel, presented his vision, “TRIZ to the Future.” Roggel started his analysis with a list of 20 top areas of innovation in the past century, grouped in electro/opto/mecho schemes, and a second group for the 21st century, that was bio/info/nano oriented. Although the sciences are the same, the applications are very different, and his conclusion is that we must push the development of TRIZ to support these emerging fields.

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Roggel combined function-oriented search with learning from the best in simple steps:

  1. Identify the problem/challenge
  2. Formulate the function
  3. Identify a leading area of industry or human endeavor for which that function is vitally important
  4. Identify top expert on the topic
  5. Ask the top expert, learn and apply

He illustrated the example with a safety project in Intel’s Costa Rican factory, where they found leadership safety at NASA, and local resources with Costa Rica’s only astronaut (and local hero). Roggel’s analogy between volleyball and TRIZ was very effective: “Recieve, set, spike” equates to “identify the problem, analyze contradictions, resolve the contradictions.”

Next, he looked at resolving the contradiction in the TRIZ virtual develpment “machine” in the goals of academia and industry (and also in conflict with the goals of consultants) based on research at Technion on problems in technology transfer.

To conclude the conference, the entire audience participated in discussion of what will happen to TRIZ as the economy moves to a service orientation. Roggel summed up the themes of the conference with the following messages:

  • “Develop TRIZ where the world is going.”
  • “Go where there is an opportunity to improve thinking.”
  • “Resolve contradictions in TRIZ machines.”

Next year’s TRIZ Future Conference will be held in Dublin, Ireland, and hosted by the Institute of Technology Tallegh. To see Domb’s complete coverage of the 2010 TRIZ Future event, click here.

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