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Combine and Integrate!

| On 22, Oct 2010

Jack HippleI have just returned from the annual PDMA conference in where I was also an official blogger and you can my commentary at the PDMA website, http://www.pdma.org

I had the pleasure of listening to and commenting upon many interesting presentations relating to new product innovations that ranged from food and cosmetics to sewer pipes and industrial cutting fluids. I was particularly struck by the annual PDMA award given to Kennametal, a Pittsburgh based company that specializes in the critical technology of metal cutting, especially that relating to specialty metals such as titanium which are particularly hard to machine due to their hardness. In these applications, there is typically a cutting fluid used to “carry away” the chips generated by the cutting process and then a separate fluid stream injected through a parallel nozzle process to inject a cooling fluid to remove the intense heat generated by the cutting process. This separate process adds significant capital and operating cost to an already costly machining process. The Kennametal product invention was a cutting head that allowed the simultaneous injection of cutting and cooling fluids through the same nozzle, resulting in a far less complicated process, saving the customer a great deal of capital and cost. This invention is patented and obviously commands a high value in the market place as well as preserving a leadership position for Kennametal in their industry.

Now those of you who have been following these commentaries for a while and understand some of the basic concepts of TRIZ breakthrough product development approaches will recognize this “invention” as the simple use of two fundamental TRIZ concepts we know as “trimming” and “upward system integration”. We arbitrarily eliminate a costly or painful part of a product or process and then force ourselves to get back that functionality via use of the remaining parts of the system, usually the “super-system”. It is amazing how many times this simple concept can produce dramatic breakthroughs in products and engineering systems. On the way home from this conference, I looked at the Wall Street Journal and saw an article about Ford “combining” an airbag into the seat belt system for rear seat passengers, eliminating the need for a separate airbag system. Remember the Black and Decker PaintStick(R) that eliminates the paint pan and the ladder? The FreshtoGo (R) toothbrush that eliminates the toothpaste tube? The tire pressure gage built into the tire valve cap? IT’S ALL THE SAME STUFF!! The SAME inventive tool and thinking concept! We don’t need to wait for a cost pressure to drive our interest in this concept. We KNOW this is going to happen. Get rid of the extra stuff NOW–don’t wait for a crisis and cost pressures to drive you there!