TRIZ Usage for Customer Needs Identification Part 1
Economic development and success depends on defining customer / supplier relationships based on customer needs. This series outlines a method for the service supplier to increase coordination of its actual solutions to customer expectations. This is achieved by combining complementary Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) tools. Including perception mapping (PMap) and action preventing action (APA) a tool developed by the authors to define customer needs.
Often, the problem formulated by the customer is resisted indirectly by a hidden network of problems derived from needs that the customer is not aware of. Analysis of the main customer’s needs helps formulate the problem correctly prior to solving it. Perception mapping provides hierarchical relationships with different customer inputs such as “what they think / feel,” to help identify and eliminate the hidden problems or blockers. Whereas, action preventing action is based on direct observations such as “what they do.”
Action preventing action offers a fundamental premise by preventing undesired customer activity. It enables a supplier to reach the highest level of customer satisfaction such as the: “customer does not want to do what he / she is currently doing.” Eliminating blockers enables the ability to fit solutions to actual problems and effectively satisfies the main requirements of the customer.This series aims to initiate development of TRIZ methodology for deployment and sustainability within high volume manufacturing corporations. It will also share the authors’ approach on possible definitions of TRIZ customer needs. The following is Part One of a three-part series. Part Two explored perception mapping as a tool for corporate needs analysis and the action preventing action tool for customer needs definition. And Part Three examined a case study and conclusion.
Definition of a Customer
According to the classical definition a customer refers to individuals and households that purchase goods and services that are generated in the economy. An economy refers to an existing system of human activity related to production, distribution, exchange and consumption of goods and services.1 Economic development and success depends on customer / supplier relationships, which are defined by customer needs: goods or services a customer requires to achieve certain goals.1 The definition of customer needs is the key point of a supplier’s success and is the subject of extensive research. The most basic model proposes that future product changes will be done according to customer payment readiness. The main properties that a customer is looking for and is ready to pay for are as follows:2
- Low cost
According to Kano’s model (a theory of product development and customer satisfaction developed by professor Noriaki Kano) customer requirements can be separated into six categories of quality attributes while three of them actually refer to customer satisfaction.3 The three categories for customer satisfaction include:
- Basic (expected) requirements
- Revealed requirements
- Existing requirements
It is important to note that customer requirements can be initially invisible for both the customer and the supplier.4
Another methodology of customer needs investigation is described by author Vladimir Petrov.5Satisfying the needs is analyzed based on two types of functions:
- Known functions
- New functions
It is shown by Petrov that future needs and their tendencies can be predicted and identified by analyzing main trends for the needs of evolution. Five trends for the needs of evolution were formulated by Vladimir Petrov they included:5
- Idealization of needs
- Dynamization of needs
- Coordination of needs
- Integration of needs
- Specialization of needs
Predicting and defining the needs is crucial in order to satisfy customer needs and ensure supplier success for the present and future.
The new approach is applied in a special case TRIZ method as a service provided to the organization by an internal supplier. Successful deployment and sustainability of TRIZ in high volume manufacturing companies depends on its ability to satisfy a corporation’s current and future needs.
No references have been found to detail or analyze the relationship between the TRIZ method as a service and the main customer of a high volume manufacturing organization, especially the geographical disbursement of internal customers at different stages of a business evolution.
What type of needs for a modern production plant (corporation) should be satisfied by TRIZ? How will the needs be defined? Can TRIZ be applied to define the needs? These are initial basic questions that should be answered to create the right relationship between TRIZ and the customer. This will ensure high volume manufacturing and will lead to benefits from inventive TRIZ abilities while ensuring deployment and successful development of the TRIZ methodology.
Evolution of TRIZ
The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving was developed as a methodology aiming to help individuals invent. In the frame of this purpose the main activity was related to the teaching of creative individuals. In this initial stage of the evolution, the problem and solution are illustrated for a single individual as: “I have a problem and I can solve this problem.” The customer is satisfied by the supplier in ideal conditions since both are the same person and the conflict between the customer and the supplier is excluded. This can be referred to as a “mono-system.”
The next step of the evolution is related to at least two different individuals. It can be illustrated as: “You have a problem and I can solve your problem.” The two different individuals form a conflicting pair and the probability of a conflict between the customer and the supplier is high. This can be related to a “bi-system.”
The third stage of the TRIZ evolution in regards to a supplier’s method is related to its penetration into organizations as follows (otherwise known as a poly-system): “The corporation has problems and we can solve the problems.” This brings inherent difficulty due to multiple conflicts between customers and suppliers. Following the trend system of evolution for mono – bi – poly leads to:
“One to one” into “one to many” including “many to one” and “many to many.”
The penetration of TRIZ into high volume manufacturing started less than 20 years ago. It is mentioned that the delivery of services to several industrial companies in the U.S. started in 1992.6 The adaptation of the TRIZ methodology to the U.S. (and worldwide technology) involved initiating research of market structure and requirements, customer needs and development of novel problem solving tools.
Deploying TRIZ as a problem-solving system and its integration into high volume manufacturing is not an easy process due to complex supplier / customer relationships. In practical cases where TRIZ was used to provide excellent solutions to a problem, the customer remained dissatisfied, since the initial problem definition was incorrect or impact of the other problems and issues were ignored. Solutions to initial problems formulated by a customer could be indirectly resisted or even blocked by some hidden network of problems derived from unspecified needs of the customer. In such cases, formulated problems cannot be solved at all or should be solved as a part of the chain of the problems to be solved in a certain sequence. The proposed solution would not satisfy customer needs and expectations. Trust in the ability of TRIZ is reduced. A corporation’s ability to maximize benefits from TRIZ is harmed and TRIZ proliferation and development is slowed.
Modern industrial corporations are complex conglomerates of people, equipment, processes and problems. The attempt to solve a specific problem without taking into account integration of other technical and non-technical factors is naïve. Analysis of the main customer needs (visible and hidden) prior to formulating and solving the problem is necessary. The authors propose a combined analysis method of integrative, networked needs in a corporation to maximize customer satisfaction and advance TRIZ deployment.
The analysis method is based on the application of perception mapping and a new tool called action preventing action (APA), which was developed by the authors specifically for the “customer needs definition.”7
Next up: Part Two will explore perception mapping as a tool for corporate needs analysis. Plus the action preventing action tool is explained for the customer needs definition.
- Wikipedia Customer and Economy.
- Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harper Business, 1997.
- Customer Satisfaction Model (Kano).
- Michael Schlueter, QFD by TRIZ, TRIZCON2001.
- Vladimir Petrov, Laws of Development of Needs, Proceedings of the ETRIA TRIZ Futures 2005 Conference, Graz, Austria, November 2005.
- History of TRIZ and I-TRIZ.
- Darrell Mann, Hands on Innovation for Business and Management, Edward Gaskell Publishers, October 2004.
Dr. Anatoly Agulyansky holds a M.Sc. in metallurgy and Ph.D. in chemistry. His main expertise is in chemistry and material science, materials for electronic application, microelectronics. He has published over 50 scientific papers and a book: “The Chemistry of Tantalum and Niobium Fluoride Compounds.” He currently works as a yield department engineer at the Intel Corporation. Contact Anatoly Agulyansky at anatoly.agulyansky (at) intel.com.
Alexander Talalaevski holds an M.Sc. in mechanical engineering. His main expertise is in VLSI/MEMS Process development and material analysis. Talalaevski has published several scientific papers and owns five Intel patents. He is a yield department engineer for Intel Corporation. Contact Alexander Talalaevski at alex.talalyevsky (at) intel.com.
Amir Roggel leads Systematic Innovation/TRIZ at Intel. He is a principal engineer at the Office of Technology. He lives in Israel and serves as a MA-TRIZ board member as an industries representative. Contact Amir Roggel at amir.roggel (at) intel.com.