TRIZ Usage for Customer Needs Identification Part 3
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 Three of the three-part series. Part One discussed customer needs and the evolution of TRIZ methods. PartTwo explored perception mapping as a tool for corporate needs analysis and the action preventing action tool for customer needs definition.
The management team of an international company producing and supplying Indian food worldwide decided to increase revenue. A long production and delivery cycle was defined as the main challenge to achieve the goal. Management decided to invest in production and delivery cycle time improvements.
They invited a TRIZ expert to define the best way to reduce cycle time. The expert recommended (prior to building a functional model and proposing solutions) a perception mapping (PMap) analysis to examine the broader picture of revenue increase and to identify possible blockers for the changes. The analysis will display the main needs of the production to ensure effectiveness of the cycle time reduction or other directions.
The TRIZ expert said: “What is required in order to achieve higher revenue?” Perceptions were collected and treated by perception mapping. The perceptions matrix is illustrated in Table 1.
|Table 1: Perceptions Matrix Case Study|
|Increase salary to avoid leaving of experienced staff||Salary – keeps – staff||A||K||C1|
|Automation and optimization of charts control||Models – keep – automation||B||D|
|Link sales data with revenue models||Sales data – directs – models||C||B|
|Link sales data to operation||Automation – keeps – production||D||B|
|Improve yield||Yield – keeps – cost||E||F|
|Reduce cost||Cost – keeps – salary||F||A||C1|
|Improve production tools availability||Tools – creates – cost||G||H|
|Reduce cycle time||Cycle time – keeps – cost||H||F|
|Allow more proactive role in developing the requirements for future technologies||Tactics – keeps – individuals||I||K|
|Separate sustaining and development||Sustaining – stops – development||J||O|
|More focus on the importance of an individual||Individuals – create – staff||K||P|
|The strategy should not follow the tactics||Strategy – creates – tactics||L||I|
|Improve knowledge||Individuals – hold – knowledge||M||O|
|Periodical knowledge exchange||Annual conferences – data exchange||N||K|
|Instructions should be done upon request||Staff – restricts – knowledge||O||L||C2|
|Allow time for individual learning||Staff – promotes – individual’s learning||P||M||C2|
|Managers should share experience||Managers – inform – individuals||Q||M|
The map shows that the system of Indian food production and delivery is complex with a collector, loops and contradictions. For example, the perceptions “reduce cost” and “increase salary” are both effective, but form a conflicting pair and also form a conflicting chain for the conflicting perceptions. Appropriate methods are needed to resolve such complicated structures. The ranking of the perceptions is shown in Table 2.
It is important to mention that low blocking rank of a perception does not mean it has low importance. To reduce cycle time is an extremely important goal and should be implemented. The management team determined that reducing cycle time would be the most effective way for revenue increase. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of the direct cycle time reduction would be resisted or even blocked by other issues referring to the perceptions receiving higher rank. This means that in order to ensure effective improvement of the revenue by reducing cycle time, the high blocking rank perceptions should be addressed when creating the roadmap of the cycle time reduction implementation.
What are the main results for perception mapping analysis that can be performed by a TRIZ specialist? As shown in the ranking matrix in Table 2, four perceptions received the highest, relatively similar rank:
- Instructions should be done upon request.
- Improve learning process.
- Allow time for individual learning.
- More focus on the importance of an individual.
All perceptions relate to the same root cause indicating that the company should improve teaching and training processes as a first priority. Successful training would enable successful implementation of the cycle time reduction policy.
|Table 2: Perceptions Matrix Case Study Rankings|
|Instructions should be done upon request||O||4||1||3||8||High|
|Improve knowledge (improve teaching process)||M||4||1||3||8||High|
|Allow time for individual learning||P||4||0||3||7||High|
|More focus on the importance of an individual||K||4||2||0||6||High|
|Automation and optimization of charts control||B||4||0||0||4||Med|
|Link sales data to operation||D||4||0||0||4||Med|
|Allow more proactive role in developing the requirements for future technologies||I||4||0||0||4||Med|
|The strategy should not follow the tactics||L||4||0||0||4||Med|
|Increase salary to avoid leaving of experienced staff||A||0||0||3||3||Low|
|Link sales datawith revenue models||C||0||0||0||0||Very low|
|Improve yield||E||0||0||0||0||Very low|
|Improve production tools availability||G||0||0||0||0||Very low|
|Reduce cycle time||H||0||0||0||0||Very low|
|Separate sustaining and development||J||0||0||0||0||Very low|
|Periodical knowledge exchange||N||0||0||0||0||Very low|
|Managers should share experience||Q||0||0||0||0||Very low|
Action preventing action analysis was applied to define real needs based on current activity. The query: “What keeps you busy now?” was dispatched among employees. The answers were analyzed and grouped according to the specific field of operation (FOO). The results are illustrated in Figure 2.
A relatively low share of occupation with the field of safety indicates that the company has no problem with safety. It seems like the company has already invested enough attention and money into training and special equipment to avoid safety events.
More than 30 percent of the respondents mentioned that they are busy with process control. This indicates that the process control is not developed enough and should be improved. Based on the action preventing action approach the company should implement changes allowing significant reduction or even prevention of any human actions related to process control.
All responses to the question: “What keeps you busy?” were tabulated and treated by the action preventing action method. For each action, action preventing action and general needs were described. Examples are shown in Table 3.
|Table 3: Action Preventing Action Analysis Case Study|
|Actions||Action Preventing Action (APA)||Needs|
|Inspect recipes||Computerized checker||Automation|
|Writing instructions||Computerized templates||Automation|
|Repairing equipment||Equipment failing prediction||Problem solving awareness|
|Writing e-mails||Templates with automatic dispatch||Automation|
|Cost reduction projects||Implement Lean||Lean awareness|
|Learning processes||Arrange permanent seminars for knowlege exchange||Process awareness|
|Looking for better suppliers||Make suppliers look for your company||Problem solving awareness|
|Looking for new customers||Make customers look for your company||Problem solving awareness|
Summarized results were grouped into generalized needs. The breakdown of the main needs are shown in Figure 3.
As displayed through the action preventing action analysis the company has three important needs:
- Problem solving awareness
- Process awareness
Satisfaction of the needs will ensure further successful development of the company. The first and most important thing the company needs, however, is automation. This result is in good correspondence with results received from perception mapping (since development of the production and delivery of automation will ensure better conditions for individual development and an increase of their contribution to the company’s success).
The three-part series summarized the investigation of customer needs as an important step in ensuring a fruitful relationship between customer and supplier. Perception mapping and action preventing action are powerful tools for the definition of the real needs.
The definition of real customer needs helps with TRIZ methodology implementation and proliferation within large companies.
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.