Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to top

Top

Tools and Improvement Evaluations

| On 05, May 2008

By Odair Oliva de Farias, Wellington Barros Bonfim Filho and Edgardo Córdova López

Abstract

Quality and innovation are key issues in today’s businesses and managers are focusing on special tools to improve their results, including the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ). This study identifies negative and positive aspects of these tools, while evaluating facilities and effective results during their implementation and application, suggesting some ways of improving these technological resources. There are some contributions regarding the natural evolution of companies’ innovation processes and the benefits of utilizing TRIZ methods in these processes.

Introduction

Companies have had to look for resources and tools that enable innovative problem solving and improve general processes with the challenges of a global economy and a paradigm break from competition to competitiveness. Innovation, unfortunately, has limits – lifestyle, technology, regulations, etc.1

There are distinctions between continuous improvement and innovation efforts – incremental innovation can refer to continuous improvement and radical innovation refers to complete changes in the way of doing things. But the distinction between incremental and radical is deliberately vague, as it is intended to include continuous improvement and innovation under the one heading; the line between the two is sometimes blurred and difficult to define. All forms of innovation fit within the definition, as does the implementation of ideas acquired from knowledge sharing or best practice learning. It is not improvement that is important, but the momentum of the improvement itself. It is necessary that each stage improves and has positive results, especially when it comes to saving/making money.4

TRIZ, in conjunction with models of process improvement, is an effective resource for improvement.

Innovation Process

Tools that support the innovation process (including TRIZ tools) are specifically oriented toward the inventive principles as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Improvements Directed by Inventive Principles

In theory, any process or result can be improved as can any line on a financial statement. In the 21st century specific items are key focuses of continuous improvement – productivity, efficiency, quality, revenue and costs – that can be analyzed by TRIZ by using, for example, the contradiction matrix.3 A continuous improvement process offers additional benefits: performance advantage through improved organizational capabilities, alignment of improvement activities at all levels to an organization’s strategic intent, and flexibility to react quickly to opportunities.

Among researched tools this article emphasizes the contradiction matrix (TRIZ), Su-field system (TRIZ), Six Sigma, fishbone (Ishikawa), Lean models, brainstorming, prioritizing matrix, simulations and total productive maintenance (TPM). To better understand each tool’s contributions toward continuous improvement process the characteristics of each method are described in terms of how they foster innovation. The tools are then evaluated from a TRIZ perspective. For this research a detailed evaluation of the minimum requirements and the general performance of software supporting TRIZ were used.

TRIZ-based Tools

Because the majority of problems in a contemporary company are not linear and demand ample analysis of trade-offs, the majority of possible solutions are also limited. TRIZ supports decision making and direct improvement steps. Prioritizing processes such as quality, costs, supply and risk management facilitates incremental innovation. By attributing weights to the selected priority processes it is possible to identify (through mathematical functions) idealist relationships of the average standards, and the best actions and initiatives of the identified inventive principles. In turn, such initiatives must be implemented in the processes that initially originated the contradictions – closing a cycle of revision and improvement.

Methodological Procedures

To evaluate the software programs suppliers, the authors used a Likert scale (ranking items from 1 to 5) to assess how well the customers’ requirements were being met. Sixteen parameters were evaluated:

Table 1: Evaluation ofthe Software Programs Suppliers
Use FacilitiesResource Effectiveness
Software investment (Si)Results clarity (Rc)
Training investment (Ti)Problems’ adherence (Pa)
Internal coaching needs (Ic)Solution specificity (Ss)
External coaching needs (Ec)Direct contribution (Dc)
Use complexity (Uc)Indirect contribution (Ic)
Implementation facility (If)Analysis facility (Af)
Continuous use facility (Uf)Graphic reproducibility (Gr)
Users interest level (Ui)Revision needs (Rn)

Each group of parameters must be reduced by a factorial analysis of at least two factors – ease of use and effectiveness of the information technology (IT) resource. From this it is necessary to analyze which parameters contribute to the improved performance of the solutions (suggested by the software). Beyond quantitative analysis, the work builds on the specific demands of the departments – related to the innovation as the departments of production and development, continuous improvement, quality, processes and others. With the detailing of some of the solutions evaluated in the research, it is possible to identify the main areas of performance that have needs for innovation. In the same way it verified the possibility of such solutions to meet these demands in different departments in the same company. Businesses enumerate the solutions (already presented by specialists in TRIZ) and the description of positive results in great companies in different countries – the methodology can be used to support innovation in a multi-disciplinary international field.

Other characteristics of the innovation tools must explore the languages commonly used, the portability of the systems with conventional systems and the algorithms that are normally used to compile information and generate satisfactory results – Table 2 displays the interface used. Each one of these characteristics must be explored to understand the assumptions in the profile. In reality it is about the construction of an “innovative world,” in the age where the best inventive standards will become worldwide standards.

Empirical Results and Comments

The research was conduced by listening to 11 specialists involved with the development of TRIZ-based tools. Their opinions about tools in use around the world are presented in the following table:

Table 2: Empirical Results
TBT ResearchTBT ATBTBTBTCTBTDTBTETBTFTBTGTBTHTBT ITBT JTBTKAverage
Software investment323443344353.45
Training investment433443233433.27
Internal coaching needs334442334433.36
External coaching needs445453343333.73
Use complexity445454444334.00
Implementation facility445554454334.18
Continuous use facility545554455434.45
Users interest level445344445333.91
Average3.80
Results clarity334433333343.27
Problems’ adherence334343334443.45
Solution specificity435343345343.73
Direct contribution445344344333.73
Indirect contribution334333333453.36
Analysis facility435443444333.73
Graphic reproducibility334342234333.09
Revision needs445443344333.73
Average3.51
*Likert Scale 1 to 5 (low to high) TBT= TRIZ-based Tool

Although not all companies have experience with all tools, some companies have experience with a large number of methods using innovation software. The use of TRIZ (integrated with any kind of quality solutions) takes problem solving, process improvement and strategic planning to higher efficiency levels.2 Suppliers from five countries participated in the study and contributed to the research regarding process, products and services innovation. Although the article describes the profile of each technology, it preserves the anonymity of its suppliers in order to promote an impartial discussion. Statistical analysis could be performed in order to reduce the selection of parameters.

Exploratory research can take several forms. The quantitative research was conducted using an interval scale according to the satisfaction degree – a metric scale as a summed Likert where value 1corresponds to “totally dissatisfactory” and value 5 corresponds to “totally satisfied.” To analyze the data and reduce the independent variables the authors used SPSS software (Version 15.0) through factorial analysis with principal and Varimax methods.

Some specific results are shown in Table 3 and Table 4.

Table 3:Principal Component Analysis Rotation Method: Varimax with Kaiser Normalization
Component 1Component 2
Custos.292
Custos.459
RH.335
RH.221
Complexity.249
Facility.235
Facility.226
Interest.178

Table 4: Principal Component Analysis Rotation Method: Varimax with Kaiser Normalization
Component 1Component 2
Clarity.650
Adherence.827
Specificity.814
Contribution.849
Individual contribution.922
Facility.862
Graphic reproducibility.756
Revision.904













With this multi-variant analysis the study confirmed four different constructs – two for each analysis. The data could be divided separating investments and coaching needs as an integration need, and facilities and complexities as implementation needs. In case of its effectiveness it could also be divided separating results clarity and reproducibility as adherence and contributions, or analysis facilities.

Table 5: Variance Analysis
Initial EigenvaluesExtraction Sums of Squared Loadings
ComponentTotal% of VarianceCumulative %Total% of VarianceCumulative %
13.82747.83947.8393.82747.83947.839
21.79822.47370.3121.79822.47370.312
Initial EigenvaluesExtraction Sums of Squared Loadings
ComponentTotal% of VarianceCumulative %Total% of VarianceCumulative %
13.95449.42749.4273.95449.42749.427
22.02725.34274.7692.02725.34274.769

Conclusions

The analysis performed in this study showed that TRIZ-based solutions represent an important investment as does initial training. This kind of issue appears to have been addressed in the latest developed solutions, especially those structured by Web 2.0 architecture. After integration, the experience usually occurs as a light implementation with relatively low complexity. There was a consistent contribution between the main tools throughout general projects, but as in the research results some improvements could be obtained by increasing the solutions adherence for each specific sector, and innovative ways of using graphics representation.

Among the main limitations of the research is the difficulty of carrying through the separate analysis for each area of performance. Some peculiarities exist throughout the work. As a proposal for future studies the authors consider the detailing of the solutions most accepted in the market exploring the challenges of the implementation, the maintenance of interfaces and the interpretation of results.

References

  1. Hamel, G. et al (1998) Repensando o Futuro. Makron Books, São Paulo, page 60.
  2. Smith, L.R. (2006) Higher Ground: An Integration of Innovation and Quality Technology. TRIZ Futures Conference, Kortrijk, Belgium.
  3. Mann, D. (2001) Hands-On Systematic Innovation. London, Creax.
  4. Slack, N. (2002) Administração da Produção, Editora Atlas, São Paulo, page 603.
  5. López, Edgardo Córdova, Contribution a une Approche Méthodologique du Processus d’innovation: Application de la Théorie Triz Aux Systèmes Produit-Procédé- Processus/ Doctoral these presented July 16, 2002 in the Institute National Polytechnique de Toulouse, France.

Note: This paper was presented at 2º Congreso Iberoamericano de Innovación Tecnológica Monterrey, N.L. 30 de octubre al 1 de noviembre de 2007.