TECHNOLOGY FORECASTING WITH TRIZ
Editor | On 02, Jan 1997
Predicting Next-Generation Products & Processes Using AFTER – 96 (Algorithm for Forecasting Technology-Evolution Roadmaps)
James F. Kowalick, PhD, PE Renaissance Leadership Institute Center for TRIZ Development P.O. Box 659, 9907 Camper Lane Oregon House, California 95962
(916) 692-1944 ~ Fax: (916) 692-1946
E-Mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Biography The author, through RLI’s Center for TRIZ Development, conducts in-house experiential training for technical teams, on company products and processes, using TRIZ, ARIZ, QFD, Functional Cost Analysis, and Taguchi Methods. Participants leave the trainings with actual, new designs. The goal is to rapidly achieve breakthrough products that take over the marketplace. Dr. Kowalick is a prolific inventor. He has authored several papers on TRIZ. He teaches the TRIZ Concept Generation Workshop at the American Supplier Institute in Allen Park, Michigan. He is co-editor of The TRIZ Journal, an international journal dedicated to TRIZ and associated processes, available free on the World Wide Web (The TRIZ Journal web address is: http://www.triz-journal.com). He is an invited lecturer at Cal Tech’s Executive Leadership Program in Pasadena, where he teaches, on a quarterly basis, the two-day executive overview session: Creating Breakthrough Products: Using TRIZ and Other Leading Edge Tools to Achieve Market Dominance. He also lectures on TRIZ, QFD and Taguchi Methods at the Council for Continuous Improvement, and teaches TRIZ & creativity to Junior and Senior High School students in a private school in northern California (these students are becoming young inventors after only one year’s training in TRIZ. They have significantly raised their levels of personal creativity and critical thinking). Engineers from client companies also report significant increases in their levels of creativity. Books, reports & software on TRIZ & other leading edge tools are available from Breakthrough Press in Sacramento, CA: Telephone 916-974-7755; Fax 916-482-9898; E-mail: Bywaybooks@aol.com. This tutorial concludes with an extensive TRIZ bibliography.
The TRIZ Revolution Several years have passed since TRIZ was first introduced to the United States. By now almost everyone knows that TRIZ is an acronym for Theory of the Solution of Inventive Problems – the Russian words are “Teorijz Rezhenija Izobretatel’skich Zadach.” Inventive problems are the toughest ones to solve. They contain technical conflicts. The first wave of U.S. companies to apply TRIZ to their products and processes has been successful, in spite of the usual problems associated with introducing revolutionary, breakthrough approaches into companies. Nevertheless, TRIZ is still in its infancy in terms of its scope of use. Over a hundred companies have already begun to seriously apply TRIZ in the U.S., but only a handful have had experience with the use of TRIZ for forecasting technology.
Technology Forecasting What is the significance of “using TRIZ to conduct technology forecasting?” The company that produces a product or product line will be able to rapidly and accurately forecast (1) next-generation, generic design concepts, (2) the concepts after that, and (3) all the concepts after that. This same company will not have to wait several years – or even several decades – for its next-generation, breakthrough products to evolve. The company will be able to develop next-generation designs – now. Detailed design concepts can be completed in months or even weeks. Follow-on development time will depend upon the complexity of the design, but the use of other leading edge tools, including Taguchi Methods, will allow the company to fully develop and field its new designs in a year or less.
Such capability – due to TRIZ – gives companies the capability to assemble valuable, patented intellectual property – an asset that enables the company to strategically plan its introduction of next-generation products over the next decade. The bottom-line-result for the company is market takeover. Why? Because the company’s newly introduced products are “impossible-to-compete-with” products. They are literally “tomorrow’s products, today.”
How can a company rapidly and accurately conduct such technology forecasting? That is the subject of this tutorial.
The Evolution of Technical Systems All products, all processes, all technical systems evolve over time. “Evolve” means that the functional efficiencies of key characteristics of the technical system increase dramatically. Highly evolved systems have high functional efficiencies, and they are also “market breakers.” Functional efficiency is an important measuring scale used to determine the level of evolution of a technical system. All systems have to be somewhere on the “functional efficiency” scale. There are three important questions for a company fielding products for the marketplace: (1) Where is our current system (product, process) on its functional efficiency scale? (2) What comes next (i.e., what is the next-generation product, and what will it look like)? (3) How can this next-generation product or process be rapidly conceived or invented?
Chaos Versus Order The various tools that are a part of the TRIZ toolbox are used to predict future concept designs. To the author’s knowledge, no systematic process for conducting technology forecasting has appeared in English – nor is the author familiar with any well-organized (i.e., suitable for U.S. corporations) technology forecasting process in Russia. The author began addressing this problem (lack of an acceptable systematic technology forecasting process) two years ago, after having applied the TRIZ approach to technology forecasting for client companies. A systematic technology forecasting process, somewhat similar to ARIZ (the Algorithm for the Solution of Inventive-Problems) was sorely needed.
Over the past two years, a systematic process for technology forecasting began to take form and evolve through several early stages of refinements. The process is really an algorithm of sorts, because certain steps (although not all) of the process follow a logical sequence. The purpose of the “algorithm” is to forecast technology evolution. The result is a technology (or product) roadmap. It seemed appropriate to name this process: Algorithm for Forecasting Technology-Evolution Roadmaps. The resulting acronym spells out the word AFTER; its present form is called AFTER – 96 (indicating the year of latest modifications). On first hearing it, this name sounded appealing because it represents the question lying behind technology forecasting: “What comes next after this design?” AFTER – 96 brings order to what was previously chaotic. For this tutorial, brevity precludes moving through the various parts of this technology forecasting process) in a rigorous, step-by-step fashion; in lieu of this, some key steps are discussed and highlighted.
AFTER – 96 has three parts that follow each other in a logical sequence. Part I is Definition and Analysis. Part II is called Operations. Part III is Planning and Implementation.
Part I. Definition and Analysis
The first task in technology forecasting is to determine the basis for forecasting – what to forecast, and then to conduct an analysis of the current situation.
Determining the Basis for Forecasting Although forms (designs) regularly change, functions change very little. “Transporting” is a function that has been a human requirement for millennia. The forms that satisfy this function have changed frequently. At one point, “two legs” was the only form for transporting a human being. Then came riding logs along a stream and the use of certain beasts of burden. The wheel was one of the inventive turning points contributing to the function of transporting. In more recent times, transportation evolved from transportation by horses, to transportation by railways, by automobiles, by airplanes, and more recently, by spacecraft.
Functions serve as the bases for forecasting the various forms that satisfy functional requirements. Product manufacturers begin by asking, “What is the main function that our product has to satisfy?” (usually there are several functions associated with a product). The company team then decides what functions it wants to apply technology forecasting to, as well as determining the order of importance of these functions.
Each function chosen is associated with a certain part of the technical system (product or process). In determining which functions to apply technology forecasting to, criteria are established to guide this selection of functions. Examples of criteria-based questions: “What parts of the technical system are deficient?” “What parts of the technical system are candidates for improvement?” “What part of the technical system, after it is improved, will contribute to the product’s becoming a “market-breaker?” (i.e., an “impossible-to-compete-with” product in the marketplace).
Certain engineering phenomena are intimately related to required functions. An understanding of these phenomena, together with the functions themselves, leads to identifying the objects in a technical system that interact to provide the function. Consider the following example.
Braking System for Automobiles. Automobile braking systems (like all technical systems) have four main generic parts: the “engine” of the braking system (i.e., the part of the braking system that supplies the energy) is (local) hydraulic pressure, triggered by foot pressure (the original source of energy) on the brake pedal. The “transmission” of the braking system extends from the sole of the driver’s foot, to the brake pedal, into the hydraulic system, and to the brake pad, which acts against a rotating braking surface. The “limbs” of the braking system are the parts that do the work. These are the brake pads themselves. The intelligence behind the “controls” (i.e., the control system) lies with the human being, who determines the braking force profile through appropriate foot action on the brake pedal.
After analysis, the company brake-system team decides to conduct technology forecasting on the brake pad/braking surface subsystem. There are several reasons for this decision, but the main one is that it is the essential part – the part of the braking system that dictates the design of the other three parts. The function chosen to be analyzed is “braking.”
What is the functional statement that describes braking in current designs? It is this:
Brake Pad Retards Braking-Surface (motion).
This functional statement has the form, “Subject Verb Object” which is the language of functional analysis. In TRIZ, the subject (i.e., the brake pad) is referred to as “Substance 2 or S2” or “the tool or instrument.” Of the two substances that are interacting (brake pad and braking surface), the brake pad is the “active” substance – the one that is doing the work, or, acting as a “first force.” The Object (i.e., the rotating braking surface) in the functional statement above, is referred to as “Substance 1 or S1” or the “Artifact.” Of the two substances (brake pad and braking surface) that are interacting, the rotating braking surface is the “passive” substance – the one being acted upon. The purpose or function of this interaction is retardation-of-motion of S1, the braking surface.
S2 – – – -retards – – – – – S1.
PAD BRAKING SURFACE
The “driving or enabling” field behind the brake-pad/braking-surface interaction is “mechanical,” and it is provided by hydraulic pressure. The phenomenon connected with the interaction is “dynamic friction” – retardation due to forced intimate contact between surfaces of bodies traveling at different speeds, with the force being applied somewhat perpendicular to their contacting surfaces. This two materials or “substances” involved in this interaction are (1) a high-density, compressed-fiber, solid body (i.e., brake pad), moving against a higher-density, solid metal body (i.e., braking surface). The desired result (retardation of the rotating braking surface) is achieved.
The basis for technology forecasting has been determined. The function is “retards;” the objects are both solid – one being a smooth metal surface, and the other being a less dense, compressed, fibrous surface. Technology Forecasting can proceed, with the “retarding” function serving as the basis for forecasting. The Operations stage of technology forecasting follows.
Part II. Operations
Technology Forecasting Operators (TFO) There are certain operators which can be applied to (1) the active element of the function (i.e., the brake pads); (2) the passive element of the function (i.e., the braking surface), and (3) the action of the functional statement (i.e., “retardation”), with the aim of modifying these in a way that increases the functional efficiency of braking. Although we begin with a small system which is seemingly limited in scale and scope, these operators will take the forecasters beyond that limited scale and scope. In S-Field analysis, there is the tendency to “not change the artifact, S1,” but to concentrate (at least initially) on changing the instrument or tool, S2. This is not the case for technology forecasting. Both the active and passive elements, as well as the action itself, may be candidates for modification when conducting technology forecasting.
Listed below is a partial grouping of “operators.” These operators are “applied” to the objects and action under examination. They are considered to be “Technology Forecasting Operators (TFO’s).” There is also a brief description of how each TFO is used. Although there is a certain prescribed order for applying these operators, the detailed, logically-sequential, procedure for (1) applying, and (2) analyzing the results from applying these operators, is not addressed in this tutorial.
1. The Four Relationship Curves Operator (S-Curve; Number-of-inventions Curve; Level-of-Invention Curve; and Profitability Curve). Combined with the results from a TRIZ-type search of the patent literature, related to the function in question (whereby the inventions cited are assigned to levels, as indicated by the table below), this set of curves can be used to determine where the current product is on the S-Curve of evolution for each of its functions. Each function will have a different S-Curve. This knowledge can be used to determine strategic product introduction approaches to the marketplace. Information on this operator is included in the practice of TRIZ.
2. The Circular Evolutionary-Patterns Diagram. This operator is a means for assessing the objects and actions that make up the function, to identify opportunities for improvements. Each object or action receives a “mark” indicating where it is on seven different “paths to ideality” scales.
3. The “Four Parts” Operator. The four parts referred to are the engine, the transmission, the limbs and the controls. If the function under examination is high enough in the hierarchy of functions (i.e., the flunctional tree diagram) for the product or process being forecasted, it may be possible to decompose the function into sub-functions, each having four parts, and to forecast the technology for each part.
4. The “Four Stages” Operator. These are Synthesis; Improvement; Dynamics; and Self-Development. This operator is used to assess what stage the system being forecasted is in (or, to assess what stages the parts of a system are individually in), and to verbally and by sketches depict these stages.
5. The Scale and Scope Operator. These operators are applied to the two objects and to the action (in the functional statement). The “Scale” operator looks at microsystems and super-systems (relative to the system being forecasted). In the case of braking, for example, it would challenge the forecaster to ask: “What is really being braked? Is it the brake disk, the axle, the wheels, or the car as a whole?” and, “What approaches are available to brake these?” The “Scope” operator takes the forecaster beyond the immediate (initially defined) scope of investigation, by asking such questions as “Why do we have to brake in the first place?”
6. Function, Phenomena, Form Operator. This operator prompts the forecaster to look beyond the function being forecasted, and to identify phenomena connected with that function, especially phenomena from other technologies. The forecaster uses “Effects” of physics, chemistry and geometry as an aide to accomplish this.
7. The Ideal Final Result Operator. This IFR operator guides the forecaster towards the ultimate form for satisfying the stated function. For example, the ultimate braking system should not take up any space, require no energy, cost nothing, deliver no harmful effects, and yet furnish braking when and where required.
8. Trends of Evolution/Prediction Tree Operator. Published prediction trees and trends of evolution have appeared in over 21 books on TRIZ, and they also appear in the Invention Machine Labs software. These trend-curves and prediction trees are applied to the objects and actions in the functional statement, in order to forecast next-generation designs. These trends are also expressed in over six dozen “standard solution” formats, that are expressed symbolically using Substance-Field Analysis.
9. Alternative Systems Operator. Applying this operator to the objects and actions in the function being forecasted, yields alternative means of accomplishing the function. The source of these alternative ways is “other systems.” For example, how is braking accomplished in: railroad cars; airplanes; roller skates; etc.?
The systematic application of these operators (and several others not mentioned above), followed by analysis of the results, yields a detailed forecast of next-generation designs (systems) for accomplishing the desired function (in the present case, “braking.”).
A special TRIZ-application paper recently presented by this author at a meeting of automobile manufacturers and automobile parts suppliers is contained in a report entitled “Functional Analysis Using TRIZ.”. This special paper reports on the use of TRIZ to eliminate a harmful effect connected with brake pads. Ever since asbestos was removed from brake pads, customers have been complaining about “brake pad squealing.” The author just had new brake pads installed on his car, and sure enough – they squeal!
A consortium of automobile manufacturers and suppliers asked the author to analyze this problem and to come up with suggested solutions, using the TRIZ approach. This special paper reports on 55 generic solutions (there are hundreds of specific solutions) to the brake squealing problem. Not all the solutions are feasible for various reasons: manufacturing costs, development costs, business and technical constraints, etc. The solutions cited need to be taken through an “Alternative Design Selection Process.” The “surviving” solution(s) then need to further refined and “Taguchi-ized” (i.e., Taguchi Methods, an engineering optimization technique, is applied to the concept design to maximize functional performance reliablity, and minimize costs).
The 55 generic solutions mentioned above were generated in less than one minute! It took another couple of days to consider and interpret specific meanings from the “one-liner” solutions.
As a follow-up to this analysis, there was a second, informal session, where the author presented some results from conducting Technology Forecasting on the braking function. Currently, braking on automobiles is a very inefficient and costly function, involving “solid against solid” (brake pad action), and “rubber against road.” Both of these phenomena involve (1) considerable wear on materials, (2) reduced driver controllability, and (3) regular replacements of parts (brake pads, disks, tires and wheels).
A “next-generation-system” for brake pads, predicted by the Technology Forecasting arm of TRIZ, would include the use of solid, moving parts, surrounded by and retarded by fluids (which contribute to the actual braking). This is a hybrid braking system. The “fluid-retarding-metal” system operates in addition to ordinary brake pads acting against a rotating braking disk. The next-generation design after this one is strictly based on the fluid-acting-to-retard-a-solid system. From there, we can expect to see air braking (although not air-braking as used on trains). This air braking system would initially be a hybrid system (i.e., retaining the predecessor braking system). Air braking includes an air-solid interaction as used on airplanes to brake upon landing. Another “air-braking” version of pure-gas braking systems would employ the reverse rocket principle (such a system would accompany very high speed vehicles. Beyond these systems, additional “field-based” systems include the use of electro-magnetic systems, with no physical contact between solid objects.
The informal technology forecasting analysis discussed above, produced some general guideposts for predicting the evolution of automobile braking systems. A far more detailed, “in-depth” forecasting would apply all the TFOperators described above – not only to the parts involved in contemporary braking systems, but to other parts of the vehicle as well. Each “function” under analysis normally involves two objects and an action. The operators discussed above (as well as other operators) are applied to these objects and actions, as shown schematically in the matrix diagram below.
Part III. Planning and Implementation
This part of AFTER – 96 takes the forecasted results of Part II, and then plans and lays out a timed implementation schedule for the company’s introduction of next-generation technical systems over (typically) a five to ten-year period. The “Implementation” portion of Part III addresses several (selected) next-generation designs, and includes an analysis of the key problems that need to be resolved in order to field these next-generation (forecasted) products. For each of these individual problems, the next step would be the application of TRIZ and ARIZ.
This tutorial is an “executive overview” on Technology Forecasting. There are three stages: Definition & Analysis, Operations, and Planning & Implementation. The authors’ company, Renaissance Leadership Institute, conducts detailed Technology Forecasting analyses for major corporations. The resulting forecast is then used to develop a strategic product introduction strategy to further capture significantly more market share. Information on conducting Technology Forecasting for specific product lines can be obtained from the Renaissance Leadership Institute, Tel: (916) 692-1944; or Fax: (916) 692-1946.
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