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TRIZ the Simple Way

| On 10, May 2002

Pentti Soderlin
Management Consultant
Helsinki, Finland
pentti.soderlin@netlife.fi

Introduction

There exists a certain barrier to adopt TRIZ methodologies. The first one is the highest, understanding the basic concepts, the contradiction and system analysis. A second threshold is nowadays imminent but lesser: applying computer software based on the thoughts of TRIZ to solve problems.

We have recently also heard cries for help to apply TRIZ in developing countries. Clearly because of the complexity of the presentation in many published books and articles. The main phenomenon seems to be from the point of view of a layman or a student that they miss a clear overall view of the methodology. Let’s just pose the often-presented question: what is the difference between TRIZ and ARIZ? Which one is the hen and which one the egg? It seems to be that in [1] Altshuller states that ARIZ was first. Some TRIZnicks postulate that ARIZ is the most comprehensive of the two. How come?

A simple overall view is needed

In some cases simplicity is of virtue. Technical elegance is sometimes defined as the simplicity of the solution compared with the complexity of the problem. We do need simplicity and elegance. A. Einstein put it this way: ‘Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but not simpler’.

There are already several versions, probably more than 10, of ARIZ. It is quite confusing to find out two different things when you actually mean the same. There is however only the difference of ‘T’ and ‘A’ in TRIZ and ARIZ: ‘T’ denoting theory and ‘A’ denoting algorithm. To quote Altshuller himself [1]: ‘ The word algorithm means sequence of mathematical operations. …clear program of action. This is precisely in this sense ARIZ is called an algorithm.’ Which one was first? ‘With the appearance of the first modification of ARIZ began the establishment of TRIZ. The correlation between ARIZ and TRIZ is that of aeroplane and aviation.’ Hence TRIZ is wider as a concept? Or is it not? Yes, according to [4] ‘The Right Solution” where the ARIZ (with total of 19 steps!) is only a part of TRIZ Problem Solving Procedure.

Couldn’t we just forget the ARIZ and replace it with the Job Plan for TRIZ? The Job Plan includes all the methods and concepts to be applied. In addition also the number of steps should be reduced, from almost 20 to say 5 to 7. From experience we know that too a complicated and tedious procedure repels potential users. We can include all the required methods and special issues using ourselves the Nesting Principle: An object (here a feature) is placed inside another. Also the order of the execution of the steps should perhaps to be reviewed. This applies e.g. to the analysis of Substances and Resources. It should be very near the actual Ideation Phase, preferably just before the triggering of idea flow. Reasoning is simple: if done in an early phase, it becomes a routine listing without understanding the need for that. Further: in the edge of creative phase, the analysis of Substances and Resources gets a real purpose for the search. The search is deliberate because we already know what we are after: the ‘X-element’ or ‘itself’.

In several books and articles these basic concepts are often presented in rather confusing way. Maybe this is due to the TRIZ culture, where the ownership of TRIZ is dispersed similar to the famous Linux operation system. The users might add, modify and in general do what they want according to their personal needs and feelings. This on the other hand develops the concept and on the other hand causes a mess. Also the potential clients of TRIZ service providers are sometimes surprised that there is no official owner or licensor of the methodology. In many cases such a franchising would have more pros than cons. Free development according to individual affection or ideas may lead to bizarre concepts.

The elegance of proposed addenda is not always in line with the original theory. Let’s take a recent proposal where in the Substance -Field drawing was ‘complemented’ with a box describing the ‘product’. The author had forgotten the basic idea of the triangle drawing: it itself is a ‘product’. However, people should publish their new ideas, as in all sciences, so that the other users can try them. If the ideas are useful, people will adopt them and the new ideas will become part of the general practice of TRIZ. If ideas are not useful, people will not use them. No formal authority (who could be the authority?) is needed to reject them, they just won’t be used. This is also an example how TRIZ improves itself through feedback and self-service. Whether this is clearly understood by an occasional TRIZ-Journal reader is another story.

In TRIZ terms, when additional features are developed and added to the existing ones: contradiction appears between adaptability and complexity. The Principle applicable from the Contradiction Matrix is Dynamicity (15); a) ‘ Characteristics of an object or outside environment, must be altered to provide optimal performance at each stage of an operation’ or c) ‘to divide an object into elements capable of changing their position relative to each other’ [2]. This leads to an idea that there is a need to regroup the concepts in clear lots complemented by corollaries.

The second main reason to prevent TRIZ installation is the very many steps in TRIZ/ARIZ. There are almost 20 phases or steps. This is the besetting sin of all panaceas. To solve the imminent problem we can – of course – use TRIZ. There exists contradiction with system Adaptability (to cover whatever case) and Convenience of use (too complicated) (35 vs 33). From the Matrix we obtain the following Principles: 15 (Dynamicity) as cited above, 34 (Rejecting and regenerating parts), using the basic elements again; 1 (Segmentation) using the elements separately and in turns; 16 (Partial or excessive action) use only tools that are relevant; and 7 (Nesting) the main phases contain others. Eureka! All of these Principles are applicable. TRIZ proves its applicability in improving itself! And the shoemaker’s kids do have shoes!

I have tried to draw a simple flowchart for TRIZ/ARIZ. The main elements are Situation Analysis, the different approach Routes and the final Ideate – Verify. See figure 1., where the Routes are concurrent or optional instead of serial.

There are in other Creative Problem Solving Techniques like Kepner Tregoe (or also

known as Analytical Trouble Shooting, ATS) a starting point to the studies: the Situation Analysis. It means that you should define what are you going to do or what are you trying to solve. In TRIZ this could be the Problem Finding (to solve with TRIZ), Problem Definition (problem as given vs the real one), Functional Analysis, Target Setting, Scope of Study Definition and especially the choice of Approach or ‘Route’ suitable for the problem.

You could ask yourself whether there is an apparent Technical Contradiction, or Problem within the system components (substance, field) or system itself, or Effect to apply for the required function, or possibly a Mysterious Outcome? This is probably very helpful since the next steps are obvious: you have the route to follow.

Figure 1. Overall view of TRIZ

You can concentrate your thoughts on the ‘right’ methodology or theory route (Principle: Segmentation). Maybe you will find it not possible to solve the problem through the route you have chosen. You can always choose the other one (Principle: Reject and regenerate), or even if successful, to check the outcome the other ways round. You may also use the most advanced methods available for the Route (Principles: Nesting and Partial or excessive action).

Some of the routes are obvious alternatives, sometimes not. The Substance-Field drawing does not necessary apply to an Anticipatory Failure Determination type of problem. Given a second thought, it will. Because you may always overturn (Principle: Do it in reverse). In this case you have a well working system first and you are aiming at a problem drawing. So the ‘solution’ and ‘problem’ drawings change their places. The question is which of the system’s Substances and Resources, internal or external, could cause the malfunction? Ref. [5]. Thus my beautiful figure is already obsolete. The Mysterious Problem Route is nothing but a corollary to Su-Fi Route!

The same perhaps applies to many other TRIZ theory details. To take the example from measuring where the concept of Tool and Object is likely to be reversed: in the measurement of fever in the patient will actually mean that the patient is the Tool and fever is the temperature Field and we are actually searching for suitable Object to react. The same applies to an easy problem how to find the leaking hole in your bicycle tube (easy because we know the answer). Clearly you must think the tube (including air) as a Tool and the pressure as Field. The task is to find an Object to react to the leakage. The answer is simple: water in a pail, which gives bubbles when the hole coincides. Reader may find additional ways to find the hole.

These paradoxical situations should be stated and presented in their proper context as supplementary features and not as independent ones. The theory should be general, omnipotent and the special cases as a proof only.

The most beautiful of all, the Substance – Field

In the ‘Creativity’ book [1] Altshuller presents the most beautiful of all, the Substance Field concept. This could alone be called a theory. It continuously opens new perspectives in a system, i.e. product development. How was this defined?

‘S-Field the Minimal Technical System. In introducing the S-Field concept we utilize three terms: substance, field, mutual interaction (effect, action, connection).’ After a few words, he further continues: ‘ ‘ the definition of the concept field. In physics a field is the name for a form of matter causing the mutual interaction between the particles of a substance.’

He groups the basic events in just three classes, together 18 basic problems and hence also solutions. However the ‘Standards’ in [1] were only ten and at first look nothing to do with the Su-Fi analysis. This might cause to the reader additional confusion. Even in some books people are mixing the concept of Field and mutual interaction. In the Prediction module of [7], the Field is completely omitted for clarity (or considered as a Supersystem element, because people didn’t understand the concept of Field?). Perhaps there are also matters of principle involved: when modelling the product there is no place for Fields because the modelling is aimed for the description of even very large systems. These contain numerous ‘minimal technical systems’ (Su-Fi). The Fields could be imagined as implicit or implied. Or perhaps you should add the Fields as ‘Components’?

As we know since the book [1] additional development has happened and there are nowadays 76 ‘Standard’ solutions, some of which are, however, only considered as corollaries to previous ones, and thus do not perhaps earn the name ‘standard’. Thus they are far too many, in this respect have TRIZnicks also gone too far. For the beginners the Substance-Field presentations should be reduced to say three or four categories: first to complement the drawing (to add the missing element); then to show the general system improvement solutions (in one overall picture only) see figure 2., thirdly enhancing and chaining of model and some specific ‘tricks’. Maybe the measurement problem should be considered as the first category variation? An advanced reader can always refer to the ‘complete’ 76 Standards.

The best presentations so far, however, are maybe in the ‘Tools’ [3] and ‘The Right Solution’ [4] books.

Figure 2. General drawing for existing system improvement (where S2 and F can be replaced or changed; S3 and F3 are optional, S3 can also denote S1′ or S2′ an internal, external or complex additive substance) (the solid lines might be also dotted in the problem drawing)

This drawing can replace several standards. In addition what is important: it is much easier to outline and to remember.

The basics of TRIZ, the Contradiction Concept

It all started from the Technical Contradiction, TC, and the idea of reducing unnecessary work to try desperately apply all the 40 Principles to any problem situation and replace it with the Contradiction Matrix and only a few recommendations. We know that the Matrix is perhaps outdated, but it still applies to most of the cases as pointed in a most recent study [6]. We need to develop additional Principles and also to renew the Product Characteristics listing to comply with modern industrial needs. Perhaps we should leave the original Contradiction Matrix as it is and create new ones to e.g. electronics or SW development. But the effort requires time and effort. Who might be the owner of such an effort? Where are we getting the actual funds?

The TC is in vain overlooked. Much elementary guidance is needed in even very simple problems. Which contradictory pair of Characteristics should be chosen? Should I use Loss of time, or Speed or Productivity if something has to be done more effectively? How to actually formulate (write down in a four-field window) the Contradictions?

The other pearl of this Route is the Physical Contradiction and the solutions for that. Although it is to be applied say only in minority ( 5 -30 %) of the cases. Especially the Separation, Phase transition and Changing the system level principles are eminent.

Additional tricks have been proposed, but they are most likely again corollaries to existing ones [4].

The most wanted of all

A contemporary of Altshuller, Lawrence D. Miles created Value Analysis/ Value Engineering [8]. The basis of VA/VE is the function concept. Altshuller most likely knew the concept and he has also made use of that in TRIZ. He pinpoints the need of accuracy in function definition. ”the conditions of the problem should be mandatorily stripped of special terminology, because terms shackle the inventor to old and ingrained concepts about the object.’ This is quite clear for all Value Engineers. Be it also for every TRIZnick!

Miles defined one of the Reasons for Unnecessary Cost to be the lack of information. Information in this context can also be interpreted as Knowledge. We don’t simply know enough of science to solve problems. Altshuller had his ‘Index of Physical Effects’. He did not only gather the knowledge but also foretold the future. He could see that effects can be controlled by and connected to other effects and thus form more powerful features to products and processes.

We know that there exists over 10 000 effects in the natural sciences of which 4 000 might have useful applications. The number is vast and everyone understands how hard it would be to master all of them or even record them in one paperback. The solution is Information Technology [7]. These software products open huge possibilities even in mature business not to mention the emerging ones. To surf in such an effect database is a fascinating experience. You might sit for hours by your computer just to go from an effect to another.

In Value Analysis we surely improved the products and processes, reduced the costs and added new features. But sometimes we were lacking something we could not express: a really new phenomenon or way of achieving the function. Now we can overcome this handicap and even implement Altshuller’s vision. What a possibility!

We have chances

Once I worked as an UNIDO expert in the Philippines. When visiting a certain plant I met a young Philippine production engineer. We were discussing of suitable projects to improve the plant productivity. The young man showed me a long list of problems he was supposed to work out. I was astonished and worried by such a long list. But the young man was very happy: we have problems to solve and accordingly chances to improve! Maybe we should be happy if and when we can improve TRIZ?

References

1. Altshuller, G.: Creativity as an Exact Science, The Theory of the Solution of Inventive Problems, Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, New York, 1988

2. Altshuller, G.: 40 Principles, TRIZ keys to Technical Innovation, Technical Innovation Center, Worcester, Ma. 1997

3. Ideation International Inc.: Tools of Classical TRIZ, Southfield, MI, 1999

4. Yuri Salamatov: TRIZ: The Right Solution at the Right Time, Insytec B.V. 1999

5. Pentti Soderlin: The Sabotage Model or How To Find the Cause to Difficult And Mysterious Problems. The Case Of Recovery Boiler Compound Tube Corrosion. TRIZ-Journal Oct. 2000.

6. Darrell Mann: Assessing The Accuracy Of The Contradiction Matrix For Recent Mechanical Inventions, TRIZ-Journal, Feb. 2002.

7. Invention Machine Corp.: TechOptimizerTM, version 3.5. Effects module, Boston, Ma.

8. Lawrence D. Miles: Techniques of Value Analysis & Engineering. McGraw-Hill Book Co., London

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