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Why Create the Ideal State?

| On 07, Apr 2009

Bob Malanga

I always used a combination of Six Sigma & TRIZ to solve problems but always started with the Ideal State and worked backwards.  A simple problem like figuring out the fastest way to get from Chicago to New York in the traditional psychological inertia way of thinking might be taking a jet plane or a high speed rail or even a rocket.  The ideal state in this case might be more along the lines of a teleporting device.  Well that may be impossible at the moment but that’s where I would start to figure out the fastest way to get from Chicago to New York.

In a real life situation we once had an issue with mistakes in an invoicing process.  These mistakes were costing the company $millions.  Invoices were sent to one corporate location, scanned, then the scanned information was sent to another location for input into a computer program and then sent to another location for payment.  Along the way we found invoices were scanned twice or three times, weren’t scanned at all and people were making mistakes during the program inputting process.  In one case what was a $400,000 invoice to be paid was mistakenly inputted as a $700,000 invoice.

Following the paper trail it was easily ascertained that the process was ripe for many errors.  This process employed many people, including people in another country who were reading the invoice scans and inputting the information into the computer.  I found 14 steps that were prone to human error.  Eventually I was tasked with either fixing the process or creating a new one.  This was my first foray into creating the ideal state.

I sat down and stared at the inventive principles of TRIZ.  I then thought of what would be my ideal state for this process.  It was obvious that the people part of this process was creating the problems so the first thing I thought of was eliminating all of the people and create a device that would read the invoices without making mistakes.

Without getting into all the details and with the help of some associates we created my ideal state by using a camera, high speed computer, neural network technology and I was able to create a machine that could read the invoices, was self taught and never made a mistake.  We literally eliminated everyone in the original process who had the opportunity to err.