The day I discovered that TRIZ works

Dear {subscriber_first_name}

Today I’d like to take you back to June 1999 – a time when the design team I was heading at Mars was working furiously to deliver a top priority project.

“My simulation shows that if the friction value exceeds 0.34, your mechanism will lock up every time and when that happens it’s goodnight Vienna” – In spite of the bizarre allusion to a mid-European capital city, the message from our very expensive mechanism analysis consultant couldn’t have been clearer, if we didn’t find a way to deal with friction, our project was dead in the water. We had first seen a jamming problem during our field trials, while running 50 prototype assemblies in specially selected coffee machines and we had quickly commissioned some detailed analysis. Production was due to start in six weeks – we were planning to produce nearly 60,000 assemblies for immediate retrofit into our entire base of coffee machines. If we installed a defective design into all our machines, we might well suffer an overwhelming number of failures across all our markets. Without a solution, we were in serious trouble. At the same time the pressure to launch was so intense that some senior managers had tried to argue that this problem wouldn’t happen in the real world; unfortunately, I had no doubt that it would, at epidemic levels! We needed to solve this problem and fast!

A few weeks earlier I had attended a three day TRIZ inventive problem solving workshop and I’d come back inspired and eager to apply the new methods I’d learnt. I’d been told by my instructor to find a real problem and apply TRIZ quickly so I could prove to myself that it works away from the classroom, but where was I going to find a suitable problem? The jamming problem was so urgent and so important, surely I ought to wait until a less critical problem occurred – I decided to stay in my comfort zone and hold a brainstorming session instead. Two hours and several hundred post-its later, we were still no closer to finding a solution. At last, in desperation, I turned to TRIZ. I took the design team through the problem analysis steps and quickly discovered some new insights about the problem – it was related to the need for relative movement in the assembly in one specific location. We formulated a physical contradiction for this part of the mechanism and then we applied the TRIZ separation principles to the mechanism. We found we could separate the conflicting requirements in space by making two simple changes to the mechanism. We prototyped this solution and the problem completely disappeared! Three weeks later we were ready to go into production and I’d comprehensively proved to myself that TRIZ works.

Are you still relying on brainstorming and a limitless supply of post-its to solve your impossible problems? We can offer you “hands on” interactive and results-focused training to help you bring your problem solving capabilities fully into the 21st century. We can also work directly with you to help you solve your company’s most pressing challenges. Click here for more information about TRIZ or contact us for our free training information pack.