TRIZ has been incorporated into the general corporate culture for global companies in a wide variety of industries--Siemens, Samsung, LG, Unilever, Agilent, Hitachi, Dow Chemical, Johnson & Johnson and Delphi are among those that have talked about their TRIZ experiences at recent conferences. Small and medium-sized organizations with less- familiar names are adopting TRIZ to support quality improvement in services, products and systems in fields as diverse as restoring the vitality of a downtown to creating software to improve sales of eyeglasses.
How do you recognize when quality requires creativity? When the solutions that your team creates don't get rid of the root cause. That's a strong indication that unrecognized contradictions are blocking you from finding a good solution, and that TRIZ will be the next tool you need.
TRIZ--a Russian acronym for "Theory of Inventive Problem Solving"--is a different kind of creativity system. It's based on the analysis of creative solutions to past problems. TRIZ applies to both continuous improvement and development of new products and services because continuous improvement requires solving current problems, and development requires finding a way to solve customers' problems.
Research on the TRIZ method was done in the former Soviet Union from 1946 to 1985 and has continued globally since then. Quality Digest featured an extensive introduction to the method in its February 2004 issue ("Enhance Six Sigma Creativity With TRIZ").
Two basic principles in TRIZ maintain that:
Somebody, someplace, has already solved your problem or one similar to it. Creativity means finding that solution and adapting it to the current problem.
Don't accept compromises. Eliminate them.
The quality improvement profession embraces these principles because quality thinking integrates benchmarking, which is strongly related to the first principle, and eliminating root causes rather than just improving symptoms, which is related to the second.
To illustrate the concept of "Somebody, someplace, has already solved your problem," consider the situation of dairy farmers in California. Producing milk requires handling large quantities of manure. In the past, the manure was dried in large ovens for deodorizing, ship--ping and recycling as fertilizer. But with the increasing cost of energy, drying ovens became uneconomical. The TRIZ method for looking at other technologies for potential solutions starts with restating the problem in general terms, emphasizing the functions being performed, rather than the technology itself. Thus, dairy farmers didn't search for better ways to dry manure; they looked for ways to separate a liquid from solids. A simple search with TRIZ techniques turned up a method, using a hydrophilic gas, in which the gas carries the water molecules away. This method has been used for more than 40 years for concentrating orange juice.
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