Structured Innovation: TRIZ and ISO 14000

Using TRIZ to strengthen the Environmental Management System

. . . Continuing the series on Structured Innovation . . .

Last week’s meeting had been rather long . . .yet members of My Executive Council (MEC) had wanted it to continue as they were being exposed to an advanced tool, Functional Analysis.  They had all wanted to return to their business to try to apply this tool; however, the holiday season and end of year challenges prevented all from experimenting with it.

Scott, their newest member, had however started thinking in a different direction.  He was in a business that had environmental risks.  He’d been using common sense to solve problems as they arose, and sometimes to anticipating problems and putting in place preventive measures.  But in a world of increasingly harsh penalties for environmental issues (e.g. chemicals not disposed properly, spills/fumes affecting the external environment), he was concerned that he wasn’t doing enough.  When he introduced ISO 9000 in his organization, he used it to put more structure into his Quality Management System (QMS), and his intent was to do the same with ISO 14000** – strengthen his Environmental Management System (EMS). This could include processes for waste management, re-use, recycling and recovery, etc.    He was confident that when implementing ISO 14000 new problems would surface that he could apply his new understanding of TRIZ to provide solutions.

**ISO 14000 is a family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organizations (a) minimize how their operations (processes etc.) negatively affect the environment (i.e. cause adverse changes to air, water, or land); (b) comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements, and (c) continually improve in the above.

ISO 14000 is similar to ISO 9000 quality management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced, rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9000, certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by ISO directly. The ISO 19011 audit standard applies when auditing for both 9000 and 14000 compliance at once.

And although Scott had been in touch with his fellow MEC members and their facilitator, Belinda, he restated his interest in ISO 14000 and his desire to be proactive in addressing associated problems with TRIZ methodology. Since not everyone was familiar with ISO 14000, he explained that as with the ISO 9000, ISO 14000 acts as an internal management system as well as a way for a company to demonstrate its environmental commitment to its customers.  ISO 14001’s can be used by any organization that wants to demonstrate and improve resource efficiency, drive down costs, and reduce waste/carbon footprints.

Scott stated that as he started working on his EMS, he realized that his current system was more reactive than proactive.  He met the federal and state requirements by having processes for collecting waste-water and chemicals.  Reviewing the systematic approach of ISO 14000 was encouraging him to be proactive and review his processes.  However, as he reviewed his EMS against ISO 14000 requirements, he wanted to modify his processes or redesign them with cost saving as a result.

He explained their electroplating process by identifying the basic steps for a part to be plated:

  1. Surface treatment
  2. Pre-treatment
  3. Plating
  4. Rinse
  5. Post-treatment

Surface treatment typically consisted of buffing operations.  Pre-treatment used some chemical solvents. Plating involved various chemicals, additives, metal and water.  And rinsing required removing the excess chemicals/ additives from the item.  Post-treatment operations dealt with buffing, polishing etc.

Factors affecting the quality of the electro-plating included: product cleanliness, product throughput rate, process bath purity, rinse bath effectiveness, and product rejection rate.

Scott discovered a lot of waste-water was generated at the pretreatment and the rinse stages.  While the operations were in compliance with the EPA requirements, he wanted reduce the waste-water and the chemical sludge that the process generated.  He decided to focus on the pretreatment process first.

Pretreatment involves degreasing parts before electroplating to remove contaminants such as oil, particulates, and buffing compounds. The degreasing process uses certain chemicals in a vapor-spray degreasing unit.  The spent chemical is then collected and sent to the vendor for distilling for reuse.  In order to reduce the amount of solvent used for cleaning, operators at Josh’s company had been using wire brush or other mechanical means whenever possible to clean the parts. This led to a reduction in throughput.

Hearing this Belinda noted the following contradictions:

  • Amount of toxic solvent (harmful agent) used is reduced/eliminated (gets better).
  • Speed of production is reduced (gets worse)

Everyone liked where this was going.  The group had not forgotten the basics.  They felt encouraged and Josh pulled out his copy of the contradiction matrix.  Going down the column of ‘what gets better’ he noted Quantity of Substance, and across the row for a ‘worsening feature’ he noted Speed.

Worsening Feature –> 8. Volume of stationary object 9. Speed
Improving Feature 25. Loss of time 35, 16, 32, 18  —-
26. Quantity of substance  —- 35, 29, 34, 28

He then read the intersecting numbers listed for the principles used most often to help resolve this particular contradiction:

  • 35 – Parameter changes (change an object’s physical state)
  • 29 – Pneumatics and hydraulics (use gas and liquid as parts of an object or system)
  • 34 – Discarding & recovering (make portions of an object that have fulfilled their functions go away. Conversely, restore consumable parts of an object directly in operation)
  • 28 – Mechanical interaction substitution (replace a mechanical means with a sensory (optical, acoustic, taste or smell) means

Belinda reminded them to state their Ideal Final Result (IFR) before they moved further along so as to be clear on what they were trying to achieve.  Everyone’s eyes turned to Scott, who with the help of his council members articulated his IFR:

The parts are clean, no cleaning process is necessary

However, Scott said that he did not have control over his customers’ processes and the parts they supplied for plating.  So he might step back one level to:

“The cleaning process creates no waste” or “The cleaning process wastes are harmless/non-toxic/require no further processing”

The contradictions noted above still applied, so they decided to continue, examining how these might apply to the problem at hand.

  • Principle number 35: did not lend itself for consideration at all.
  • Principle number 29: since they were using a liquid, perhaps they could consider a non-toxic solvent (e.g. water), although Josh was not confident of its effectiveness in removing excess oil or grease
  • Principle number 34: Josh’s company already had a contract with a vendor to collect and distill the solvent, for reuse.
  • Principle number 28: ultrasonic cleaning using high frequency sound waves, was an existing technology but Josh was not sure of its efficacy in removing solid particles, dirt and smut, especially since the buffing compounds are particularly difficult to remove.

However, because of increasingly stringent regulatory requirements and Scott’s desire to be proactive with their EMS, Scott decided to seek a demonstration and perform shakedown testing of an ultrasonic cleaning unit and determine if it could provide a cleaning performance at least at a level equivalent to that achieved by the solvent de-greasing unit.  He offered to report on the results of the testing at the next meeting as well as continue to apply TRIZ to other stages of the plating process.

With no additional issue to discuss, their facilitator Belinda challenged everyone to experiment.  She said, “Lets proceed together and see how we might apply TRIZ principles and methodology to systematically design for the environment.”

Before formally adjourning the meeting, she asked them to summarize what they’d learned from Scott’s example:

  • How can we use TRIZ to minimize industrial waste and emissions?
  • What preventive measures, technological changes, preventive approach to environmental protection can be taken to cut waste and emissions from industrial activities?

Josh, himself in a business that has environmental risks and the outspoken one in the group, reminded everyone that one of the first things we learned in TRIZ was the concept of the Ideal Final Result (IFR) and often this forces one to start with the end in mind and track backwards.

With these closing thoughts, the meeting was adjourned with some of the council members committing to apply a proactive approach to their own EMS, identifying their IFR at different stages of their processes, and to using TRIZ to resolve any contradictions.

Belinda turned on the holiday music and it diverted everyone’s attention to their annual end-of-year party, with well wishes of a happy holiday season and successful new-year going around the room.  There was jubliance at their accomplishments and a desire to continue this quest during the coming year.

Wishing everyone a wonderful new year.