Structured Innovation: TRIZ in Manufacturing!

TRIZ in Manufacturing!

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

Josh could not contain his excitement as he came to this month’s meeting of My Executive Council (MEC).  After last month’s meeting, malady a few of his fellow members stayed late to hear other examples of the application of the TRIZ methodology in the marine industry.  This conversation reminded Josh of a problem one of his customers had mentioned a few times; Josh decided to visit his customer and see if applying TRIZ could help provide a solution.  As a result of his trip to his client’s site, try Josh was excited to share what he had just learned with his MEC colleagues.  So, he decided to invite Scott, his customer and the owner of a capacitor manufacturing business, to the next MEC meeting to share his findings.

Josh introduced his guest and mentioned that Scott had been complaining about productivity issues, especially with the capacitor marking process.  His company manufactured various sized capacitors that needed specific markings.  The capacitors came on carrier trays (see Fig 1) which were placed on custom frames based on the size of the carrier tray (Fig 2); the frames were then loaded on to the marking machine with clamps.  The frames had to be aligned correctly beneath the printing heads before the marking operation could begin.  Carrier trays came in different sizes for different capacitors and the frames had corresponding different sizes.  The whole process required multiple adjustments and, to an extent, depended on the skill of the operator.  Using carrier trays and corresponding frames also meant that a fair amount of inventory of carrier trays and the associated frames had to be maintained.

CapacitorTray CapacitorTrayFrame






One of their employees had recently attended a workshop on Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED); improving productivity on the marking process seemed an ideal place to apply SMED. Upon going through the various steps of SMED, their team suggested that using standard size platens (Fig 3 & Fig 4) for holding the carrier trays could eliminate the need for alignment as all the platens could be dropped on positioning pins.  This would work well as it would help reduce the non-value added ‘alignment’ time.







However, what they realized was that while replacing the frames with standard size platens allowed for easier alignment, it also called for increasing the amount of storage space needed as the platens were larger and multiple platens were needed for each of the carrier tray sizes. Using lessons learned from SMED had been good for reducing setup time and increasing productivity, but it had created another issue.  This was where Scott had approached Josh to see if TRIZ could help.

Josh explained to Scott that he was already using TRIZ – the “Itself” Method; the problem takes care of itself.  Principle #13 (Self-Service) is about making an object or system serve itself by performing auxiliary helpful functions. It is about using resources including energy and materials, especially those that were originally wasted, to enhance the system.  Using self-aligning methods, the problem took care of itself; alignment was no longer an issue as the platens and the pin eliminated the need for alignment every time.

Another observation that Scott recalled from his TRIZ knowledge was that sometimes solutions cause new problems and one needs to go back and start the cycle again.

He now needed to revisit the new problem.  Josh restated what he heard from Scott, “You want fewer number of platens in order to reduce the inventory AND you want more platens to be able to process different size capacitor trays.  Is that correct?”

That represents a physical contradiction.

  • We want one platen
  • We want many platens

Physical contradictions can be resolved in one of four ways:

  1. Separation of the requirements in time
  2. Separation of the requirements in space
  3. Co-existence of the contradictory properties in different regions of phase space
  4. Solving the problem in the super-system or the sub-system

Josh said Scott’s team discussed these separation principles and decided that they could solve the problem in the sub-system of the platen, by creating levels for positioning the different size Capacitor Carrier Trays on the same platen (Fig 5).  Scott then proudly drew the conceptual design on the flipchart for the Council members to see and understand what they were talking about.


Belinda, the Council facilitator, just had to jump in with her observations.  “Hey, that is also invoking the principle of multi-dimensionality!  Principle #17 – Move an object or system in two or three-dimensional space. Use a multi-story arrangement of objects instead of a single-story arrangement.   So instead of having only one capacitor tray per platen, you are able to use one platen for four trays of different sizes, reducing the number of trays required!”  Everyone was impressed, and Scott was especially pleased to see the result his team had achieved.

He said that while some of the engineers thought that this solution could have been developed without the use of TRIZ methodology, they did acknowledge that stating the problem this way and identifying contradictions had helped them in the process of coming up with a solution.

Since it had only been a few days since Scott’s firm had agreed on this solution, they were currently working on a prototype and expected to test it the following week.  Members of MEC congratulated both Scott and Josh on their successful use of a methodology they had just recently become aware of.

The meeting ended with Scott being extended an invitation to join the MEC, which he happily accepted, and looked forward to learning more about this thing called TRIZ.

Would you like to learn about inventive solutions?

Contact us.

Leave a Comment