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TRIZ Part 2

Quality Tools > Tools of the Trade > 38: TRIZ Part 2


In part 1, we looked at functions, harm, ideality and contradictions that occur within this Russian invention. Now we will continue with a quick spin through the first 12 of the 40 principles. As these principles are generalised, the first step is to create an abstract model of your problem to which the principles may be applied, then to come back to a concrete and usable solution.



1. Segmentation

Segmentation means to separate into smaller parts. A modular design can result in parts which plug together in different ways, or is easy to manufacture, assemble and take apart, such as when repairing or transporting it. Open office ‘cubicles’ use segmentation to allow the layout of offices to be easily changed. As you now have separate parts you can treat these parts differently or they can be made of different materials and have different shapes.

2. Extraction

Extraction means to take out or separate something, such as removing a painful tooth or singling out the critical parts of a system. Sometimes simply placing a bad art of the system in a different place lessens the bad effect or removes it completely, as with our lamp post example. Seek the value of different parts or aspects. Low-value items may be eliminated or high-value items may be extracted and used elsewhere in different circumstances.

3. Local Quality

Do not assume that the current placing or usage of parts cannot be changed–the reasons may be buried in history or may be more for manufacturing convenience than for the value they give in operation. Local Quality means to single out specific parts and then to change them or place them in an environment such that they are optimally useful.

4. Asymmetry

As aesthetic people, we are often attracted to symmetry, which leads us to not question whether asymmetry may be more useful. Symmetrical objects are often easier to manufacture, but may not be the most useful design. To use asymmetry, make uniform objects asymmetrical; make things asymmetrical in each of the different dimensions of the object and for more than one parameter. Fashion designers use asymmetry to create a wide range of interesting styles. Varying shapes give the opportunity for one shape to do one thing and another shape to perform another function.

5. Combination

The principle of combination is bring together things which happen at the same time or in the same place. This can mean doing things in parallel or creating single devices where previously there were more. A washing machine that also acts as a tumble-drier uses the principle of combination. Combination gives you the opportunity to simplify!

6. Universality

Universality is used where objects can perform multiple functions, such as ‘Swiss army’ knives or sofa beds. It is particularly useful where you can eliminate an object by having another object perform the same function.

7. Nesting

Nesting means putting one thing inside another like a Russian doll, or fitting things together in some way. An object which is contained within another object is protected and makes the overall device smaller. The telescope uses nesting both for focusing and to fold it up into a smaller and more portable device.

8. Counterweight

When a system results in an undesirable force in one direction, a counterweight is a deliberate change to balance out or improve the situation by acting in the opposite direction. Traction control systems in vehicles can change the suspension system to shift the positioning of the body to balance out a tendency to roll.

9. Prior Counteraction

When you know that an undesirable situation is going to happen, you may be able to do something ahead of when it would occur, either to prevent it from happening or to reduce the impact that might be felt when it does happen. Methods to do this includes reinforcing and setting up counterweights so the problem is managed at all times.

10. Prior Action

When something is to be done at some time, Prior Action means preparing or taking some action beforehand to smooth and ease the event when it does occur. For example, laying the table for breakfast last thing in the evening will save time and stress on the following morning in the sleepy hurry to eat and get to work. It is far too easy to design a device or manufacturing process so that something is done when it is needed to be done. But that may not be the best time for it to happen so think about when you want an action/function and choose the best time!

11. Cushion in Advance

Another form of doing things ahead of an event is to prepare for things which will fail or go wrong in some way. This can range from mistake-proofing a process to creating uninterruptable power supplies for computers.

12. Equipotentiality

A lot of work involves lifting and lowering things, for example to access parts underneath them. Equipotentiality means finding ways to avoid this heavy work. For example, a chest of drawers was a simple solution to the problems of a single chest, where to get to things at the bottom you had to take out all of the things on top (and then put them back again).


Next time: TRIZ Part 3


This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Institute for Quality Assurance

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