A Bad Case Study: Plough and TRIZ

G. L. Filkovsky,
Nomura Securities International,
New York, USA

This article [1] is an example of how a TRIZ blurb can be misused to "theorize" upon any, even very mediocre, technical ideas. It is done simply by finding something in TRIZ that can be interpreted in terms of the idea on hand and then by arbitrarily deciding that THIS is an application of TRIZ. Using this method, any idea - good or bad, new or old, working or failing, useful or useless - can be a case study in using TRIZ mehodology, which nullifies all such case studies.

Let's look into the plough case study with this in mind. It describes a few "failed" attempts to solve the problem. One of them is using alloys to manufacture the share. If one wanted to present this solution as a case study in using TRIZ, it would be very easy to do: this solution implements one of the 40 TRIZ principles, namely, the use of composite materials. Since Zhao Xinjun wanted to present this solution as a failed attempt, this fact is simply ignored and the solution's disadvantage, in this case cost, is emphasized.

The same holds for the other "past attempt", vibrating the share. Someone who wanted to present this solution as a case study could claim this to be an implementation of another TRIZ principle, vibration, or even the TRIZ system evolution law, parts synchronization. However, this is ignored and the disadvantages, i.e. the cost and some other negative effects, are emphasized by Zhao Xinjun to present this as a failed attempt.

Both of these examples actually could be good case studies for a central TRIZ idea, technical contradiction, if Zhao Xinjun's solution had dealt with it. It had not, and this TRIZ connection is ignored, too.

Zhao Xinjun's use of S-Field analysis is equally arbitrary. A TRIZ Standard Solution gives an idea of adding a field. Here again, someone who wanted to present vibrating the share as a TRIZ case study could simply claim that it "added a vibration field". Since Zhao Xinjun decided that the vibrating is not a good solution, Zhao Xinjun ignores this implementation and mentions other fields, pneumatic and magnetic. The claim is that a magnetic field improves friction. If such a physical phenomenon exists, TRIZ is not responsible for it: a magnetic field could increase friction, decrease friction or do nothing to friction, regardless of what kind of "improvement" we're looking for. The only use of TRIZ here is the idea of trying a magnetic field. Claiming "Try magnetic field" as an example of successfully using TRIZ methodology - is really a bad case.

Anyway, what is the result of this trial? Improvement of about 10%, while increasing cost and, certainly, adding some other negative effects, like extra maintenance. Zhao Xinjun claims these disadvantages will be compensated by the positive effects of the reduced friction. It's possible, but it's a bad solution according to TRIZ, since it does not overcome the contradiction but rather finds a compromise between decreasing friction and increasing cost. A "past attempt", like using alloys, can claim exactly the same. It also can claim that although the cost increase in Zhao Xinjun's solution is relatively small, the effect is small too, while in another solution a larger cost increase is associated with a much larger positive effect.

In conclusion, Zhao Xinjun's case study uses a bad solution achieved by a bad use of TRIZ, while missing chances for an appropriate TRIZ application and, probably, some good solutions.

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