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Akhilesh Gulati

Quality Insider

Applying TRIZ to ISO 14001

Both pertain to how a product is produced and what’s generated during the process

Published: Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 13:27

Editor’s note: This article continues the series exploring structured innovation using the TRIZ methodology, a problem solving, analysis, and forecasting tool derived from studying patterns of invention found in global patent data.

Last week’s executive council meeting ran long, but there were no objections because the council members were introduced to an advanced tool: functional analysis. They wanted to apply this tool when they returned to their businesses, but the holiday season and year-end tasks prevented that from happening.

Scott, the newest council member, took a different approach. He was in a business that had environmental risks. He’d been using common sense to solve problems as they arose. Sometimes he anticipated problems and implemented preventive measures, but he was concerned that he wasn’t doing enough to avoid the increasingly harsh penalties for environmental issues. So he introduced to his organization the environmental management system (EMS) standard, ISO 14001, just as he had done with ISO 9001 to improve its quality management system. 

He was confident that when problems occurred he could apply his new understanding of TRIZ to provide solutions.

The ISO 14001 standard relates to environmental management to help organizations minimize how their operations (i.e., processes) negatively affect the environment (i.e., cause adverse changes to air, water, or land); comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmental requirements; and continually improve these two issues.

ISO 14001 is similar to the ISO 9001 quality management system in that both pertain to the process of creating a product, rather than to the product itself. As with ISO 9001, certification is performed by third-party organizations rather than being awarded by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) directly. The ISO 19011 audit standard applies when auditing for both ISO 9001 and ISO 14000 compliance simultaneously.

Scott’s organization was already meeting the federal and state requirements of having processes for collecting wastewater and chemicals. However, as Scott reviewed the EMS against ISO 14001 requirements, he discovered the current system was more reactive than proactive. He realized that ISO 14001 could include processes for waste management, recycling, recovery, and reuse. ISO 14001’s systematic approach encouraged him to redesign processes to reduce costs and waste as well as improve the organization’s carbon footprint, which demonstrates an environmental commitment to customers.

At the next council meeting, Scott shared his project with the members. He explained his company’s electroplating process as example of how the EMS was improving processes. He began 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 consists of buffing operations. Pre-treatment uses some chemical solvents. Plating involves various chemicals, additives, metal, and water. And rinsing requires removing the excess chemicals and additives from the item. Post-treatment operations include buffing and polishing.

Factors affecting the quality of the electroplating include product cleanliness, product throughput rate, process bath purity, the quantity of chemical used, rinse-bath effectiveness, and product rejection rate.

Scott noted that although their operations were in compliance with EPA requirements, the pre-treatment and rinse stages generate a lot of wastewater. He wanted to reduce the wastewater and the chemical sludge that the process generates, so he decided to focus on the pre-treatment process first.

Pre-treatment 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. To reduce the amount of solvent used for cleaning, operators at Scott’s company had been using wire brush or other mechanical means whenever possible to clean the parts. This led to a reduction in throughput.

Scott then noted the following contradictions:
• The amount of toxic solvent (harmful agent) used is reduced/eliminated (gets better).
• The speed of production is reduced (gets worse).

Everyone in the meeting liked where this was going. The advanced tool they had learned, functional analysis, was being put to use. Scott pulled out his copy of the contradiction matrix. Going down the column “What Gets Better,” he noted the quantity of substance. For the “Worsening Feature,” he noted speed.

He then read the intersecting numbers listed for the principles used most often to help resolve this particular contradiction:
Principle No. 35: Parameter changes (Change an object’s physical state.)
Principle No. 29: Pneumatics and hydraulics (Use gas and liquid as parts of an object or system.)
Principle No. 34: Discarding and recovering (Make portions of an object that have fulfilled their functions go away. Conversely, restore consumable parts of an object directly in operation.)
Principle No. 28: Mechanical interaction substitution (Replace a mechanical means with a sensory means, e.g., optical, acoustic, taste, or smell.)

Belinda reminded them to state their ideal final result 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 this: 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, nontoxic, or 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 No. 35: Did not lend itself for consideration at all
Principle No. 29: Because they were using a liquid, perhaps they could consider a nontoxic solvent (e.g., water), although Scott was not confident of its effectiveness in removing excess oil or grease.
Principle No. 34: Scott’s company already had a contract with a vendor to collect and distill the solvent for reuse.
Principle No. 28: Ultrasonic cleaning using high-frequency sound waves was an existing technology, but Scott was not sure of its efficacy in removing solid particles, dirt, and smut, especially with the buffing compounds being particularly difficult to remove.

Because of increasingly stringent regulatory requirements and Scott’s desire to be proactive with the company’s EMS, he decided to demonstrate testing an ultrasonic cleaning unit and determine if it could provide a cleaning performance at least equivalent to that achieved by the solvent degreasing 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, Belinda challenged everyone to experiment. “Let’s proceed together and see how we might apply TRIZ principles and methodology to systematically design for the environment,” she said.

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, and 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 learn in TRIZ is the ideal final result concept and how this often forces one to start with the end in mind and track backward.

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 ideal final result at different stages of their processes, and to using TRIZ to resolve any contradictions.


About The Author

Akhilesh Gulati’s picture

Akhilesh Gulati

Akhilesh Gulati has 25 years of experience in operational excellence, process redesign, lean, Six Sigma, strategic planning, and TRIZ (structured innovation) training and consulting in a variety of industries. Gulati is the Principal consultant at PIVOT Management Consultants and the CEO of the analytics firm Pivot Adapt Inc. in S. California. Akhilesh holds an MS from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and MBA from UCLA, is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt and a Balanced Scorecard Professional.