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Akhilesh Gulati

Quality Insider

TRIZ Application in Packaging

For crispy crust pizza and stand-up M&M’s

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 10:45

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.

The monthly council meetings continued as different members shared their issues and experience in using the TRIZ structure to accelerate their innovation efforts. Some council members, however, had doubts about how it could apply to their industry or specific situations. At first they all assumed that innovation was something that applied to high-tech industries or research and development departments. But the applications discussed so far had been  practical and useful.

Drake, who owned a printing and packaging company, wanted to know how it could apply to his organization. Seeing all faces turned toward her, Henrietta, the TRIZ facilitator, mentioned that a common misperception is that TRIZ solves only mechanical problems. “One of the fundamental principles of TRIZ is that problems and solutions are similar across a broad range of industries and technical domains,” she said. “Perhaps sharing a couple of examples will help remove any doubts of its use in packaging design.”

She proceeded to share two examples, both of which were for packaging of food products: pizza and bite-sized candy.

She started by asking about the purpose of a pizza box, to which she received a few responses:
• To hold the pizza and carry it out
• To pack and transport it to the customer
• To keep the pizza warm 

She then asked whether the current pizza box created difficulties. Again, she received multiple responses:
• Pizza gets soggy because the heat and steam generated from the hot pizza eventually settles to the bottom of the box
• Pizza gets cold
• The box lid collapses on the pizza and sticks to the pizza (something we just hate)

Continuing to summarize, Henrietta stated the contradiction:
• We want the pizza to be hot (it tastes better)
• We want it to be cold to prevent the lid from becoming soggy and sticking to the pizza (and lifting a significant amount of cheese with it)

The most economical and easy to implement solution the industry had settled on is the little plastic tripod that we see in the center of many takeout pizza boxes. It resolved the contradiction of the pizza being hot and cold at the same time. In his book, The Ideal Result (Springer, 2012), Jack Hipple reflects on this solution, observing, “The pizza box becomes more ideal, from the standpoint of the customer, through the resolution of the contradiction.” 

Other solutions that had been discussed or tried included:
• A closed, insulated container
• Using blotting paper to absorb the steam generated
• Using a composite material that would act both as an insulator and a moisture absorber 

But the ultimate solution to the problem is relatively simple. Using a combination of two TRIZ principles addresses the contradictory issues:
• No. 17, Multidimensionality—Change dimensionality suggests that jagged points on the base of the pizza box would raise the pizza above the cardboard surface and reduce the opportunity for heat to be transferred to the box, thus keeping the pizza hot.
• No. 14, Curvature increase—Curvilinear, corrugated forms often improve strength without increasing weight, thereby enabling the boxes to be stacked for transportation to prevent the lids from collapsing.


U.S. patents No. 5 423 477 and No. 5 472 139 proposed increasing the box rigidity without increasing its thickness. Such a box, with a spherical bottom, not only resists distortion, it also forms an additional air gap, which serves as a good heat insulator. (See figure 1.)

Figure 1: Redesigned pizza container


For the second packaging example, Henrietta shared another case. In 2003, the Mars company used TRIZ methodologies to develop new packaging for its bite-size candy products. The packaging change consisted of a move from a standard pillow bag (that were the main packaging format used in that food category at the time) to a standing pouch (common these days). The new packaging is easier to open, can stand upright and open on a table, and is more aesthetically pleasing. The new packaging also increased sales. (See figure 2.)

Figure 2: Redesigned M&M’s packaging

Henrietta led the council members through structured TRIZ steps. The purpose of the change to the M&M’s packages was to:
• Move to a vertical pack—for better visibility on the shelf
• Have a standing pouch with a wider opening—making it easier to share with friends
• Have straight, resealable opening
• Have an easily removable tear strip that does not hinder access to the product inside
• Maintain the aesthetics of the pouch after opening

Although a seemingly simple solution, one of the issues had to do with straightness of the opening; the tear did not always follow the perforations, which made it difficult to remove the tear strip. This also affected the aesthetics of the pouch after opening. The Mars group started by trying to get a clear understanding of their system, the super-system, the sub-system, and their relation to each other. They noted that they needed different parts of the system to do different things to ensure that the tear would be straight. Although the walls of the pouch could be far apart, they had to be close together along the line of tear. There was also a need to better control the tear so that it occurred along its intended path. Understanding this phenomenon, they formulated their ideal outcome. To be able to remove the tear strip easily, with both tears (at the front and back side of the pouch) maintaining the same height. To ensure a straight tear, the two walls need to be as close to each other as possible (the distance between walls impacts the tear direction).

Again, two principles seemed to apply:

• No. 3, Local quality—Make each part of an object fulfill a different and useful function. This seemed to apply directly. Absence of glue from a certain part of the laminate and a change in the type of perforations guided the opening and blocked the tear from getting away from its intended path.
• No. 9, Preliminary counteraction—Create stresses in an object or system that will oppose known undesirable working stresses later on. This addressed the issue of removing the tear strip. Vertical lines at the edge of the pouch helped counteract the harmful action with an opposing stress.

There were other issues related to this design, and Henrietta suggested that those on the council who were interested could read the complete case study here.

Belinda adjourned the meeting with the observation that, once again, the examples discussed had showed and convinced the council members that TRIZ is a powerful method for accelerating innovation.


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.