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Akhilesh Gulati

Quality Insider

TRIZ in Shipbuilding

Structured innovation solves a couple of maritime problems

Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 16:22

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 members of the executive council had been focusing on TRIZ for several months, learning its tools, and applying it in their own businesses with guidance from their consultant Henrietta.

Josh, who ran an electroplating business, was one of the ardent supporters. He had started his career as a marine engineer and had worked in a shipyard, eventually purchasing the business he currently operated. He still had an interest in ship design and was interested in learning how TRIZ could be applied in shipbuilding. He found, not surprisingly, that TRIZ had already been applied to solve some of the common issues in that industry, and he was anxious to share some of these examples with the group.

The first example he shared came from a paper titled “Solving an engineering problem in shipbuilding by TRIZ method,” published in the Proceedings of the IMProVe 2011. The issue seemed almost trivial: installing a shipping company’s logo onto a ship’s funnel. Interestingly, this operation had been responsible for significant delays because the standard technical solutions didn’t consider the logo’s structural problems. The issue had to do with mounting and positioning the logo on the ship’s funnel. The logo was rather large (6 m × 4.5 m), made of aluminum, and had many protruding finger elements. To clarify, Josh drew a picture on a flipchart.

Apart from the weight, lifting the object vertically along the funnel was a challenge, especially since the logo had been assembled horizontally. Preliminary design called for aluminum bars to be placed along the contours, and this required spot welds. However, during installation it was discovered that these were not enough to prevent the frame from flexing. Furthermore, spot welding caused a significant deformation of the logo. As Josh mentioned earlier, such problems were traditionally resolved by the installation workers and varied from ship to ship. Ideally, there should have been a clearly defined procedure.

The design team decided to use TRIZ to find a better, more stable solution. They listed the contradictions:
• Weight of moving object
• Length of moving object
• Area of moving object
• Shape
• Strength

Then they selected some basic principles that would need to be considered:
• Local quality
• Asymmetry
• Merging
• Anti-weight
• Preliminary action
• Another dimension
• Parameter changes

By combining all the information, they developed a temporary support structure, affixed the logo by using C brackets, and added another dimension that would later be removed. This seemed to solve an old problem with an innovative approach, replacing heuristic methods with a more systematic process.

Josh shared another example that used the TRIZ general-solution formula of using existing resources. The problem has to do with hydrofoil erosion. “Hydrofoil” is a term commonly used for the wing-like structure mounted on struts and placed below the hull, or across the keels of a catamaran in a variety of boats. It lifts the boat out of the water during forward motion, helps reduce drag, and increases speed.

A hydrofoil is exposed to cavitation erosion when moving in water, Josh explained. One of the methods to prevent erosion is hydrofoil cooling. This can be accomplished by covering the hydrofoil with ice. This ice layer gets exposed to cavitation erosion, but then immediately freezes again, thus preventing erosion of the hydrofoil itself. However, this process consumes energy to produce ice.

The TRIZ solution suggests using existing resources, and because an existing resource for hydrofoils is water, a solution was devised using water under the hydrofoil as a protective coating. Special holes were made in the hydrofoil that allowed water to be directed to places exposed to cavitation. This protective water interlayer thus prevented cavitation erosion.

Meeting time was running out, but Josh was not done yet. His passion to share additional examples from the marine industry was contagious, but Belinda, the group facilitator, had to cut him off, despite some of the group members’ desire to hear more. They were directed to follow up with Josh away from the meeting. But during the interim she encouraged everyone to learn about examples in their industry and bring their own problems to share.


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.