Monday, April 5, 2010

What the hell is TRIZ

By Michael Vogt, CGCS

TRIZ (pronounced like Treez) is a problem solving method based on logic and data, not intuition, which may accelerate the ability to solve problems in a different and more creative way. "TRIZ" is the (Russian) acronym for the "Theory of Inventive Problem Solving." G.S. Altshuller and his colleagues in the former U.S.S.R. developed the method between 1946 and 1985. TRIZ is the study and theory of the patterns of problems and solutions.

TRIZ is spreading into the corporate world on many paths. TRIZ is increasingly used alongside the Six Sigma processes, in project management, customer satisfaction and risk management systems, and in many organizational initiatives.

How can TRIZ apply to the world of golf course management? We all know that problem solving relies on a relatively small set of solution patterns. For instances, when the superintendent has a problem or task the first reaction is to break the problem into small sets of easily accomplished tasks; like aerification of greens.

Figure 1 Greens Aerification

Whether you know it or not you use the basic principals of TRIZ for most of your golf course maintenance projects and problems. But not so fast - TRIZ theory gets into the problem solving methods even further. TRIZ research began with the hypothesis that there are universal principles of creativity that are the basis for creative innovations that advance technology. If these principles could be identified and codified, they could be taught to business leaders to make the process of creativity  more predictable. The short version of TRIZ is:

“Somebody someplace has already solved this problem (or one very similar to it.)

Creativity is now finding that solution and adapting it to this particular problem."

There are three primary fundamentals of the TRIZ theory:

• Problems and solutions are repeated across industries and sciences. The classification of the contradictions in each problem predicts the creative solutions to that problem.

• Patterns of technical evolution are repeated across industries and sciences.

• Creative innovations use scientific effects outside the field where they were developed.

Much of the practice of TRIZ consists of learning these repeating patterns of problems and solutions and then applying the general TRIZ patterns to the specific situation that confronts the problem solver. The simple graphic in Figure 2 below describes this process.

Figure 2

In Figure 2 above, the red arrows represent transformation from one formulation of the problem or solution to another. The two red arrows represent analysis of the problems and analytic use of the TRIZ databases. The blue arrow represents thinking by analogy to develop the specific solution. This four-step problem solving approach forces the user to overcome inherent psychological bias that is typically referred to as “psychological inertia” (we get easily stuck in how we normally “think”).

Examples of Golf Industry and Change of Thinking

For example, a powerful demonstration of this method might come from the turf chemical industry. Hypothetically, a new group of information suggests that Garlic can control turf pathogens. Low concentrations of garlic extract can be safely applied to turf and control a wide range of turfgrass harming fungi. Today we’re studying the specific problem; can the turf industry find an ecological friendly way to keep turf from fungal infection. The general problem is a low cost, easily applied method to keep turf “fungi – free”. The general solution in this case might be a natural garlic product applied to the turf canopy. And the specific solution is elimination of dollar spot and brown patch without using expensive, ecologically unfriendly chemical compounds. I am not saying that garlic extract will eliminate or replace Daconil; I am just using this example of looking at a problem with a new theory that might augment a particular line of reasoning.

Another two great examples of general problem solving at the highest level was perhaps the chemistry behind the Aliette® brand fungicide; it is the only fungicide to deliver true, two-way systemic protection against certain turf pathogens. With multiple modes of action, Aliette® attacks fungi at multiple growth stages for better overall fungal control. Aliette’s® unique double action not only attacks and controls fungi on contact, but also stimulates the plant's own defense mechanisms. In addition to Aliette®, Heritage®, the active ingredient, azoxystrobin, belongs to a class of fungicides named strobilurins. This class of fungicide possesses a mode of action, which inhibits mitochondrial respiration in fungi, stopping their energy supply. Imagine this discovery, natural occurring woodland fungi use to treat fungi! Although these two chemistries are older, consider, Civitas, and its new mode of action has many in the turf industry reconsidering the turf plants ability to ward off disease within the plant itself, not unlike Aliette® but having chemistry far safer than that of Aluminum tris.

The 40 Principals

In the course of solving any one problem, one TRIZ tool or many can be used. The 40 Principles of Problem Solving are the most accessible "tool" of TRIZ. These are the principles that were found to repeat across many fields, as solutions to many general contradictions, which are at the heart of many problems.

A fundamental concept of TRIZ is that contradictions should be eliminated. TRIZ recognizes two categories of contradictions:

Technical contradictions are the classical engineering "trade-offs." The desired state can't be reached because something else in the system prevents it. In other words, when something gets better, something else gets worse. Classical golf course examples include:

• Growth regulators reduces mowing (good), Must re-apply throughout the season and suffer a trampoline affect after last seasonal application (bad)

• Controlled release nitrogen feeds the plant slower (good), but costs more than soluble forms of nitrogen (bad)

• Pre-emergent herbicides use to stop annual grassy weeds from germinating also stops desirable seed from germinating

Physical contradictions, also called "inherent" contradictions, are situations in which one object or system has contradictory, opposite requirements. Everyday examples abound:

• Trees on golf courses are visually stunning, however, the more trees on the course the more difficult it is to grow turf.

• More play on a golf course equals more revenue, but more play slows the speed to which it takes to complete a round.

Several examples of common golf business contradictions:

• We need to reduce labor costs on the golf course, but maintain current levels of playing conditions.

• Our 100 year old club needs to attract new members; regardless of a new club with better facilities for the same cost just one mile away.

• Native areas on the golf course reduce mowing and other maintenance but can slow play with golfers looking for lost balls.

TRIZ research has identified 40 principles that solve the Technical / Tradeoff contradictions and principles of separation that solve the Physical / Inherent contradictions. Additional examples include:

• School administrators: Creativity has been greatly enhanced in situations ranging from allocation of the budget for special education to building five schools with funding only for four, to improving racial harmony in the schools.

• Waste processing: Dairy farm operators could no longer dry the cow manure due to increased cost of energy. TRIZ led the operators to a method used for the concentration of fruit juice, which requires no heat.

• Warranty cost reduction: Ford used TRIZ to solve a persistent problem with squeaky windshields that was costing several million dollars each year. Previously, they had used TRIZ to reduce idle vibration in a small car by 165 percent, from one of the worst in its class to 30 percent better than the best in class.

A Description and Examples of the 40 Inventive Principals and the TRIZ Matrix

Use these 40 Inventive Principals with the TRIZ matrix. On the pdf downloadable TRIZ matrix sheet find the intersect of your specific situation and search the far right column for the Inventive Principals that apply to your specific problem or process. The following is the 40 basic rules to the process of TRIZ problem solving (Inventive Principals, far right hand column) with example(s) for each principal.

1. Segmentation

Divide an object into independent parts.

Example: Golf course syringe hoses can be joined together to form any length needed.

2. Extraction

Extract (remove or separate) a "disturbing" part or property from an object, or extract only the necessary part or property.

Example: Most irrigation computers will deliver run-times based on certain factors (evapotranspiration, angle of incidence, type of soil, variety of turf), most superintendents disable this feature.

3. Local Quality

Have different parts of the object carry out different functions and place each part of the object under conditions most favorable for its operation.

Examples: A pencil and eraser in one unit.

4. Asymmetry

Replace a symmetrical form with an asymmetrical form if an object is already asymmetrical, increase the degree of asymmetry.

Example: While spreading moist topdressing sand through a symmetrical spreader, the sand forms an arch or bridge above the opening, causing irregular flow. A bin of asymmetrical shape or conveyor belt eliminates the arching effect.

5. Combining

Combine in space homogeneous objects or objects destined for contiguous operations or combine in time homogeneous or contiguous operations.

Example: A greens aerifier has an attachment to windrow plugs for ease of removal.

6. Universality

Have the object perform multiple functions, thereby eliminating the need for some other object(s).

Examples: An irrigation computer that gathers weather data and soil moisture data and calculates water needs for the turf plant. DryJect® machine aerifies topdresses and applies soil amendments in one pass.

7. Nesting

Contain the object inside another which, in turn, is placed inside a third object. Pass an object through a cavity of another object.

Examples: The old greens dew whips that stored inside an aluminum tube for transport, or a mechanical pencil with lead stored inside.

8. Counterweight

Compensate for the object's weight by joining with another object that has a lifting force. Compensate for the weight of an object by interaction with an environment providing aerodynamic or hydrodynamic forces.

Example: A rear wing in racing cars which increases pressure from the car to the ground.

9. Prior counter-action

Perform a counter-action in advance if the object is (or will be) under tension, provide anti-tension in advance.

Examples: Reinforced pre-stressed concrete column. Hollow vertical turbine pump thought the motor shaft.

10. Prior action

Carry out all or part of the required action in advance. Arrange objects so they can go into action in a timely matter and from a convenient position.

Example: Install a pressure relieve valve (Cla-Val) on a pump station to protect components from high water pressure.

11. Cushion in advance

Compensate for the relatively low reliability of an object by countermeasures taken in advance.

Example: Grinding a relief on a reel to only have to grind a small portion of the reel blade surface in the future.

12. Equipotentiality

Change the working conditions so that an object need not be raised or lowered.

Example: Build a loading dock or ramp to load equipment on trailers or truck beds to transport on and off site.

13. Inversion

Instead of an action dictated by the specifications of the problem, implement an opposite action. Make a moving part of the object or the outside environment immovable and the non-moving part movable. Turn the object upside-down.

Example: Abrasively cleaning parts by vibrating the parts instead of the abrasive.

14. Spheroidality

Replace linear parts or flat surfaces with curved ones; replace cubical shapes with spherical shapes. Use rollers, balls spirals or replace a linear motion with rotating movement; utilize a centrifugal force:

Example: The difference between a PlanetAir machine and a conventional turf / greens slicer that slices in a straight line.

15. Dynamicity

Make an object or its environment automatically adjust for optimal performance at each stage of operation. Divide an object into elements which can change position relative to each other. If an object is immovable, make it movable or interchangeable.

Examples: A flashlight with a flexible gooseneck between the body and the lamp head. A rotary mower with many floating decks to mow contours more evenly opposed to a single fixed rotary deck.

16. Partial or overdone action

Figure 3 Tee jet Air Induction Nozzle

If it is difficult to obtain 100% of a desired effect, achieve somewhat more or less to greatly simplify the problem:

Examples: Fine droplets in a spray pattern guarantee good coverage (high pressure, lower volume) but have high drift potential. Nozzles designed for greens spray have an air induction system that greatly reduces spray drift and delivers a fine spray pattern.

17. Moving to a new dimension

Remove problems with moving an object in a line by two-dimensional movement (i.e. along a plane). Use a multi-layered assembly of objects instead of a single layer. Incline the object or turn it on its side.

Example: A stacked bowl vertical turbine pump rather than a single stage centrifugal pump.

18. Mechanical vibration

Set an object into oscillation. If oscillation exists, increase its frequency, even as far as ultrasonic. Use the resonant frequency. Use ultrasonic vibrations in conjunction with an electromagnetic field.

Example: When spin grinding a reel; the stone and the spinning reel have a frequency that matches the diameter and thickness of the metal blades on the reel. The correct frequency will accomplish the job better and faster.

Figure 4 Reel Grinder

19. Periodic action

Replace a continuous action with a periodic (pulsed) one if an action is already periodic, change its frequency, use pulsed between impulses to provide additional action.

Examples: An impact wrench loosens corroded nuts using impulses rather than continuous force. A warning lamp flashes so that it is even more noticeable than when continuously lit.

20. Continuity of a useful action

Carry out an action continuously (i.e. without pauses), where all parts of an object operate at full capacity. Remove idle and intermediate motions.

Example: When a reel drops to the turf surface it engages the reels automatically when lowered.

21. Rushing through

Perform harmful or hazardous operations at very high speed.

Example: The up and down movement of an aerifier tine is potentially harmful to turf at slower speeds causing turf to be pulled away from the soil, a fast moving tine is less apt to injure turf.

22. Convert harm into benefit

Utilize harmful factors or environmental effects to obtain a positive effect. Remove a harmful factor by combining it with another harmful factor. Increase the amount of harmful action until it ceases to be harmful.

Example: A USGA specification green is waterlogged, causing turf to wilt, with no air holding capacity for root respiration, introducing heavy irrigation will break the false water table and drain the green to normal air / water ratio.

23. Feedback

Introduce feedback, if feedback already exists, reverse it.

Examples: Water pressure and volume from an irrigation system is maintained by sensing output pressure and flow and turning on a pump if these parameters are too low. If the system detects high flow (like a mainline leak), the system will shut-down. A golf course sprayer moves up and down hill and maintains constant pressure and volume based on forward and reverse feedback (based on speed, pressure and volume).

24. Mediator

Use an intermediary object to transfer or carry out an action. Temporarily connect an object to another one that is easy to remove.

Examples: Tailoring a walking greens mower to a specific set of greens with a motorized cart. A material handler can move sand from a sand storage area and spread sand within the bunker.

25. Self-service

Make the object service itself and carry out supplementary and repair operations.

Examples: Tires filled with a special compound to seal small leaks. A filter system on an irrigation pump station, back-flushes itself when flow and downstream pressure is dissimilar by a predetermined factor.

26. Copying

Use a simple and inexpensive copy instead of an object which is complex, expensive, fragile or inconvenient to operate or replace an object by its optical copy or image. A scale can be used to reduce or enlarge the image. If visible optical copies are used, replace them with infrared or ultraviolet copies.

Examples: Find out stress areas on turf with the use of infrared red photos. As-Built drawings reduced to booklet size for irrigation service and repairs.

27. Inexpensive, short-lived object for expensive, durable one

Replace an expensive object by a collection of inexpensive ones, forgoing properties (e.g. longevity).

Examples: Disposable shop towels, plastic spray nozzles, packing rings on pump motors, plastic hydraulic motor couplings to reel drive on triplex greens mowers.

28. Replacement of a mechanical system

Replace a mechanical system by an optical, acoustical or olfactory (odor) system. Use an electrical, magnetic or electromagnetic field for interaction with the object.

Example: Magnetic bedknives, magnetic bedknife grinding tables, barcodes on equipment for servicing requirements.

29. Pneumatic or hydraulic construction

Replace solid parts of an object by gas or liquid. These parts can use air or water for inflation, or use air, water or hydrostatic cushions.

Figure 5 Toro Hydroject Aerifier

Example: Fertigation, hydraulically driven reels, high lift rotary mower blades, Toro Hydroject aerifier.

30. Flexible membranes or thin film

Replace traditional constructions with those made from flexible membranes or thin film. Isolate an object from its environment using flexible membranes or thin film.

Examples: To prevent water evaporation from plant leaves, polyethylene spray is applied. After a while, the polyethylene hardened and plant growth improved, because polyethylene film passes oxygen better than water vapor. Reverse osmosis membrane for water treatment.

31. Use of porous material

Make an object porous or add porous elements (inserts, covers, etc.) If an object is already porous, fill the pores in advance with some substance.

Example: The use of porous concrete to add hard surface parking areas without increasing drainage capabilities. The addition of the gavel layer below the sand layer in greens construction to move water out of water saturated sand.

Figure 6 USGA Specification Green Profile

32. Changing the color

Change the color of an object or its surroundings or change the degree of translucency of an object or processes which are difficult to see. Use colored additives to observe objects or processes which are difficult to see if such additives are already used, employ luminescent traces or tracer elements.

Examples: To check to see if a drainage system is functioning properly add a dye to the water and time its travel. Add reflectors dots or floor stripes inside maintenance building to locate parking areas for equipment, designate safety areas and mark stairways and curbs.

33. Homogeneity

Make those objects which interact with a primary object out of the same material or material that is close to it in behavior.

Examples: The metal at the bottom of a flagstick (ferule) is made out of a metal that is similar in hardness to a metal hole-cup. The hardness and composition of steel in reel mower bedknives and reels.

34. Rejecting and regenerating parts

After it has completed its function or become useless, reject or modify (e.g. discard, dissolve, evaporate) an element of an object. Immediately restore any part of an object which is exhausted or depleted.

Examples: Reel mower bedknives, new nozzles for irrigation heads, packaging for turf chemicals that dissolve in water.

35. Transformation of the physical and chemical states of an object

Change an object's aggregate state, density distribution, degree of flexibility, temperature.

Example: Changing the pH of water to increase the efficacy of the spray mix. Add gypsum to irrigation water to help mitigate salt build-up in the soil.

36. Phase transformation

Implement an effect developed during the phase transition of a substance, for instance, during the change of volume, liberation or absorption of heat.

Example: Irrigation VFD drives are cooled with irrigation water piped though a radiator device with irrigation water under pressure. Solvent weld PVC primers and glue.

37. Thermal expansion

Use a material which expands or contracts with heat. Use various materials with different coefficients of heat expansion.

Examples: To control the opening of roof windows in a greenhouse, bimetallic plates are connected to the windows. A change in temperature bends the plates, causing the window to open or close. To control equipment engine temperature an engine thermostat is use and operates on temperature of coolant water inducted to a metal spring and valve.

38. Use strong oxidizers

Replace normal air with enriched air, Replace enriched air with oxygen.

Examples: To obtain more heat from an acetylene torch, oxygen is fed to the torch instead of atmospheric air, to enrich and add power to the internal combustion engine turbo-charges and superchargers are use to push more air into the combustion chambers.

39. Inert environment

Replace the normal environment with an inert one or carry out the process in a vacuum.

Example: To make some turf chemicals easy to handle and mix with water, inert water-soluble ingredients are added to active ingredients.

40. Composite materials

Replace a homogeneous material with a composite one.

Example: Military aircraft wings are made of composites of plastics and carbon fibers for high strength and low weight.


The examples above are not necessarily technologies born form TRIZ theory but the value of a thought process to bring about change and improvement in a repeatable fashion is something that should be considered.

Phases like “Thinking Outside the Box”, “Change is the Only Constant” and “Paradigm Sifting” have been thrown around around like a football on Thanksgiving. The most successful leaders in their field will be the ones that solve the basic problems fast and the complicated problems faster than their competition.

The best way to learn and explore TRIZ is to study the process and begin a problem that you haven't solved satisfactorily!

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