Report from the International TRIZ Conference, Nov. 17-19, 1998

A personal perspective

Ellen Domb, Ph.D.
The TRIZ Institute, 190 N. Mountain Ave., Upland, CA 91786 USA
+1(909)949-0857 FAX +1(909)949-2968


The International TRIZ Conference was held Nov. 17-19, 1998, in City of Industry, California, USA, as half of the 4th Total Product Development Symposium. The conference was presented by a partnership of The TRIZ Institute (parent of The TRIZ Journal), the American Supplier Institute, and California Polytechnic University, with sponsorship funding from the Ford Motor Company, Melroe Company, and the Invention Machine Company. Since I was the conference chair and I am a principal in the TRIZ Institute, this will not be an unbiased report.


60 people participated in the tutorial I conducted called "Enough TRIZ so that Beginners Can Appreciate the Conference." People were from the US, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Mexico, and Canada. Many participants represented companies with global operations.

90 people attended the technical paper sessions. 14 papers were given by authors residing in the US, France, Japan, and Israel, and with origins in those countries and in Germany, the former USSR, and the UK.

The technical papers covered a wide variety of subjects in TRIZ theory and TRIZ case studies. Rather than try to summarize the papers, we have permission from the authors and the conference sponsors to reprint many of the papers in The TRIZ Journal. The first 2, on Technology Forecasting (by Michael Slocum) and on TRIZ in Agriculture (by John Terninko) are presented this month.

The panel discussion was very popular with the conference participants. The panel members were veterans of their companies’ efforts to get advanced development methods such as TRIZ, Taguchi methods, QFD, SIT, etc., out of the classroom and out of the hands of specialists and into general use in their companies. Panel members were

Jim Smith Melroe Co.
Julian Blosiu Jet Propulsion Laboratory
John King Ford
Dick Ullman ITT-Defense
Bill Bellows Boeing/Rocketdyne
George Walgrove Kodak
Mike Hollowbrook Delphi
Louis LaVallee Xerox
Ed Sickafus Ford Research Laboratory

Leslie Serrin Enerson of the Melroe Co. facilitated the session, and Alan Wu and I collected the questions from the audience, sorted them for Leslie, and took notes. Leslie did a great job of selecting the panelists to answer each question to get both depth and balance in each area.

How do you get people to use a new method?

What were your greatest difficulties introducing a new method?

There was an extensive discussion of the relationship of the tools of Total Product Development to Deming’s system of profound knowledge. In general, there was agreement that the 4 elements of profound knowledge

  1. Understanding Variation
  2. Systems Thinking
  3. Understanding psychology
  4. Theory of knowledge

must be present for organizational transformation, and that they are present to varying degrees in each of the tools. I hope to get some of the panelists to collaborate on a paper for us on this subject in the near future.

It was a great pleasure to chair the conference, but it was also a pleasure to conclude the conference and to attend the second half, the Taguchi Methods conference, as a participant, with no other responsibilities. It gave me a chance to relax, to listen to the papers, and to reflect on the integration of the tools of total product development.

In the tutorial, I presented a model of the tools shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. The Product Development Tools. Start with QFD to understand customer needs and your company’s ability to fulfill those needs. Use TRIZ to create concepts for the product design and for the production and delivery methods. Use the Taguchi Methods to optimize the process and to make the design and delivery processes robust. Once the product reaches the market, use QFD to plan upgrades and new products.

After hearing 3 excellent papers on the Taguchi Methods, I began to question this model. In all 3 papers, the presenters showed detailed statistical results, and in all 3 cases they pointed out that their initial understanding of the noise factors and control factors had been wrong, and that the statistical methods had ultimately revealed this, and had guided them in correcting their problems.

The impact that this had on me was the realization that when analyzing a system in TRIZ, regardless of whether one uses functional analysis, Su-field analysis, or triads, it is necessary to identify the harmful functions and the beneficial functions. If your analysis of which functions are harmful is incorrect, you may be using TRIZ to solve the wrong problem. The admonition given in most TRIZ classes to "work with the subject matter experts" clearly won’t help, since in all 3 of these presentations it was the subject matter experts who did not fully understand the relationships and impact of each of the parameters.

It may be useful to re-draw the relationship of the tools as in Figure 2.


Figure 2. After initial concept development, do enough design work (arrow 1) to then apply the Taguchi Methods in a preliminary way, to see if the understanding of the beneficial and harmful elements of the concept was correct. Use the results (arrow 2) to apply TRIZ to the refinement of the production concepts, and use those new concepts (arrow 3) to do the process optimization for the production process. Not shown are the detailed design and analysis processes (design, simulation, test, etc.) that lie along arrows 1 and 3.

Whether or not this figure is helpful to you, the experience of these 3 companies should be a good warning to TRIZ practitioners that even "subject matter experts" may not have a clear picture of all the relationships within the system being improved.

We look forward to getting more papers for The TRIZ Journal on all the subjects that were covered in the Conference, and we look forward to responses by those who were there, and those who were not there, through our Letters to the Editor column.