Kraev's Korner: Resource Analysis - Lesson 4

Related Tools & Articles
  • By Val Kraev

    Editor's note: Kraev's Korner was first published in the newsletter of the Altshuller Institute,, in 2005. Our thanks to the Altshuller Institute and the Technical Innovation Center for letting us reprint this educational series. Previous lessons can be found by searching the TRIZ Journal's archives.

    Once you have identified your technical system and defined your contradiction, you need to evaluate what resources are available to overcome the contradiction. To solve the contradiction, TRIZ recommends using the substance-field resources of the existing system – this meets the requirements of an ideal system.
    According to, a resource is:

    1. Something that can be used for support or help: The local library is a valuable resource.
    2. An available supply that can be drawn on when needed. Often used in the plural.
    3. The ability to deal with a difficult or troublesome situation effectively; initiative: a person of resource.
    4. Means that can be used to cope with a difficult situation. Often used in the plural: needed all my intellectual resources for the exam.
      a. The total means available for economic and political development, such as mineral wealth, labor force, and armaments.
      b. The total means available to a company for increasing production or profit, including plant, labor, and raw material; assets.
      c. Such means considered individually.

    In TRIZ, a resource is broadly defined as everything that can be applied for solving a problem and improving the system without any large expenses. Resources should be easily attainable, free or low cost. Resources can be internal or external to the system and belong to the conflicting pair of elements (called product and tool). They can be found in the supersystem, environment and by-products as well. Resources can be substances or fields. Other resources include space and time or even other nearby systems.

    The resources of an existing system and its elements are the base of the strongest and most efficient solutions. The identification of these resources provides abundant opportunities for solution concepts to be developed. Each resource is a potential solution to the problem. The more resources that are available for use, the greater the solution space is to generate more solution concepts. By using already accessible resources, nothing needs to be added from outside the system to achieve good results.
    A novice inventor should create a list of all available system resources with the aid of the following table. It is easer to find a solution once the resources are clearly defined.

     Table of S-Field Resources
    Internal System  Product Sp1, Sp2, ... Spn Fp1, Fp2, ... Fpn
    Internal System  Tool St1, St2, ... Stn Ft1, Ft2, ... Ftn
    External System Supersystem Ss1, Ss2, ... Ssn Fs1, Fs2, ... Fsn
    External System Environment Se1, Se2, ... Sen Fe1, Fe2, ... Fen
    External System By-product Sb1, Sb2, ... Sbn Fb1, Fb1, ... Fbn

    When reviewing the list of resources, it is important to look for a resource's latent properties and functions that can be utilized to solve the problem.
    To solve a difficult problem, sometimes the necessary resource can often be found inside the system.

    Very often buttons on our clothes quickly tear off because attaching thread is worn. How can the buttons be safe from chafing? How can the lifetime of sewed buttons (especially for outer clothing) be increased? Resources!

    A small bevel (created by a drill, screwdriver or penknife) forms sharp edges in the buttonholes and keeps the thread from strong friction and fast wear, and increases the button's lifetime. Our resource in this case is a simple modification of the hole's shape.
    Another available resource for this problem – without the use of special tools – is to wind the same thread coil in one layer around the hole's edge before sewing the button to the clothes. This layer removes wear from friction between the hole's edge and the thread, and the button will last a long time. In this case, you use the already existing substance resource (thread) of the system for solving the problem.

    What types of resources are used in problem solving? The resources can be classified as substances, energy, space, time, functions, information and combined resources.

    The substance resources are all substances used in the analyzed system and the external environment.

    What if the voltage of your battery is low and your flashlight shines poorly?
    Don't be in a rush to throw out a battery with reduced voltage! Take it out and strongly compress it across the middle with a stone, door or hammer so that a deep dent engirds the middle part of the battery (see picture). Then insert the crumpled battery into the flashlight and light will be provided for several more hours. Operating conditions for the electrolytic system inside the battery has been changed and residual resources will now be used completely.

    The energy resources are all known energies and fields (electrical, electromagnetic, thermal fields, etc.). These resources are already present in the system or in its external environment.

    How can you raise the heating efficiency of a central heater with existing resources and without increasing the heater's temperature and overall dimensions?

    Attach aluminum foil between the wall and central heater. This improves the heating efficiency due to the reflection of the heat off the aluminum.

    The space resources are found in an unoccupied space or "hollow," that can be used for changing the initial system's efficiency and functionality.

    How can a key be used to open a bottle top without using the original key?

    Use the key's space resources! The key for the bottle top will be always available if we make a notch in the key as shown in the picture.

    The time resources are the time prior to the beginning of some main production process and the times between separate stages of the production process. Both of those intervals can be used for improving the basic operation of the system.

    The finest dust is very difficult to remove from a carpet by a vacuum cleaner. What to do?

    Use time resources before vacuuming. The finest dust can be removed more easily if the carpet is first sprayed with an antistatic pulverizer. Antistatic substance neutralizes the static electrical charge of the dust and removes its adhesion to the carpet.

    The functional resources are using known functions of the object for a different purpose or for detecting a new function in the system. Carrying out additional functions after changes is also a functional resource. The application of different features for a new function of the same resource can create new inventions.

    The pencil can be used as a writing element. This is one property – and one function – of the pencil. But the same pencil has other unusual and useful features that serve as resources for solving difficult problems at home.
    The lead of the pencil has the property of low friction and can restore a faucet's rotation ease between shower and tub settings in the bathroom. The pencil can remove squeaking of door hinges, lubricate the wheels of a carriage or improve sliding of a curtain holder. The pencil lead also has a good electro and thermo conductivity.

    How can you prevent an electric light bulb fusing to its socket and allow for easy unscrewing without risking breaking off the bulb from the screw cap?
    Before twisting the light bulb into the socket, rub the cap thread with the pencil's graphite. The anti-fusing property of the pencil lead is the important resource in this example.

    How can you prevent jamming, decrease friction and improve the work of a metal zipper without any structural changes?
    Use the pencil! In order to lighten the work of the metal zipper, pass a soft pencil across the zipper several times. The graphite serves as a good solid lubricant.

    How can you test a plug on a working car engine without unscrewing the plug?
    Sharpen the pencil on both ends. In the middle of the pencil, make a (approx 3mm) cut and remove a piece of the pencil as shown in the picture. One pencil's end touches ground the other touches the plug's electrode. If the plug has a good spark, it will jump through the 3mm air gap in the gap of the pencil. The pencil's resources can be used like an electric indicator.

    The information resources are usually used in solving problems on measuring, detection and separation. Therefore, information resources are data on parameters of substance, fields, or change of properties or object. The more differences between substances are observed, the more efficiently they can be measured or detected.

    How do you detect a break in broken wire without cutting the wire and removing the insulation layer?
    You need to connect something through the wire, such as a lamp or iron. Then turn on radio set to middle wave band. Then take the broken wire in both hands and run your fingers over the wire from its beginning to the end. When you touch the place of the break in the wire, a crack is heard from the radio set. You changed the contact conditions of the wire break and therefore changed the electromagnet field that the radio set detects.

    The combined resources are the combination of all previously-described prime resources. An important point of resource utilization is the application of the properties of substances which can be changed under some influence. Sometimes, there is no resource in the system with the required property for solving the problem. Without changing the existing substances in the system. For example, a liquid can become a solid substance and vice versa, iron can become a magnet, and a solid substance can change size under heating or cooling.

    How do you straighten a crumpled flask or container with only water during winter?
    Fill the container completely with water and leave it open outside. The water will freeze inside the container; ice will expand and straighten the deformed walls.

    In TRIZ, the following order is used to achieve the maximum result with the minimum of charges of substance-field resources (SFR):

    In the last step, the "product" must be the unchanged element of the system. The eliminations arise when the "product" can:

    Use these groups with the following recommendation: consider using simple resources of the conflicting pair "tool-product" and system in general. If this is impossible, then try derivatives from prime resources. The last resort is to use a complex resource.
    It is important to consider "free charge resources" such as: modification of shape, change of dimensions, change of material and change of inter-disposition of elements. These modifications don't require significant changes and save the structure of the system.
    How do you use resources for problem solving? Use the following short workflow for resources and utilization examples:
    1. Formulate the problem
    2. Compose list of resources in the next order: internal, external, of by-product and complex
    3. Define the resources needed for solving the problem
    4. Estimate quantity of existing resources and effects from their utilization
    5. Propose use of found resources

    1. Problem: Is it possible to increase the efficiency of a fireplace without making any inner reconstruction?
    2. Brick firewall, fire, hot-air conductivity system, fuel, convection air current, ambient chilly air, atmospheric pressure, gravitational field, geomagnetic field.
    3. Increase heat transport ability.
    4. Convection air current and convective heat transfer are good free resources.
    5. Solution: It is known that the fireplace makes air in the room warmer according to the convective heat transfer. The air in the room will get significantly warmer if the metal sheet with little rails on the edges is attached on the side of the fireplace. Air will heat much more quickly in the narrow space between the heating device and the metal sheet. Hot air will come out of the top while cold air will come out from the bottom of the metal sheet.

    Utilization of system resources of is a powerful TRIZ tool for problem solving. Exploring and applying existing resources for system improvement provides excellent possibilities for approaching the ideal solution without additional expenses.


    TRIZ recommends using the internal, external, by-product and complex substance-field resources of the existing system during problem solving. This meets the requirements of an ideal system and leads to strong solutions with minimal reconstructions as the best result.

    Practical Work

    Quiz: What kinds of resources are used in the problem solving process described below?

    Problem: How can you make a hole with a 20mm diameter in fiberboard or plaster without a drill?
    The cap from a bottle of lemonade or beer is a good substitute for a drill in this situation. Fix the stopper, put it on the bolt and fasten it with two lock-nuts. The "drill" is ready for work.

    Problem: How can you keep your hands clean without protective rubber gloves when working with dust, paint, glue and engine oil?
    Before starting the dirty job, take care of your hands. Cover your hands with soap – don't wash them off – let them dry out. When you finish the dirty work your hands will be easy to wash off with the "soap glove."


    Three Home Problems for TRIZ Resources Application

    Energy Consumption Problem
    How can you prevent your goods from defrosting in the refrigerator if you are away during a current interruption? Additionally, how can you lessen energy consumption by the refrigerator?

    Cleaning Narrow Area
    Sometimes it is hard to get rid of the dust collected in the corners and narrow areas. How can you increase the efficiency of your vacuum in tricky areas while using only the vacuum cleaner's resources?

    Light's Life Time
    How do you increase the lifetime of minimal light without using any complicated devices?

    About the Author:

    Val Kraev is the chief TRIZ officer of the Technical Innovation Center in Worcester, MA, USA, and has contributed several very valuable case studies to The TRIZ Journal. Contact Val Kraev at kraev (at) or visit

    Copyright © 2006-2011 –, CTQ Media. All Rights Reserved
    Reproduction Without Permission Is Strictly Prohibited – Request Permission

    Publish an Article: Do you have a innovation tip, learning or case study?
    Share it with the largest community of Innovation professionals, and be recognized by your peers.
    It's a great way to promote your expertise and/or build your resume. Read more about submitting an article.