2015-08-22

Success stories

STORY / 1

PRETIUM VENTURES 5,7 M SAVINGS

Fast facts

Challenge: to develop a technology to reduce the cost of producing acetic acid.

Solution: a team of three experienced scientists used TRIZ Inventive Principles and found ways to eliminate essential contradiction.

Results: 1. Technology offers the opportunity to significantly reduce operating and capital cost. 2. For a world scale acetic acid plant an energy savings of $3.7 million is possible. 3. Savings of raw materials is about $2 million. 4. The capital cost for a new world scale plant can be reduced by up to $16 million. 5.The total worldwide licensing potential for the technology is $200 million.

In detail

Challenge: Pretium Ventures wanted to develop a technology to reduce the cost of producing acetic acid. The acetic acid process uses rhodium, a very expensive catalyst. However, the rhodium is unstable at the reactor conditions and precipitates, increasing the cost of the process. Water is added to stabilize the rhodium but high energy costs are incurred to remove the water. In addition, the water reacts with one of the feed components to produce CO2, an undesired byproduct. Finally, the water makes the reactor liquid very corrosive, so much of the equipment must be made of a very expensive and exotic metal such a zirconium.

Solution: a team of three experienced scientists used the system of Inventive Principles to find ways to address the following contradiction: water should be present to stabilize the rhodium but water should not be present to lower energy costs, reduce corrosion and reduce byproducts.

The team was able to identify functional alternatives to water that resolved the contradiction. A patent application was filed and has been granted in one jurisdiction. The three scientists participating have over 120 years of combined experience and over 50 patents to their credit in the field or organic chemistry. One of the scientists said, “I have been working in the specialized field of rhodium catalysis for over 35 years and in all that time, I never thought of this idea.”

Results: Pretium Ventures acetic acid technology offers the opportunity to significantly reduce operating and capital cost. For a world scale acetic acid plant an energy savings of $3.7 million is possible and savings of raw materials is about $2 million. The capital cost for a new world scale plant can be reduced by up to $16 million. The total worldwide licensing potential for the technology is $200 million.

STORY / 2

TRW CAPTURED NEW BUSINESS

Challenge: high performance and added features made the TRW’s system too expensive for the market.

Solution: use TRIZ to generate technical solutions to cost problems without degrading performance.

Result: by implementing 68 ideas into various subsystems of the product TRW was able to capture the initial $1+ Billion contract.The product became easier to assemble and had improved reliability. Applying those same ideas to systems sold to other customers, captured more business and doubled their sales.

In detail

Challenge: TRW Automotive needed to reduce the cost of its electric steering system in order to capture new automotive vehicle platform business at one of the major car manufacturers. This represented an opportunity of over $1 Billion of new business. The customer acknowledged that TRW was the technical leader and provided the best combination of features and performance, but lower prices from competitors put landing the business in jeopardy. TRW needed to reduce its costs 25% to be assured of the business. The sourcing decision date was fast approaching, and with little time to act, and such an aggressive target, it looked as though we would miss out on this significant business expansion opportunity.

Solution: As the Director of Value Engineering, I saw an opportunity to use TRIZ problem solving tools to land the business by putting together a credible, realistic cost down program backed by a series of concrete, workable ideas. I assembled a cross functional team of experts from the product group and conducted a study of the roadblocks to reduced costs, and generate ideas to overcome them. Through analysis of the systems and application of a set of Inventive Principles (illustrations of how similar problems were solved in similar situations in the past) a list of ideas were generated. These ideas were evaluated, and categorized as to their cost down potential and implementation timing. The best ideas were examined further for feasibility, patentability, investment requirement, and customer acceptance before being submitted to the final cost down list. Within just a few weeks, 68 ideas were presented to the customer along with projected timing for incorporation into the product.

Result: The customer was so impressed with the detailed list of ideas, project timing, and level of commitment shown by TRW, that TRW was awarded the $1+ Billion multi-year contract. TRW was able to resolve the contradiction that high performance and added features produces high costs, and provided the customer with a high value system. The ideas resulted in a system with fewer parts, which were easier to assemble, and had increased reliability and durability. The design changes were applied to products sold to other customers, allowing the company to capture much more business – in effect doubling their sales over the course of just a few years.