Application of TRIZ on the COVID-19 situation

2020-03-31

From the moment the lockdown was announced in the country (as they did in many other countries), most of us have been working from home, doing balancing acts between work, home, grocery shopping and taking care of kids’ needs. Dr. Shankar gave me a call and proposed that we don’t take this one lying down, but taking it chin up. Hence, we worked on applying TRIZ on the situation of people like us, who are in similar situations.

The Beginning

  • Mask on
  • Sanitizer loaded
  • 1m personal distance maintained
  • No personal vehicle out

Last 15 minutes, Junior and the Wife have been giving instructions on the do’s and don’t’s, while I had been spraying every possible spray and taking down all “reliable” health medications and grandma prescriptions. Now, I was all set to face the post-apocalyptic world like how Max Rockatansky from Mad Max:Fury Road faced.

Figure 1: Scene from Mad Max:Fury Road where Tom Hardy plays Max. This is how I felt with a mask on and facing the post-apocalyptic world.

Figure 1: Scene from Mad Max:Fury Road where Tom Hardy plays Max. This is how I felt with a mask on and facing the post-apocalyptic world.

Post this, there was the patient waiting in line. I was desperate to chit chat with people since I hadn’t seen many people other than my wife and kid for a while now. I was all set for a long drawn conversation. However, everyone was masked and somehow I felt that the situation was not conversation friendly.

I had a long road ahead before I got into the store to get all the items in my huge list. No one to talk to, but myself. I reckoned I had at least half an hour to go. What was I to do?

The Call

As if on cue, my phone rang and boy was I glad to hear my friend’s voice.

Shankar

That’s when he told me about the need to work on people like me and see if this analysis helps us out.

This is what he told me:

Most of us are working from home (WFH) now and you are a veteran in this space. There are some of my colleagues, who have to be physically present at work and manage certain essential services. I have tried to analyze various problems faced at my Home and at my Work-place during this time of crisis. The primary objective is to minimize exposure and risk and at the same time get our jobs done.

Hmmm… I looked around myself. Minimize exposure risk. I thought I heard someone cough. I looked around and stared at the guy behind me. He was busy staring at his phone. No mask, violating the one metre rule, vehicle key in hand (a Suzuki car keychain), no visible sanitizer.

Oh, he was my anti-thesis. I stared at this guy for the longest time possible.

Shankar’s voice over the phone made me break my stare with “the guy”.

“We need to formulate a contradiction,” Shankar said.

“Let me call you back” I said and I hung up. I was about to give a piece of my mind to “the guy” when my turn came up.

@Home

We had to narrow the situation down to what I did just now:

To procure fresh supplies at home

The problem as we state is: (1) How to get healthy food prepared on a daily basis while we have limited access to fresh supplies ?

Conflict between Exposure to Person vs Produce

Our access to fresh supplies will depend on where we get the supplies. They could be outside, increasing the risk of personal exposure, while giving us control over exposure during delivery. Or we could choose to get the produce delivered at our doorstep, which reduces the risk of personal exposure, however, can make us wonder about the exposure of the produce during the delivery process.

The question to consider before we choose our problem from the contradiction is: what is our intended functionality?

Is it delivery of fresh produce? Or reducing risk of exposure?

Well, since there is so much stress on reducing risk of exposure, we will keep the functionality from the user point of view as Reducing risk of exposure

In which case the path to be taken is: Doorstep.

If we want the produce to be delivered at our doorstep, then the problem now is: How do we maintain control over exposure of produce during delivery?

If we mull over the problem, the problem broken down into its components:

How do we reduce the exposure during packaging, billing, loading(on to the delivery truck), offloading(at customer site) and delivery of the produce?

The one common way to tackle the delivery problem would have been drone delivery. Let’s persist with this line of thinking. The conflict becomes:

The problem now is: how do we deliver more capacity using drone delivery? The obvious solution will be to increase the power of the drone to delivery more packages.

Now, we have a weight vs capacity problem. We next looked up the contradiction matrix on the TRIZ 40 website (http://triz40.com/TRIZ_GB.php).

Feature to improve: The quantity of substance (26) Feature that worsens as a result: Weight of moving object (1)

The first principle that popped up was 35 - parameter change (along with Universality(6), Mechanical Vibration(18), Porous Material(31)).

Shankr gave this idea: Use modular drones. Single drones for smaller objects and multiple drones for larger objects. (Also application of mono-bi-poly trend, but who’s dissecting?)

I know, I know. We introduced a new element into the system called drone, so now we have to step back and remove the drone from the picture. Excellent!

We realized that the current vehicles have a great capacity. It is the last mile that may be a problem. We could have autonomous vehicles for last mile delivery. It could be a carriage or attachment to an existing truck, thus utilizing the high capacity of vehicles.

Limitations:

  1. Single package: How can we load many packages/trolleys?
  2. Readiness: How can we make delivery vehicles ready for such an attachment?
  3. Tariff model: How can we charge the customer for this added feature?

The End

Shankar and I ran out of steam. We realized we need more heads and eyes to solve this problem and to look at it from various other angles. That’s when Shankar thought it would be a great idea to post it on LinkedIn for interested parties to contribute. If you have read this far, I am assuming you are a motivated soul and hence would like to see your contribution here - https://www.linkedin.com/posts/shankarvenugopal_innovative-solutions-covid-activity-6649009445261152256-4uCR.

Hang on, there’s more.

Children (2) How to keep the children effectively engaged for long hours - education, entertainment, house chores etc ? Work from home (3) How to work from home with an efficiency equal to or better than the workplace ?

@Work (1) How to get the employees from home to work & back safely ? (2) How to protect the employees from exposure while they are at Work ? (3) How to effectively connect the employees at work-place and those working from home ?

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