Problem solving | Efficiency drivers - New Civil Engineering Magazine

Problem solving | Efficiency drivers

BY NADINE BUDDOO


The concept of a problem solving “toolkit” is enough to make even the least cynical among us sigh in exasperation. It is difficult not to baulk at the use of buzzwords like innovation and continuous improvement, but civils projects are increasingly being pervaded by these terms.

Clients are progressively turning to business tools, like Lean and Six Sigma, to increase efficiencies and successfully deliver projects.

A prime example is the work currently underway at Highways England. In 2009, the organisation established a Lean team, tasked with improving engagement with the supply chain.

Highways England uses TRIZ

TOTAL SYNERGY 

“In 2013, we also commenced engagement with our internal colleagues, so now we have total synergy where we’re deploying Lean as an integrated team with suppliers and internal staff,” says Highways England technical leader for supply chain Lean deployment Neal Symmons.

“In April 2015, we became a government company and we’ve been charged with delivery of the Roads Investment Strategy. A key element of that is delivering £1.212bn of efficiency savings. The Lean team has identified within its strategy that we can commit to contribute £250M in savings.”

So what makes the organisation so confident that the Lean approach can help it deliver these savings? “Lean is about continuous improvement and making the business better,” explains Symmons. 

“The four major players in ‘continuous improvement’ are Lean, Six Sigma, Total Productive Maintenance and Triz. Lean is a structured technique to solve problems. Triz is a structured innovation technique to come up with ideas. And that is how the two dovetail.”

UK Highways England - using TRIZ to develop Lean Deployment

With Lean, it’s pretty basic stuff, but we define the problem, measure the current situation, assess and analyse what’s happening, and put an improvement plan in place, then control and roll it out

Neal Simmons, Highways England

When challenged with solving a problem, says Symmons, most people do not use a structured technique, but instead rely on a “gut solution”. “With Lean, it’s pretty basic stuff, but we define the problem, measure the current situation, assess and analyse what’s happening, and put an improvement plan in place, then control and roll it out. That’s the structured approach to problem solving.”

However, Symmons admits that the Lean tools can prove insufficient when it comes to the “improvement” phase of the approach. “In that ‘improve’ section I know that we can always do better in the world of Lean. That’s where TRIZ comes in. It’s a toolkit that makes you think differently. It really makes you think outside of the box,” he says.

In order to hone its deployment of the TRIZ system, Highways England has been working with Oxford Creativity over the last 18 months. The firm, founded by former mechanical engineer Karen Gadd, has trained and educated engineers and scientists around the world to help them master the structured problem solving techniques that form the TRIZ toolkit.

Read the full article on New Civil Engineer website >>



Oxford Creativity

Learn TRIZ

Oxford Creativity

Why Use Us

Oxford Creativity

Events