ENVRIZ: A Methodology for Resolving Conflicts between Product Functionality and Environmental Impact

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Product development organizations are facing more pressure now than ever before to become sustainable. However, organizations are reluctant to compromise product functionality in order to create products that have less environmental impact than that required by regulations. Thus, engineers may face a conflict between improving product functionality and reducing environmental impact.

The design for environment (DfE) tools currently available are inadequate with respect to helping engineers determine how to resolve this conflict during the conceptual design phase. The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) which is based on Design by Analogy provides a promising conceptual design approach for this problem. Examples of products that simultaneously reduce environmental impact and improve product functionality can inspire engineers to do likewise.

This research consists of 1.) Finding products and patents that overcome a contradiction between product functionality and environmental impact; 2.) Analyzing and determining the functionality parameter, environmental parameter, and TRIZ principle demonstrated by each example; 3.) Organizing this knowledge into an accessible DfE tool (matrices); and 4.) Developing a methodology for using the tool. The combination of the tool and methodology is named ENVRIZ, a merge of environment and TRIZ.

After ENVRIZ was complete, an effectiveness study was completed to understand whether the new tool provided better solutions than TRIZ. Results of the study support that utilizing specific product examples from ENVRIZ provides better solutions compared to utilizing engineering principles from either ENVRIZ and TRIZ.

Although the use of the tool on its own does not guarantee a reduction in a product's overall sustainability, the ENVRIZ methodology provides design engineers with a useful conceptual design tool to help overcome contradictions between improving product functionality and reducing environmental impact. Moreover, despite the limited number of examples identified to date, this research provides a framework and prototype that can be extended to incorporate new solutions to these contradictions.