Functional modeling is probably the most powerful problem-solving tool available for us as engineers. The tool is applicable to both sudden, unpredictable deviations (AKA excursions) and for solving chronic problems.
Functional modeling benefits us in a number of things. Here, however, we want to highlight just some of them.
There is a straightforward process and specific steps that we need to follow in order to build a functional model and achieve desired results:
The “product” is what the engineering system was originally designed for or to produce. Most engineering systems have only one product.
The Main Function (Action) of the system can help us to define the Product:
A car is designed to move a person, which means that the main function of a car is to move. The product of a car is a person.
In this case, the product, PERSON, covers everything that might be a product in this system. But, in some cases, we can concentrate on some specific parts of the system depending on the goals of the investigation. For instance, if we want to improve the engine effectiveness and reduce pollution, we can take CO2 content as a product. If we need to reduce waring of tires, we can assign a rubber residue remaining on the road as a product.
Another example is a drill. One can say that the product of the drill is a hole. Generally, it is correct, but not very useful for problem solving and improvements. It would be much useful to assign sawdust as a product. This way, by analyzing sawdust, we can solve problems and innovate much more effectively.
But typically, the product is an object that the system was designed for.
It is important to mention that a product does not belong to the system.
The components are all physical components (parts) of the system. In the case of a car: wheels, body, engine, seats, etc.
Components that contribute to the main function of a system but do not belong to the system are considered supersystem. Following our example: air, pollutions, rain, etc.
In some cases, components of the system can also be assigned as a supersystem if we are not willing to modify these components.
A function is an action between two parts of a system (any parts), between a subject and an object. A function exists if the subject changes a parameter of the object:
If I am dreaming about a glass of beer, this is not a function, because no parameter of the beer is changed.
I am drinking beer – the function exists because I (subject) change the parameter (volume) of beer (object). Also, beer has a function to me: in this case, the beer changes my parameter – it makes me happy.
There are two contradicting types of functions: useful and harmful. A useful function can also be insufficient or excessive. The different types of functions are described below:
Useful function – when the action leads to an expected change of parameter of an object
Insufficient function – is a useful function, but when the parameter change is below the expectation
Excessive function – is a useful function, but when the parameter change is above the expectation
Harmful function – when the action causes an unexpected (against expectations and potentially harmful) parameter change on an object
The main purpose of the functional modeling is to connect all the components including supersystem and product, with arrows (functions). Keep in mind that a function exists if a parameter of the object is changed.
A sample of a functional model is shown below:
Once the functional model is ready, both functional and problem rank are calculated for each component of the system. These ranks allow us:
PRIZ Innovation Platform offers Functional Modeling as one of the creative thinking tools.
The process of a Functional Model is straightforward and easy to use. The calculation of the functional and problem ranks is completed automatically and appears in form of easy to read bar chart.
A sample from the platform is shown below.
Additional practical examples of Functional Modeling can be found in our previous articles:
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