Process Functional Modeling with the PRIZ Innovation Hub
We always talk about solving problems and improving processes of an operation, a part of a bigger process. This is great! In fact, it is always encouraged to break the bigger, more complex process into smaller pieces so we can simplify the problem we are working on. However, this approach may create another issue. The engineers working on a problem, especially in large complex processes, might end up diving into the wrong operation of the process. In this article, we introduce the newly released tool in the PRIZ Innovation Platform that is built to help engineers look at the whole process holistically. This tool is called Process Functional Modeling (PFM).
Before we dive into how to use the PFM tool, let’s start with some definitions so we are all on the same page, and we’ll start with the Fabrication System (for simplicity, we’ll call it a System). A system is built to create a product. We can present any system using a very simple diagram:
Energy feeds the fabrication, and the fabrication creates a product.
Energy is anything needed for the fabrication to create the product: raw materials, electricity, chemicals, information, etc.
Fabrication is a system built to convert energy into a product: manufacturing equipment, computers, processes, groups of people, etc.
Product is the carrier of value created by fabrication to satisfy a customer: food, clothes, electronic components, devices, software, knowledge, etc.
A fabrication always consists of sequential production steps (AKA operations)
Many processes, particularly in the manufacturing world, can be extremely long and complex. There are many questions when operating such systems. How do we analyze the process flow? Which operation is the main contributor to the value elevation of the product? Who do we find which operation is the most problematic and needs improvement or elimination? And many others… Process Functional Modeling (PFM) helps to answer all of these questions.
Process Functional Modeling (PFM)
PFM is an analytical tool to learn the process through modeling different operations, solving problems, and defining ways for improvement. Although we are usually not trying to push for a specific flow when it comes to how to use a tool, with PFM, we would offer to follow the proposed flow as much as possible to save some time. Keep in mind, since we are analyzing the entire fabrication process in this case, the analysis might be much longer than in any other tool offered in the PRIZ Platform.
Phase I: Learn the fabrication process
In order to build and visualize the whole process, we need to know it, right? In this phase, we should describe the fabrication process at a high level. That includes components of the energy, products, and main production steps. Use pictures, sketches, and any information that may help understand the manufacturing process.
Phase II: Map the manufacturing process flow
Create the manufacturing process flow is always a linear chain of sequential operations. Suppose ramifications of the flow are needed due to reworks, waste treatment, etc… In that case, additional linear flow chains should be created and analyzed separately because each branch has its own product (target).
Phase III: Define operations type
Before we continue, we want to define the types of operations we mapped in the previous phase. There are 4 types of operation:
Productive – an operation that results in irreversible changes of parameters. These operations add value to the product.
Providing – an operation that results in temporary changes of parameters. These operations do not add value to the product.
Corrective – an operation that changes parameters to eliminate unwanted characteristics. These operations may add value to fulfill the previous operation.
Metrology – an operation that measures parameters. These operations do not add value to the product.
Once this phase is completed, we can visualize the full end-to-end structure of our process. Here, we want to highlight something very interesting. Unfortunately, many high-tech manufacturing processes contain no more than 20% of Productive operations. For instance, the typical operations type share for microchip manufacturing can be presented in the following chart. The share of Productive operations is only about 16%.
This analysis helps to formulate the main direction of the improvement. We should target the increase of productive operations share.
At this stage, we can make strategic decisions on process improvement.
Phase IV: Create a Functional Model of operations
In all the previous phases, we visualized the whole process holistically at a high level. Sometimes people call it a wide and shallow view of the process. In this phase, we need to start diving deep into every operation.
Each operation is originally built to create a certain product. An operation is performed by a system that consists of a number of components. These components interact with each other within the system and supersystem to create the product. The interactions between components are called functions. And the mapping of all the components and their functions is known as System Functional Modeling (SFM).
In general, there is no hard requirement to create a function model for every operation, though it is very useful. You can decide which operations should be analyzed with Functional Modeling. For instance, the modeling of metrology operations can be skipped.
The result of the Functional Modeling for different operations allows us to define each operation’s functional and problematic levels. Using this information, we can make a decision on which operation we should work on to improve (or sometimes eliminate) in order to achieve the best process improvement.
This phase is for tactic decisions for the process improvement
PRIZ Innovation platform offers the Process Functional Modeling tool that is easy to use. It offers an intuitive interface for process flow mapping, functional modeling of different operations, automatic calculation and documentation, and reporting.