technical problems are an everyday experience, and vary from extremely complex to
relatively simple. In approaching technical problems in the food industry it is necessary
to recognize that there are often more than one answer to the problem and that not all
technically correct answers are feasible in commercial practice. For an example, a
solution that may be technically correct can not be implemented because it is contrary to
the marketing strategy for the product or that the solution may require greater capitol
expenditure than is economically feasible.
In today's industrial climate, problem solving generally utilizes teams of
people with different backgrounds and expertise to bring to bear on problems that often
cross over formation, processing, manufacturing, distribution and marketing.
In a team environment it is well to remember:
Everyone has potential as a problem solver
- All people are creative and each has something to contribute
- Everyone on the team must approach the problem with a positive
attitude, and with tolerance for others ideas
- Avoid developing patterns that block the problem solving process
- Reserve judgment until all the facts are gathered.
- Engender an environment that promotes ideation and lateral thinking.
- Work from the individual strengths of the members of the team.
- Each team will develop its own method to maximize success through experience
There are four general steps in problem solving:
- Problem definition
- Fact finding and analysis
- Ideation and solution finding
- Solution(s) evaluation and implementation
Product Defects Submitted by Students
The initial statement of the problem generally does not in fact define the
problem. A problem that appears to be one thing can turn out to be another.
- Review the background of the problem
- Visit the literature
- Talk to others who are familiar with similar problems
- Go over all of the elements of the problem several times to a get a total
- Develop a line of questioning that will aid in defining the problem
- Suspend judgment recognize that once a judgment is made that thinking stops.
- As you get more information, redefine the problem. It may be necessary to
redefine the problem many times. [It is always a temptation to latch on to a specific
point and stop thinking -- for once have made a judgment, the tendency is not to look any
Fact finding has different objectives in technical problem solving
- Fact finding to define the problem
- Fact finding to determine probable cause(s)
- Fact finding to build a background of knowledge about the given problem
- Fact finding to develop solutions
Fact finding can involve a number of different approaches, which include:
- Use of library resources
- Use of "experts" in the field
- Use of experience in solving similar problems
- Use of the different expertise of the different members of the team
- Use of the Internet
- Developing questions to ask the industry representative as a basis for problem
dentition and most probable cause(s).
There are questions that apply to all technical problems -- such as:
- Is the problem new? Is it sporadic, or does it occur with all the product?
- What changes have you made in the (process, distribution, packaging, etc)?
- Can you relate the problem to any specific customer?
With experience, you will develop a line of questioning that you will use with
all problems that you encounter.
Ideation and Solution Finding:
After making sure that you have defined the problem, the next step is to make
up a list of all of the possible causes -- remembering that there can be many possible
Ideation is the process of brainstorming and getting as many ideas as possible.
This is most often down in a group setting, making sure to maximize the input of all
members of the group.
Recognize the factors that can deter problem solving in a group setting -
- Prejudgment is allowed
- Preplanning is not done
- Group dynamics are not understood
- A single individual is allowed to dominate the meeting
- Too many side tracts or distractions occur
- Criticism occurs - either directly or indirectly
- Not recognizing that everyone has something to contribute
For effective ideation:
- Do your homework first -- get as many facts together as you can beforehand
- Make notes
- Make a check list as you go
- Try to develop lateral thinking -- always try another angle, even when it does
not seem relevant
- If you are getting nowhere, try a new approach
- Take a break when you get stuck
For effective teamwork, each member needs to:
- Be a good listener
- Withhold criticism
- Be considerate of all others
- Give credit where credit is due
- Avoid domination
- Show interest and appreciation of the views of others
- Give reasoning behind the suggestions that you make
- Be positive
- Be consistent
A Stepwise Approach to Problem Solving:
Orientation -define the problem
Preparation -gather the facts, know the product, understand the process
Redefine the problem -may be more than once
Analysis -divide into workable units
Ideation -brainstorming, looking at many different avenues
Define solutions -now is the time to be practical
Evaluation -now is the time to be objective
Recommendation -prioritize suggestions, best suggestion first
Report -the final step, make it concise and meaningful