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Creative Problem Solving

Following is an expanded summary of a complete paper available on the TAPPI web site at On the page, click "the PLACE" in the section designated "Journals."

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Application: Creative approaches for solving problems in the converting industry can yield quick solutions.

This paper shows, by example, how creative approaches for problem solving found solutions quickly where recipe-based approaches did not. The examples include common converting problems such as baggy webs, wrinkles, and wound roll problems. What makes the approaches creative is not the methods or tools because they have had use elsewhere. Rather, the creativity comes from selecting the proper tools from dozens of possible tests or analyses and then ordering them to hone in most quickly on the physical problem that created the problem.

Formal Problem Solving
Formal problem solving steps may include: Defining the problem; Determining what factors influence behavior and thus the options; Deciding what options to do; and Doing the work. Formal methods may cause a hindrance. The linear thinking imposed by the structure does not adapt well to the dead-ends, reiteration, and fine-tuning that is often part of complex problem solving. The formal methods are often too insistent and too impatient to allow for the necessary homework or study. Without extensive homework, a decision may be nothing but an educated consensual guess or a shot-in-the-dark. The paper provides examples showing the solution of some complex problems in less than a day when techniques that are more common had failed completely. The examples involved roll edge quality, baggy edges, and wrinkling problems.

An Incorrigible Core
A new film plant could not make product without wrinkles in the wound roll. The three critical pieces of information were that the wrinkles happened on the winding roll, were worst at the start of the winding of the roll but disappeared after time, and occurred on the edges of the web. This is all the information necessary to determine the culprit. Properties of the film are not necessary nor are details of the winder.

The first step is to determine whether the problem lies more with material or machine using a separation technique. A line drawn immediately upstream of the first winder roller groups everything upstream of this line under the category of web maker and everything downstream as winding machine. Determining that the problem lies predominately with the winding machine, the next step is to subdivide the problem again into the two parts of the winde—the drum roller and the winding roll. The shape tool isolates the problem to a smile or frown shaped winding roll. Wrinkling theory indicates that wrinkles at an angle mean something is crooked. The wrinkling cause is a core bent in one direction on one side and symmetrically bent in the opposite direction on the other side.

Knowledge of the material characteristics did not play a significant role in the three distinctly different problems discussed in the paper. What was common to at least two of the three problems was a tree search (baggy edges and wrinkling), shape tool (baggy edges and wrinkling), and exaggeration (roll edge and baggy edges). Human interaction was vital to the roll edge problem since the operators possessed knowledge of the solutions. Keen observation was important in the wrinkling problem since the location, timing, and orientation of the wrinkle was necessary for application of the shape tools, roller, and wrinkling science.


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