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March 6, 2010

Creative Problem Solving

Filed under: Aquaponics — Tags: , , — Marcus @ 8:07 am

I have a routine problem in my Aquaponic unit, the lines pump lines that take water from the fish tank up to the grow beds get all kinds of gunk in them until they pretty much shut off, I have to remove the lines and clean them about every 2-3 months.

Now if you had water lines made out of flexible 3/8 inch plastic how would you clean them? Normally I just run water backwards though them from the faucet in the shower and then flex the hose while I am doing it, it takes a little while and works well enough, but it doesn’t really clean them all that well. As always while I am doing this I was trying to think of a better way of doing it, and today I came across a better solution.

Use a gun cleaning kit, I already had several, when I tried it this morning it took all of about 2 minutes to clean the lines and it did a way better job which means I probably won’t have to clean the lines as often.

So I have a better solution now, I should just keep using that right? Well there is no reason why I would have to do anything better, this solution works really well, but I am sure that every 6 months now when I have to clean the lines I will be trying to think of a better way to do it, always refine your methods.

I titled this post “Create Problem Solving” because I run into things like this all the time both at work and at home, and a lot of people I run across never seem to stand back, really look at the issue and try to come up with a better solution. The best people I work with when they come across a problem they don’t just keep doing things the same way, they know there is a better way that just needs found, whereas many other people just get stuck on a problem and wait for someone else to think of a better solution.

When I come across a problem like this I have a basic way of working through it

  1. Describe the problem
  2. Why is this a problem?
  3. Is there an easy way to correct part of the problem?
  4. What is the root cause of the problem?

Just the simple act of going through these steps sometimes will reveal an answer, sometimes it will provide a path to the answer, sometimes it doesn’t do anything to help with coming up with an answer (Normally because the answer is outside of your control). But I have yet to have this process hinder finding an answer. And even if you don’t get an answer to your problem, you will most likely get a better understanding of the process, so when you go to get help from either a coworker or tech support or whatever you will be able to communicate the problem better.

So to apply this to the issue with the lines from my Aquaponics this is how I would have answered the questions:

  1. Describe the problem: The water lines on the Aquaponics get plugged up and need cleaned often.
  2. Why is this a problem? When they get plugged up, the water can’t flow fast enough and then my grow beds will fill with water but never be able to trigger the siphon to drain the grow beds like they need.
  3. Is there an easy way to correct part of the problem? If I had something I could push through the water line it would clean it out faster and better.
  4. What is the root cause of the problem? There are two issues, #1 excess fish food gets sucked up and sticks in the water pipe, #2 algae builds up because the lines are clear.

So now you see how I arrived at my better fix of using the gun cleaning kit, and also I now know the path to solving the issue with the water lines.

Until next time…

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