Thursday, December 04, 2014

Invention of the Day: the Tea Bag

In our book, Scalable Innovation, Max Shtein and I introduce the concept of Packaged Payload, an element of the system that encapsulates an essential ingredient — mass, energy, information — that moves within the system. The Packaged Payload is critically important for the functioning of the system.

Paradoxically, most people don't see it in their everyday lives because engineers do a good job at hiding the functionality. For example, we can't see AC electricity because it's securely insulated within the wires. Also, we can't see data packages because they are transmitted over wireless connections. We can't see ocean shipping containers either because we buy products in retail, not in bulk.

Explaining the Packaged Payload to students and inventors can be a challenge; therefore, Max Shtein and I are always on the lookout for good examples. Today Max sent me several pictures — a Packaged Payload galore, as he called it — that make the concept easier to grasp. For example, in the picture above you can see chocolate milk and tea packaged in single-shot bags.

Remarkably, the tea bag was invented more than 100 years ago (US Patent 723, 287), but it got popular relatively recently when a new system of fast-food establishments, e.g. McDonald's restaurants, Starbucks Coffee shops, and others became a common place.

US Patent 723, 287, issued March, 1903.

The tea bag represents the Packaged Payload in a food distribution system. Similarly, many other food items are available for one-time use. All of them are standardized for mass production, delivery, and dispensation (see below).

Thank you, Max!

tags: packaged payload, distribution, system, example

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