Why Disposable Oil Filters?

FIRST, THE MATH — Each year, Americans drive 2.5 trillion miles in their cars. Their engines are lubricated with oil and all of that oil is filtered with disposable oil filters. Those filters use paper to collect impurities and are disposed of every 3,000–5,000 miles, adding up to over 400 million each year. Each disposed filter contains on average 6 ounces of spent oil and impurities — that’s 7,500,000 quarts of trashed oil every year!

NEXT, THE ANALYSIS — All those spent filters go to landfills or are recycled. Neither alternative is attractive. But the alternatives do suggest a number of the 10 Signposts of Innovation we identified in our writing, In Search of Innovative Problems. These signposts point to areas where disruptive product and service ideas reside. When multiple signposts appear, they are typically indicators of significant unrecognized problems. Uncovering and solving these hard-to-find problems can be particularly rewarding for the businesses looking to disrupt industries and establish new leadership positions.

The Signposts here are numerous — oil filters haven’t fundamentally changed in a century (Signpost #1); they are swapped out and trashed regularly by millions of users (Signpost #2); they contain hard-to-dispose-of paper filters and spent oil and most of the time, the oil running through your engine runs through a bypass valve and doesn’t even get filtered (Signposts # 3 and #10); they clog in operation and reduce engine performance (Signposts #5 and #8); they can’t be reused if you change vehicles (Signpost #6); and overall they chip away at one’s basic need for efficient transportation (Signpost #9).

NOW, THE SOLUTION — A small company called Lifetime Oil Filter has developed exactly what you’d expect a company with that name to develop — an all-stainless steel filter called HUBB. HUBB has a stainless housing and primary and secondary filters that are micro-woven 316L surgical stainless steel mesh. The mesh captures debris without clogging, greatly improving engine efficiency and mileage. The filter is designed to be removed, disassembled and cleaned with biodegradable soap every 10,000 miles and then put back into the car. The company will even swap out your filter if you don’t want to clean it (we recommend you don’t drive until you get the replacement!). All this and the HUBB filter has an expected life of 50 years.

You can learn more about innovative problems and problem seeking at our Innovation Nation publication on Medium, where you can learn more about Innovative Problems and our process for making everyone PROBLEM SEEKERS.

© Brian Leitten & Bradley Strock 2015

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