Quality function deployment (QFD) is developed to transform the voice of the customer into engineering characteristics for a product.
What is QFD
QFD is a focused methodology for carefully listening to the voice of the customer and then effectively responding to those needs and expectations.
It was first developed in Japan in the late 1960s as a form of cause-and-effect analysis. It gained its early popularity as a result of numerous successes in the automotive industry.
In QFD, quality is a measure of customer satisfaction with a product or a service. QFD is a structured method that uses the seven management and planning tools. Hence, to identify and prioritize customers’ expectations quickly and effectively.
Beginning with the initial matrix, commonly termed the House of Quality, the QFD methodology focuses on the most important product or service attributes or qualities.
Once you have prioritized the attributes and qualities, QFD deploys them to the appropriate organizational function for action. Thus, QFD is the deployment of customer-driven qualities to the responsible functions of an organization.
Its Advantages and Disadvantages
Quality Function Deployment benefits companies primarily by ensuring they bring products to market that customers actually want. Thanks to listening to customer preferences at the beginning of the design process. Which can prevent technology from driving strategy when it’s not directly beneficial to the customer experience.
Constantly and consistently circling back to the customer might seem like overkill. But it quickly identifies, and often cuts short, any activity that does not work toward the ultimate goal. That is, of providing products customers want to buy and use. And by limiting product development activities to just the things customers are asking for, the overall process is faster. At the same time more efficient and less expensive.
Collecting customer inputs and applying them throughout the product development process is such as cross-functional activity. Hence, it can also increase teamwork. Instead of competing with other internal priorities.
Disadvantages of QFD
QFD doesn’t come without its share of downsides. First of all, it can be a seismic change for some organizations. Particularly those with an established process primarily focused on profitability and cost reduction. QFD should ultimately result in both of those objectives as well as satisfied customers. Switching the primary motivation to customer satisfaction can be jarring and meet some resistance. Particularly if the company thinks it is already doing a great job with this.
The tunnel vision focus of QFD on the customer can also have some negative repercussions. That is if customer needs drive up product costs or delay technological innovations. That could benefit the company down the line. QFD’s customer focus also places a huge emphasis on survey results. Which if poorly designed or executed could push a company in the wrong direction. And also do not account for changes in customer needs and desires. That may emerge after the product design process has commenced.
How It Works
The Quality Function Deployment process begins with collecting input from customers (or potential customers), typically through surveys. The sample size for these surveys should be fairly significant. Because quantifiable data will carry more weight and avoid letting any outlier comments drive product strategy in the wrong direction.
After completing the surveys and aggregating the data, it is boiled down into the Voice of the Customer. These are then listed on the left-hand side of the House of Quality matrix. And represent what customers want the product to do.
From here, the technical requirements can be created. With each of them tying back to the Voice of the Customer items identified in the signature Quality Function Deployment matrix, the House of Quality. These Voice of the Customer items will continue to trickle down into other stages of product development and deployment. Hence, including component definition, process planning, and quality control.
When the product is “done,” the Voice of Customer requirements initially identified in the process should be clearly met. And the product can be released with the confidence that it is meeting the needs of customers.
Visual representations of market needs are key components of QFD. For instance, Six Sigma QFD requires the customer to document his needs and wants in his own words. So that a “House of Quality” matrix can be built. The customer meets with the manufacturer to prioritize requirements. So the manufacturer understands priorities. And can translate them into engineering and business process requirements.