Quality Function Deployment In A Nutshell

Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is a total quality management tool that systematically develops the needs and expectations of customers. Quality Function Deployment was developed by the Mitsubishi Corporation for defining shipbuilding requirements in the late 1960s. 

Understanding Quality Function Deployment

Given that ship construction is an enormously expensive process, Mitsubishi realized the importance of building a product to suit customer needs.

QFD was later adopted by General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, shortening design cycles and reducing the number of employees required during the design process. These companies were also the first to introduce a customer-centric focus to the car manufacturing industry – moving away from a fixation with the bottom line. In so doing, domestic vehicle sales increased on the back of greater innovation and customer satisfaction.

Implementing Quality Function Deployment

QFD is a four-phase process describing activities throughout the product development cycle.

Each phase is accompanied by a matrix called the House of Quality. This matrix translates customer needs to the design requirements for each system, sub-system, and component.

With this in mind, here is a list of the four phases:

  1. Product definition. QFD begins with the business implementing a Voice of the Customer (VoC) methodology to describe customer needs in the context of product specifications. VoC may include the gathering of information through focus groups, surveys, interviews, or other means. Sometimes, product definition will also incorporate competitor products. 
  2. Product development (design). Here, the product team will take priority product specifications and translate them into assembly characteristics. They will also define the functional requirements for each.
  3. Process development. Based on product and component specifications, manufacturing and assembly processes are designed. The process flow is developed and important process characteristics are identified.
  4. Process quality control. To ensure that characteristics are met, QFD advocates the development of controls, inspections, and tests.

Using the House of Quality matrix

Prioritising the most important customer needs is an integral part of QFD. This is achieved via the aforementioned House of Quality matrix.

To use the matrix, follow these steps:

  1. Add customer needs (based on research) on the left hand side of the matrix. For a company developing a new smartphone, needs may encompass size, battery life, camera quality, and weight. Assign customer ratings to each feature conducted through quantitative research using a scale of 1 to 5. Then, calculate the percentage importance for each feature by dividing the rating by the total of all ratings.
  2. Add design requirements. Along the top of the House of Quality, add a horizontal row of design requirements for each feature. Examples for a smartphone may include operating system, battery size, and cost of production.
  3. Determine the strength of the relationship between design requirements and customer needs. Strength is rated as either Strong (9), Medium (3), or Weak (1). For example, a customer preference for long battery life has a strong relationship to weight but a weak relationship to camera resolution. For each feature, calculate the importance rating by multiplying the percentage importance by the relationship score. To determine which features the product team should work on first, divide the importance rating of one feature by the sum of all importance ratings.
  4. Add competitor research. This means determining how competitors currently rank for each of the prioritized needs determined in the previous steps. Using this information, product teams can quickly see features competitors have overlooked or that are being under served. Note that the competitive assessment does not impact on importance ratings. Rather, they are intended to serve as an additional layer of analysis.

Key takeaways:

  • Quality Function Deployment is a systematic quality management tool that focuses on designing features and products according to customer needs.
  • Quality Function Deployment is based on four phases that guide design during the product development cycle: product definition, product development, process development, and process quality control.
  • Feature prioritization is integral to Quality Function Deployment. Using quantitative research and competitor analysis, product teams can use the House of Quality matrix to accurately prioritize product features.

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