Frequently Asked Questions about QFD

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How does QFD differ from other quality initiatives?
Traditional quality systems aim at minimizing negative quality such as eliminating defects or reducing operational errors.

Assuming that everything goes well, the best you can attain with these systems is zero defects. That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? But, what if your competitors are also zero defects? Also, a product can be defect-free and still may not sell.

This is where design makes a difference. Conventional design processes, however, focus more on engineering capabilities and less on customer needs. When they do try to incorporate customer perspectives, these tend to be engineer or provider-perceived.

QFD is quite different in that it seeks out both "spoken" and "unspoken" customer requirements and maximizes "positive" quality (such as ease of use, fun, luxury) that creates value. Traditional quality systems aim at minimizing negative quality (such as defects, poor service).

What are the characteristics of QFD as a quality system?
  1. QFD is a quality system that implements elements of Systems Thinking (viewing the development process as a system) and Psychology (understanding customer needs, what 'value' is, and how customers or end users become interested, choose, and are satisfied, etc.).
  2. QFD is a quality method of good Knowledge or Epistemology (how do we know the needs of the customer? how do we decide what features to include? and to what level of performance?)
  3. QFD is a quality system for strategic competitiveness; it maximizes positive quality that adds value; it seeks out spoken and unspoken customer requirements, translate them into technical requirements, prioritize them and directs us to optimize those features that will bring the greatest competitive advantage.
  4. Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is the only comprehensive quality system aimed specifically at satisfying the customer throughout the development and business process -- end to end.
  5. Quick Facts about QFD

What are the tools of QFD?

Who are the founders of QFD?
Dr. Shigeru Mizuno and Dr. Yoji Akao of Japan.

How long has the methodology been around?
Research papers on then-emerging QFD concepts began appearing in Japan in the 1960s. It was not until 1983 when the ASQ's Quality Progress magazine published on an article on QFD, followed by the Kaizen Institute (then Cambridge Research) inviting Dr. Akao to Chicago to give a lecture on QFD that it was presented to an American audience. See History of QFD.

What industry and business are using QFD?
QFD has been applied in virtually every industry and business, from aerospace, manufacturing, software, communication, IT, chemical and pharmaceutical, transportation, defense, government, R&D, food to service industry.

Organizations that have in the past presented at the Symposium on QFD include 3M, AT&T, Accenture, Boeing, Continental Rehabilitation Hospital, DaimlerChrysler, EDS, Ford, GM, Hayes Brake, Hewlett-Packard, Hughes Aircraft, IBM, Jet Propulsion Laboratry, Kawasaki Heavy Industry, Kodak, Lockheed-Martin, Pratt & Whitney, Motorola, NASA, Nokia, Raytheon, Texas Instrument, Toshiba, United Technologies, U.S. Dept. of Defense, United Technologies, Visteon, Xerox and many other Fortune 500 companies. Also see the testimonials from companies that have attended our QFD training.

Why is a conventional design process not sufficient?
Conventional design processes focus more on engineering capabilities and less on customer needs. When they do try to incorporate customer perspectives, these tend to be engineer-perceived or producer-perceived. Quality Function Deployment (QFD), however, focuses like a laser all product development activities on customer needs.

What are "expected quality" and "exciting quality?"
"Expected" quality or requirements are essentially basic functions or features that customers normally expect of a product or service. Expected requirements are usually invisible unless they become visible when they are unfulfilled.

"Exciting" quality or requirements are sort of "out of ordinary" functions or features of a product or service that cause "wow" reactions in customers. Exciting requirements are also usually invisible unless they become visible when they are fulfilled and result in customer satisfaction; they do not leave customers dissatisfied when left unfulfilled.

The original study on expected vs. exciting quality was conducted and reported in a paper called "Must Be Quality" by Dr. Kano and his students in Japan. It measured only satisfaction against the existence or absence of a 'feature'. It did not / does not address customer needs. It also relied on the two data points of "IF" and the "IF NOT" which should have produced only a linear line. It is improper to draw the curves from two data points, as the researcherd had done in the paper and their diagram.
(the original Kano model)
Despite this, the so-called Kano model is often misinterpreted as a simple relationship model of expected quality vs. excited quality. What is actually important, however, is that the target of customer satisfaction can be moving and invisible—something that many people including the original Japanese researchers are unaware of.

To identify the moving, invisible target of customer satisfaction, more complex analysis is required. This is precisely where QFD is strongest. QFD makes invisible requirements and strategic advantages visible. See New Kano Model Model workshop.

What is the House of Quality (HOQ)? Why it isn't a QFD?
The House of Quality (HOQ)is an assembly of several deployment hierarchies and tables, including the Demanded Quality Hierarchy, Quality Characteristics Hierarchy, the relationships matrix, the Quality Planning Table, and Design Planning Table. It is a table that connects dots between the Voice of the Customer and the Voice of the Engineer. image of House of Quality matrix by QFD Institute

The HOQ is commonly associated with QFD, and unfortunately it seems to be the only thing that need be done when implementing QFD in the minds of many, who learned QFD from outdated 40 year old examples or oversimplified information sources and software. This is a most common myth even today and rarely the case. See Why QFD Fails at Some Companies.

In most QFD studies, the HOQ is not the starting point. In technology driven QFDs and Cost Reduction driven QFDs, HOQ may not be created or it can be even detrimental to innovative solutions. In Blitz QFD®, HOQ may be completely unnecessary. As Dr. Akao, the founder of QFD, has said many times, "The House of Quality is not QFD".

See "Redecorate your House of Quality (HoQ)" for correct and wrong ways to do QFD and House of Quality matrix.

How does QFD offer strategic advantage?
The expected and exciting requirements provide the best opportunity for competitive advantage — if you can find a way to make them visible and then deliver on them.

In this fast changing world, however, hitting the right target of customer satisfaction is made more difficult by fragmenting customer segments, new technology, and competitive pressures. QFD makes invisible requirements and strategic advantages visible, allows you to prioritize and deliver on them in a focused product development process.

Companies have reported many benefits of doing QFD. Early literature describes how Toyota Auto Body reduced start-up losses by 61%. Mazda educed late design changes by half, etc. U.S. and European companies have reported such results as well. You can see the industry testimonials to the benefits of QFD in the Symposium Transactions page. Also see Anticipating Future Market and Needs with Modren QFD Tools

How has QFD advanced over the years?
Like any good system, QFD has evolved over the years.

Modern QFD now incorporates many advancements that were not in traditional QFD. For example, traditional QFD, originating from the build-to-spec practice in the 1960s, centered around what is called 4-House approach.

Companies that do their own design work have found that the 4-House approach does not integrate well into their new product development process, it is too time-consuming and resource-intensive for the levels of analytic outcome. They also found the House of Quality, the main tool in the 4-House model, is extremely prone to mis-applications, and thus it is not sustaibale. (See Best vs Worst Practices)

Modern QFD is custom-tailored to identify the minimum QFD effort required with the optimum tools and sequence, making QFD more efficient and sustainable in today’s lean business environment. Large, complex tools such as the House of Quality (HOQ) are now often replaced with smaller, faster ones that provide a level of analysis that is faster and easier. Modern QFD also upgraded math in the QFD matrices to meet the mathematical rigor demanded by Six Sigma precision.

Traditional QFD often did not go deep enough into the Voice of the Customer to uncover unspoken needs because it began at the time when most design work was done by the customer's engineers. Modern QFD has a set of rigorous front-end tools to refine the Voice of the Customer into spoken and unspoken customer needs, leading to more innovative solutions.

Additionally, Modern QFD includes psychological and lifestyle needs, not just functional needs. Today, consumers are making the purchase decision more and more on emotional needs and image issues. Lifestyle QFD connects consumers’ needs for psychological and lifestyle-enhancing solutions with your product development and branding.

Modern QFD also has components for Schedule Deployment and Project Deployment based on Critical Chain Project Management to improve allocation of constrained resources and finish more projects on time.

Overall, Modern QFD today provides a much better framework for integration of various innovative methods into your product development process.

Any QFD software do you recommend?
At this writing, virtually commercially sold QFD software uniformly have two things in common: 1) they use the 4-phased "House of Quality" centered approach; and 2) they use improper math (such as importance and priority calculations).

The 4-phase House of Quality approach is a truncated 'partial' QFD deployment which was hastily adopted in the 1980s by American automotive industry and was never updated to help them keep competitive in changing markets. Such approach may be all right as an academic exercise, but definitely not for real projects by professionals and businesses who want to stay ahead of competition. The improper math utilized in those software would make your downstream deployments and analysis invalid and may even be harmful to your project outcome (for example, the improper use of math would skew priority setting and subsequently lead to faulty importance calculations, etc.).

Another drawback of these so-called QFD software is the use of an oversimplified cookie-cutter approach that is forced on to your unique new product development process and business goals that demand efficiency, comprehensiveness, competitive ingenuity, and innovation.

For this reason, top researchers and practitioners of QFD prefer to use MS Excel® worksheets. If you use Modern QFD approach, no such matrix or software may not be needed at all, depending on your project and goals.

The QFD Institute's Modern QFD templates, which include new tools such as Maximum Value Table and AHP (Analytic hierarchy Process) as well as the House of Quality matrix with correct math formula, are a part of the QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course training materials.   ( MS Excel® is a registered mark of Microsoft )

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