Quality function deployment is a comprehensive technique that is used to help build in customer demands into a product during the design stage. It also ensures that the quality of design heavily influences the product in terms of its component parts; so quality is integral and built in to every single part that makes one product.
QFD originated in Japan by a Dr Akao amongst others, and was a method of ensuring that quality was combined with engineering techniques such as function deployment, so the name reflects both function deployment and quality.
QFD in Practice
QFD takes as its base line the needs of the customer. These may be called the ‘voice’ of the customer, but the essence is the same. These needs are then transformed into engineering characteristics and test methods for a product (or even a service).
Each characteristic is prioritised with development targets being set at the same time. So the customer’s needs are built into the product or service from very early on within the process. This is central to the concept of QFD, the customer is at the heart and everything has to revolve around them.
In a sense it is akin to having a suit made by a tailor. You go in to see the tailor who takes measurements (assesses your needs). He then designs a suit to meet your particular needs; he has started off with your needs as the base line and will go on to create a product that is perfectly suited to these needs. This is QFD on a micro-basis. It is a means of keeping the person (customer) at the heart of the manufacturing process, or indeed any business process.
Key Components Of QFD
Two components of QFD are quite fundamental and without these being addressed, QFD can never be achieved: customer needs and what the customer values.
Customer needs may seem obvious, but for QFD to be successful, it has to truly understand what the customer wants and needs. These cannot be assumed; they have to be explored with the customer, in the same way that a tailor will explore with a customer exactly what style the suit should be, the cut, the feel, the overall ‘look’.
The second issue is what the customer actually values. Again, this cannot be assumed, but needs to be talked through with the customer and has to be taken from the perspective of the customer. Sometimes the results of this exercise can be surprising.
QFD and Design
QFD performs analysis at every stage of the design process. This could be about which features need to be included or what level of performance has to be agreed. It will then link the various functions involved in production and those post-production such as marketing and advertising into one unit that revolves around the needs of the customer.
However, the design process is seen as the pivotal role. The design process is viewed as the golden opportunity to address the needs and values of the customer and if the design is correct, everything else will flow into place.
A Comprehensive System
QFD is very comprehensive in the sense that it adopts a systematic approach to ensuring that the needs of the customer become the focal point within any function or activity undertaken by the company. This results in the entire company being fully aligned to achieving the focal goal, which is to meet the needs of the customer.
Due to it being so comprehensive the QFD system can be used within manufacturing and service industries as well as government and private sector industries, making it a very flexible and adaptable management adn quality strategy.