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What is Quality Function Deployment (QFD)

At its most basic, Quality Function Deployment  (QFD) is a Japanese planning and management method that uses charts and matrices to establish a correlation between elements of a product or service and the needs of the customer. It is sometimes referred to as House of Quality. QFD was originally developed by combining elements of quality control and function deployment to simplify the relationships between these two seemingly separate disciplines. Dr. Yoji Akao and Shigeru Mizuno are credited with creating and developing the concept in 1966.

Understanding Quality Function Deployment

QFD is a very versatile and highly expandable technique. Even a simple QFD chart can be expanded to include overlapping relationships between numerous aspects of a given product or service. Some of the more common aspects include: customer needs, company needs, technology-development requirements, and market segments, just to name a few.

As a result of this versatility, many of the training and tutorial materials available on Quality Function Deployment attempt to show all the available variations of the technique. Unfortunately, that approach can make learning this very simple concept extremely complex and overwhelming.

A simple example of QFD would be a chart listing customer needs on the left and the aspects that influence those needs along the bottom. Each overlapping section is then given a weight determined by the strength of the correlation between the customer need and the operational aspect.

QFD Example – Retail Cashier/Checkout Service

Fast Service / Checkout

O

O

X

Friendly Cashier

X

o

o

Accuracy

O

X

o

===================

Employee Training

POS System Quality

Staff Levels

o = weak                                   O = Moderate                       X = strong

Uses for Quality Function Deployment

The Quality Function Deployment technique has a variety of uses and applications in the business world. Three of the most common are strategic planning, process troubleshooting, and communication.

Strategic planning relies on effectively allocating resources and funds to meet the goals of the business. Quality Function Deployment allows improvements to be effectively prioritized based on the impact they will have on the different aspects of the product or service. By focusing on the aspects of a product or service that will have the greatest impact on quality, a project manager can minimize expenditures while maximizing the desired results.

When used as a troubleshooting tool, Quality Function Deployment allows a company to examine the areas in which they are experiencing challenges and isolate the aspects of their business or product that have the most impact on the problem. This allows the business to allocate resources and make improvements to the areas that will have the greatest positive impact. The end result is an effective solution that efficiently allocates resources where they are most needed.

One of the most powerful uses of Quality Function Deployment is communication. Every department within a business has different tasks or duties that are often hard to translate into a common goal. An expanded QFD chart can be used to illustrate the impact each of these departments has on the customer experience. As an example, order processing, payment processing, order packing and shipping all play a role in how quickly a customer receives a product they order, even though the duties performed by each of the various departments is quite different. A detailed QFD matrix can communicate the role each department plays in the overall result experienced by the customer.

Taking Things Further

The concepts presented here are only the very basics of how Quality Function Deployment is used in the business world. There are numerous variations on the technique which enhance the versatility and increase the application potential of this method.

By using statistical analysis and applied mathematics, Quality Function Deployment can be a powerful tool used in planning, analyzing and predicting outcomes. More complex variations can estimate the impact improvements or expenditures will have on the customer experience and more technical QFD charts can predict the impact development time and resource allocations will have on specific features of a manufactured product.

With a little customization and creativity, Quality Function Deployment can be applied to almost every aspect of a business to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the processes involved and to ensure that resources are used efficiently and effectively.

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