Quality Function Deployment (QFD)

Quality Function Deployment (QFD)

In today’s global and highly competitive market, it is essential for the survival of any firm involved in the service industry to be adaptive, responsive to changes, proactive and has the capability to deliver high quality products according to diverse customer requirements. Therefore, it is very important for any firms which involved in service industry to improve their service quality by reducing the gap between internal quality and external customer satisfaction (Lin 2007). The main objectives of this study are to measure the service quality performance and identify critical service quality characteristics as perceived by the firm’s customers. QFD is a customer driven planning process to guide the design, manufacturing, and marketing of goods. In this study, QFD will be used as a tool to improve quality in service industry. By implementing QFD, it will help the firms involved to have clearer picture of quality requirements that could improve their customers’ satisfaction. QFD is a powerful technique in determining customers’ requirements and integrate them into the product or service provided by system integrator firm. QFD technique is not only applicable in manufacturing industry, but it could be implemented in various industries to meet or exceed customer expectations. By using QFD technique, service quality characteristics and performance of the studied firm can be determined.

QFD is one of the TQM quantitative tools and techniques that could be used to translate customer requirements and specifications into appropriate technical or service requirement. This is important in order to deliver product or service that fulfils or exceeds customer requirements. According to Guinta and Praizler (1993), QFD is a customer driven tool. While Chan and Wu (2002), stated that QFD is a customer driven planning process to guide the design, manufacturing, and marketing of goods. QFD uses visual planning matrices that link customer requirements, design requirements, target values and competitive performance into one chart (Pun et al. 2000). QFD was first put into use at Mitsubishi’s Kobe shipyard site in 1972, and later in 1983 it was introduced into the USA (Akao 1990). Since then, it has been used as a product development and quality improvement tool around the world (Akao 1990).

In 1966, Dr. Yoji Akao had introduced the QFD concept in Japan (Dean 1998). Professor Mizuno first used QFD in 1972 to Mitsubishi’s Kobe shipyard site to design super tankers (Martins and Aspinwall 2001). According to Cohen (1995) the two pioneer researchers that had developed the QFD were Mizuno and Akao. In the late 1970s, Toyota the automobile manufacturer had adopted QFD and further developed the QFD concept to a detailed process (Cohen, 1995). According to Sullivan (1986) Toyota Auto body had started using QFD in 1977, and as a result, Toyota introduced four new van-type vehicles between 1977 and 1984. Toyota experienced a 20% reduction in the startup cost due to QFD technique adoption in launching its new products from 1977 till 1979 (Chan and Wu 2002).

In 1986, Ford Motor Company and Xerox were the early users of QFD that initiated the use of QFD concept in the USA (Chan and Wu 2002). Since then, QFD has been developed and broadly used in various industries such as automotive, electronics, banking, insurance, healthcare, utilities, food processing, aerospace, software engineering, construction and marketing (Chan and Wu 2003). Many other multinational companies such as IBM, HP, General Motors, AT&T, Digital Equipment, ITT,


Quality Function Deployment (QFD) was developed to bring this personal interface to modern manufacturing and business. In today's industrial society, where the growing distance between producers and users is a concern, QFD links the needs of the customer (end user) with design, development, engineering, manufacturing, and service functions.

QFD can be thus understood as:
·         Understanding Customer Requirements
·         Quality Systems Thinking + Psychology + Knowledge/Epistemology
·         Maximizing Positive Quality That Adds Value
·         Comprehensive Quality System for Customer Satisfaction
·         Strategy to Stay Ahead of The Game

As a quality system that implements elements of Systems Thinking with elements of Psychology and Epistemology (knowledge), QFD provides a system of comprehensive development process for:
·         Understanding 'true' customer needs from the customer's perspective
·         What 'value' means to the customer, from the customer's perspective
·         Understanding how customers or end users become interested, choose, and are satisfied
·         Analysing how do we know the needs of the customer
·         Deciding what features to include
·         Determining what level of performance to deliver

·         Intelligently linking the needs of the customer with design, development, engineering, manufacturing, and service functions
·         Intelligently linking Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) with the front end Voice of Customer analysis and the entire design system
QFD is a comprehensive quality system that systematically links the needs of the customer with various business functions and organizational processes, such as marketing, design, quality, production, manufacturing, sales, etc., aligning the entire company toward achieving a common goal.

It does so by seeking both spoken and unspoken needs, identifying positive quality and business opportunities, and translating these into actions and designs by using transparent analytic and prioritization methods, empowering organizations to exceed normal expectations and provide a level of unanticipated excitement that generates value.

The QFD methodology can be used for both tangible products and non-tangible services, including manufactured goods, service industry, software products, IT projects, business process development, government, healthcare, environmental initiatives, and many other applications.


Quality Function Deployment (QFD) has been known in the western world for the last twenty years, and, over that time, it has developed a chickened reputation. Companies that have spent the effort to really understand and apply it have achieved excellent results with it. Many other companies have merely dabbled with it or perhaps concluded that it is a series of complex matrices that take a lot of time with little to show for it.

One of the common issues with this latter group of companies is that they have not understood what QFD really is or what it can do for them. If one explores the common issues companies face with new product development, one can better understand how QFD can fit into the development process to address these issues.

Issue 1: Current and future customer needs are not adequately understood. Innovation-based companies may focus on pushing a technology into the marketplace without truly understanding customer needs. Companies with existing products, assume they understand their customer needs. Or needs may rapidly evolve, but the company doesn't recognize this situation. Marketing may understand the needs, but this knowledge is not passed on to the development team.

QFD Solution: Voice of the customer (VOC) - the effort to investigate and analyse customer needs is a prerequisite for a QFD effort. With QFD, VOC data is reduced into a set of critical customer needs using techniques such as affinity diagrams, function’s analysis, etc., defined and documented in customer needs data dictionary, and prioritized. This VOC effort is also the opportunity to recognized unfulfilled needs that can provide, at a minimum, competitive advantage, and, potentially, a break-through product or true value innovation. A basic principle of QFD and any other system is "garbage in, garbage out". If adequate effort is not spent in understanding customer needs, the result of QFD, as well as the entire development effort, will be a less than optimum product.

Issue 2: The competitive situation is not understood nor adequately considered. Marketing may understand the competition, but this knowledge is not transferred to the team. No formal data collection or analysis is performed. This can lead to non-competitive or me-too products or products that rapidly lose their competitive advantage.

QFD Solution: Once customer needs are defined, the second major step with QFD is to perform competitive analysis. This includes not only analysing current competitive strengths and weaknesses, but also considering future directions of competitors. It also involves mapping competitor's positions against market and demographic characteristics and against key product characteristics to recognize threats and opportunities. This analysis is a key part of planning the new product.

Issue 3: Inadequate attention is paid to developing a product strategy and value proposition. There may be an implicit strategy understood by management, Marketing, or some team members, but not all team members understand this strategy, leading to suboptimal decisions. In the absence of competitive analysis and strategy, the team may want to exceed competitive product's performance parameters in all areas, leading to a more costly product or a risky development project. The product may be aimed at the wrong market niche or miss the opportunity that exists.

QFD Solution: A third step in the QFD process is to develop the product strategy and value proposition. The objective is to get the "most bang for the buck" out of the development effort. This strategy needs to be explicitly defined, understood and agreed to by all participants. The strategy should reflect where the team will focus its development effort to achieve the customer value proposition (e.g. improvement goals, etc.). Use of related tools such as conjoint analysis can also help to validate the value of certain capabilities to the customer.

Issue 4: Product requirements and specifications are not carefully balanced against needs and implications. Marketing wants it all when they create a marketing requirements document. Specification target values can be arbitrarily established to exceed the competition without regard to cost or the value proposition. Inadequate consideration may be given to trade-offs among product parameters leading to additional cost and development effort. A requirement may be established because the developer thinks it would be a good idea.

QFD Solution: Requirements (technical characteristics) are only established in response to customer needs (stated or unstated but recognized). Technical benchmarking is performed to help understand the competitive position and establish appropriate specifications (target values). Trade-offs and cost drivers are analyzed in the interaction matrix. Risk and difficulty is considered in establishing specifications (target values). In short, there is a rigorous consideration of a variety of factors in objectively developing requirements and specifications.

Issue 5: Insufficient attention is given to developing collaboration and teamwork. Team members are assigned and thrown together in an Investigation or Feasibility stage, but frequently little explicit effort is given to develop collaboration and teamwork.

QFD Solution: QFD is a planning and decision-making methodology that is performed by the product team. It forces early communication, planning and decision-making among team members. It requires open sharing of information, overcoming the hidden knowledge that can otherwise plague a team. It bridges the gap between Marketing, Engineering, Manufacturing and Quality. Team member's knowledge is "levelled" through this process. The initial product planning with QFD leads to rapidly developing collaboration, teamwork, and commitment to the product strategy and plan.

Issue 6: In the rush to develop a new product, inadequate attention is given to developing and evaluating concept alternatives. Traditional architectures, technologies, and concepts are assumed as the basis for the new product because time is short.
QFD Solution: QFD is oriented toward defining requirements (technical characteristics in a global manner - independent of a particular technical solution so that multiple concept alternatives can be considered and the best one selected. After the product planning matrix is completed, the QFD process includes a concept development and evaluation step with an emphasis on developing alternatives. The intent is to identify a more optimal, and perhaps even a break-through solution rather than continuing with the traditional concept used for past products. QFD provides a concept selection matrix using the requirements as a basis for decision criteria. QFD places an emphasis on innovation and providing innovative and exciting capabilities to customers

Issue 7: Critical characteristics, process requirements and quality controls are not effectively linked. Frequently, designs are tossed over the wall to Manufacturing and Quality. They interpret drawings and define manufacturing processes and quality requirements without necessarily understanding the critical product and part parameters or critical processes. The result is that process and quality controls may not focus on the most important issues.

QFD Solution: QFD is a flow down process with the deployment matrix, process planning matrix and process/quality control matrix. These subsequent QFD phases insure on-going communication, planning and decision-making among team members and between the Engineering, Manufacturing and Quality functions and with suppliers. Critical characteristics, process requirements and quality requirements are explicitly identified, planned and communicated. This assures alignment and commitment throughout the process and avoids some of the last minute quality problems that occur during launch.

When one considers the time required to address these issues (or the risks and sub-optimization if not addressed), QFD can not only save time and effort, but substantially reduce development risk and increase market acceptance and competitiveness. QFD, when performed with full understanding of the process and with adequate effort to collect and analyse the required data, is a powerful tool that addresses the shortcomings that are common in product development.

In this paper we have discussed firstly about Quality Function Deployment and mentioned its need with regards of various issues and discussing their solutions. Then we have gone through that how Quality Function Development is a customer focussed approach and even discussed about methodology of QFD. With the case study of one of the renowned company, we have seen its extent of practical approach and emphasized our discussion showing its importance in the industrial world. This all gives us a brief conclusion as follows:
Quality Function Deployment, thus, begins with product planning; continues with product design and process design; and finishes with process control, quality control, testing, equipment maintenance, and training. As a result, this process requires multiple functional disciplines to adequately address this range of activities. QFD is synergistic with multi-function product development teams. It can provide a structured process for these teams to begin communicating, making decisions and planning the product. It is a useful methodology, along with product development teams, to support a concurrent engineering or integrated product development approach.
Quality Function Deployment, by its very structure and planning approach, requires that more time be spent up-front in the development process making sure that the team determines, understands and agrees with what needs to be done before plunging into design activities. As a result, less time will be spent downstream because of differences of opinion over design issues or redesign because the product was not on target. It leads to consensus decisions, greater commitment to the development effort, better coordination, and reduced time over the course of the development effort.
QFD requires discipline. It is not necessarily easy to get started with. The following is a list of recommendations to facilitate initially using QFD.
  • Obtain management commitment to use QFD.
  • Establish clear objectives and scope of QFD use. Avoid first using it on a large, complex project if possible. Will it be used for the overall product or applied to a subsystem, module, assembly or critical part? Will the complete QFD methodology be used or will only the product planning matrix be completed?
  • Establish multi-functional team. Get an adequate time commitment from team members.
  • Obtain QFD training with practical hands-on exercises to learn the methodology and use a facilitator to guide the initial efforts.
  • Schedule regular meetings to maintain focus and avoid the crush of the development schedule overshadowing effective planning and decision-making.
  • Avoid gathering perfect data. Many times significant customer insights and data exist within the organization, but they are in the form of hidden knowledge - not communicated to people with the need for this information. On the other hand, it may be necessary to spend additional time gathering the voice of the customer before beginning QFD. Avoid technical arrogance and the belief that company personnel know more than the customer.
Quality Function Deployment is an extremely useful methodology to facilitate communication, planning, and decision-making within a product development team. It is not a paperwork exercise or additional documentation that must be completed in order to proceed to the next development milestone. It not only brings the new product closer to the intended target, but reduces development cycle time and cost in the process.

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