What is Quality Function Deployment (QFD)? Concept, Objectives, Process, Benefits

What is Quality Function Deployment (QFD)?

Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is a customer-driven product and process design and improvement methodology that is used to translate customer requirements into specific engineering characteristics and plans for producing and delivering products or services.

The primary goal of QFD is to ensure that customer needs and requirements are clearly understood and met by the product or service being designed or improved. QFD provides a structured approach for capturing customer requirements and then mapping those requirements to specific design and process characteristics.

Concept of Quality Function Deployment

The concept of QFD was first introduced by Yoji Akao, a Japanese quality planning expert in 1966. The prime goal of Mr. Akio behind QFD was to work out a method that would support manufacturers in designing products as per the choice of the customers.

He once eminently mentioned that “Time was when a man could order a pair of shoes directly from the cobbler. By measuring the foot himself and personally handling all aspects of manufacturing, the cobbler could assure the customer would be satisfied,” So, he devised QFD as a technique of including customers’ choice in the products in the design phase itself.

QFD methodology was first used in Mitsubishi`s Kobe shipyard in 1972. Later, QFD was adopted by different Japanese firms.

The methodology was introduced in the automotive and electronic industries in the USA in the 1980s. Firstly, American companies showed unwillingness in adopting QFD. Nevertheless, the methodology soon became popular in the USA the companies facing tough competition from Japanese firms. Toyota is the most famous Japanese company which introduced QFD very widely from the start.

Currently, QFD is comprehensively employed in manufacturing and service industries (including IT companies, BPOs, and KPOs.)

QFD offers a strategic method of comprehending customers’ choices, translating the choices into product features, and designing the products. For instance, customers anticipate smooth writing familiarity when they use a pen. QFD assists in translating this customer expectation i.e. smooth writing experience into product features such as the proper level viscosity of the ink of the pen so that customer contentment can be met.

Dr. YojiAkao (1966) explains QFD as “a method to transform user demands into design quality, to deploy the functions forming quality, to deploy methods for achieving the design quality into subsystems and component parts and ultimately to specific elements of the manufacturing process.”

Let us consider an instance to have clarity about QFD. Assume an automobile manufacturer receives regular criticism from customers based on compensation for car bumpers in low-speed collisions. And the customers expect improved and stronger bumpers to be fitted with the automobiles.

In such kinds of scenarios, the QFD team advises the automobile manufacturers to follow the following steps:

  • Recognize the Customers: For instance, Car owners.

  • Find out Their Requirements: A requirement for stronger bumpers to endure slow-speed collisions, smart looking, cost-effective, rust-free, and long-lasting are the need in the situation.

  • Importance of the Requirements: Good-looking, stronger bumpers to endure slow-speed collisions, cost-effective, rust-free, and long-lasting

  • Interpret: Take account of the customer expectations into design specifications and manufacture enhanced quality bumper. Utilise quality material and instill the required design alterations to manufacture enhanced and stronger bumpers.

QFD is all about two factors:

  • Quality Deployment: It deploys the customer expectation in the design of the product. This makes sure that customers` requirements are met.

  • Function Deployment: It relates to all business functions from design to manufacturing with the support of teams. This function supports in the incorporation of the different organizational functions to toil towards the common objective of offering uperior quality products to customers.

Objectives of Quality Function Deployment

The main rule of QFD is that quality awareness should be very much incorporated into the products and there must not be any requirement for quality assessment after manufacturing. In QFD, the requirements of the customers are continuously communicated to the design and production teams, in this manner, connecting the customers in some way in the production process.

QFD was primarily introduced to lessen the variation between the mid-customer`s requirement and the manufacturer’s product design. Furthermore, QFD assists in creating a close link between the end users of products with many organizational processes, like designing the product, quality control, production, and marketing.

The main objectives of deploying QFD are:

  • To understand customers’ needs and expectations
  • To define the needs to be prioritized
  • To search the ways to satisfy the needs
  • To implement the ways cost-effectively
  • To maintain quality in all the processes and end products

Process of Quality Function Deployment

QFD is an approach engaged to make sure quality in design while the product is in the designing phase. One can consider QFD as a procedure wherein customer’s voice is esteemed and recognized to carry all through the process of production.

The QFD process initiates with product planning and goes on through product designing and process designing and lastly closes up with quality management, testing, maintenance, and training.

These stages are mentioned below:

Product Planning

This stage is even known as the developing abode of quality. The stage starts with recognizing customer needs and requirements and performing a market study on competitors, warranty data, measurements, product features, sketches, national and international quality standards, ideas, blueprints, and market plans.

Getting customer data in this stage is extremely relevant for the achievement of QFD, as the final aim of QFD is to fulfill the goals of the customers.

Product Designing, Development, and Specification

In this stage, product features are defined and a sample is developed. This stage is led and administered by the designing and engineering teams. The prime aim of this stage is to translate the customers need into product specifications. Thus, this stage includes a lot of originality and inventiveness.

Process Planning

In this stage the real products and their sub-parts are developed as per the disclaimer of the previous stage. This stage is led and administered by the production and the engineering department. The prime aim of this stage is to build the flowchart and regulate the production process and the products.

Production Process Controlling

In this stage, the production process is administered and controlled to make sure that the products are being manufactured as per the specifications. In this stage, firstly, the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are explained for the control and monitoring process, production scheduling and risk assessment.

Additionally, the product testing requirements are even mentioned. Currently, let us move forwards and analyze the important advantages of QFD in the subsequent segment of the chapter.

Benefits of Quality Function Deployment

The prime aim of the QFD is to perk up customer contentment by including their choices in the products. Table 6.1 explains the major advantages of QFD:

Customer-driven productionQFD identifies the implicit as well as the explicit customer requirements and concentrates on the value-adding prospects of the customers. It supports on concentrating the ‘Voice of the Customer’ and not what the organization desires to manufacture. Every product development activity is based on customer requirements.
Competitive advantageIn QFD, competitors’ products and services are analyzed and compared with their own products. This offers a competitive advantage to the firms.
Reduction in development timeQFD concentrates on making amendments and changes to products in the design stage itself. So, there would be roughly no design alterations in the preceding phases of product development. This leads to a lessening in the product development time.
Reduction in development costsQFD reduces the cost required in warranty claims, support costs, and design changes cost as the alterations are made in the initial life cycle and the needs of the customers are considered while developing the products.
Benefits of QFD

Along with the support of the QFD process, a top petrochemical company has been able to resolve issues of recruiting and retaining capable employees. Execution of QFD has assisted the organization in benchmarking performance standards and measuring the potential of the employees in adding to the success of the company.

The organization had been confronting the setback of a soaring attrition rate. Most of the intellectual employees with 3 to 8 years of experience were quitting the job. This led to inexperienced middle management as the fresh employees replacing the departing employees were of comparatively low experience.

To handle the problem, the company started a two-step QFD process, first to recognize the kind of people the company desires to recruit and then to recognize the requirements of the desirable employees from the company.

The organization performed an internal study to determine and adapt the desirable employee features into quantifiable parameters. A few of the sought-after employee features comprise skill sets, steadiness, growth orientation, and capitalism.

External research was even performed to arrange the list of anticipation of the preferred employees from the organization. The main motives of the employees comprise the best remuneration, training and development, and growth opportunities.

The list was further converted into measurable employer features. These comprise the standard remuneration received by the employees in the organization vis-à-vis other alike firms and the average time for advertising. Next, tangible actions were performed to instill these features into the legal practices and enhance customer retention.

There are various other instances of QFD execution of companies:

  • Toyota had lessened initial losses by 61%.
  • Mazda limited last-minute design alterations by half.
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  • StickyMinds,. (2014). StickyMinds | Using Quality Function Deployment for Process Improvement. Retrieved 28 February 2023, from http://www.stickyminds.com/article/using-quality-function-deployment-process-improvement

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