Quality Function Deployment

Another Six Sigma tool that aims to get a hold of the voice of the customer is the Quality Function Deployment or QFD. Introduced in 1966 by 2 Japanese professors – Dr. Shigeru Mizuno and Dr. Yoji Akao, organizations all over the globe utilize this technique to market products and services faster, cheaper, and better. In the earlier years, manufacturers used QFD to assure that the end product is produced according to design.

Over the years, this Six Sigma tool has evolved and has been associated with the House of Quality to classify customer needs and convert them into definite product features that will satisfy specific needs. Unlike House of Quality, which focuses more on the engineering capacities of the product, QFD’s focus is on what the consumer would say about the product.

The tool uncovers both “unspoken” and “spoken” consumer needs and maximizes the positive feature that makes value. The objective of minimizing or eliminating defects is done using the help of the product’s end users’ feedback.

This quality system uses both elements of psychology and systems thinking. Systems thinking represent the overall view of the product as a whole while psychology refers to understanding what the customer need and want is, what they mean by “value”, their buying decision, and ultimately what makes them continue to buy the same product.

By using QFD, organizations are able to answer questions like:

  • How do we know which consumer to ask?
  • How do we know the end user’s specific product requirement?
  • What features do we need to include?

QFD’s objective is for the organization to be on the competitive edge wherein there is the ability to maximize favorable features that add value and to satisfy the consumer all the way through the development, production, and business process.

The most common tool used when initiating the QFD technique is the Seven Management and Planning Tools. This was also used by famous Fortune 500 companies involved in various types of industries such as manufacturing, communication, information technology, pharmaceutical, defense, transportation, food and service industry, and even in the government.

To better understand the QFD tool, it is essential to distinguish it from the traditional systems of quality. QFD is different from long-established quality systems. When using conventional systems results tend to be limited because the focus is only to eliminate unfavorable factors and not to take full advantage of the favorable key features.

Using QFD generates “value” which eventually leads to good customer experience. Quality Function Development is the lone quality system which aims to satisfy the consumer. The method focuses on making the best use of customer satisfaction which is measured by parameters including repeat business.

Once determined the spoken and unspoken needs are converted into designs and solutions and later on communicated to the target group or to the whole organization if necessary. QFD also lets its consumers prioritize their needs and compare these needs against the needs of competitors. Once benchmarked, it is directed to optimize the product features which will eventually lead the company to a competitive edge.

To be able to satisfy the needs of the consumer, it is imperative to understand how consumer satisfaction will be affected by the means of meeting these needs. There are three general types of consumer requirements: the revealed requirement, exciting requirements, and the expected requirements.

  • Revealed requirements, also known as the basic factors are needs verbally expressed by end users. These are responses written on feedback forms or answers to survey questions.
  • Expected requirements or performance factors are those not explicitly mentioned by the consumers but may affect their buying decision. These are product features expected by a customer but not really included in the product. Often the result is dissatisfying but there are tendencies that customers fail to mention these factors in the surveys.
  • Exciting requirements or expected factors, on the other hand, are needs that are not easy to realize. The absence of this need does not automatically merit dissatisfaction but the presence gives additional value to the product. These are the features that amaze the customer. Since these features are not expressed by the consumer it is the company’s job to uncover what features should be added to the product for it to have additional customer merit.

The Kano model best explains these requirements. The model illustrates the attributes using the degree of achievement versus the customer satisfaction.

The illustration below explains that if there is absence or low expected factors the result is dissatisfied customers. If the expected factors are high both state of fulfillment and customer satisfaction is high.

Excitement factors illustrates a different picture. If there is a low presence of these features customers still end up satisfied but with its presence customers will end up very satisfied.

The very important factor that should be considered by every organization is the basic factor. Low presence or absence of these will result in unsatisfied customers.

The factors affecting the requirements of the customer may also vary. Certain basic factors today may become expected factors in the days to come. Similar to excitement factors of today may become basic factors of tomorrow. This only entails organization to be consistent with their efforts to satisfy their consumers.

The factors that can give ultimate opportunity in a competition arena are the exciting and expected factors. Unfortunately most of these factors are not freely expressed by consumers making it more challenging for organizations to determine them. By using QFD, these invisible consumer needs are made visible and used to create strategic advantage by letting companies prioritize and convey them in a product development plan.

The essentiality of using QFD is not limited to the three factors which affect customer’s satisfaction. For an organization to be always on the competitive advantage, it is a must to conduct frequent study on what satisfies the customer and what other factors can be added to their satisfaction. The process may require a lot of activity at first considering all the “what” and “how” questions that needs to be answered but the fruit in the end is very rewarding.

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